By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Hawk Fanatic had a youth movement at the Iowa football game on Saturday as Tyler Devine and Dallas Jones both reported from the Kinnick Stadium press box.
Myself, on the other hand, watched Iowa defeat Kent State 30-7 from my living room recliner, and needless to say, it was different than being there.
For one, I drank a beer in the third quarter, and ordered a pizza, thin crust with pepperoni and sausage.
But I also watched the game closely, and in some ways, sitting in front of the television makes it easier to follow than sitting way up high in the press box.
It was strange not being at an Iowa football game, especially one played at Kinnick Stadium, after having covered almost all lot them since 1992.
Here are five observations from the recliner in no specific order:
- Iowa didn’t dominate Kent State, and Iowa’s vaunted defense allowed some big passing plays, but still held the Golden Flashes to seven points, marking 25 straight games in which the Iowa defense hasn’t surrendered 25 points.
So, to be overly concerned about a few defensive breakdowns seems a little silly.
Senior cornerback Riley Moss got caught it seems staring into the Kent State backfield and then got beat on a couple deep throws. But much like the Iowa defense, the good far outweighs the bad where Moss is concerned.
The Ankeny native had two pick sixes in the season opener against Indiana, and has started since he was a freshman.
However, there is always room for improvement, and the opposing players are also pretty good, and trying to win.
Phil Parker will get things corrected, and though it might require some yelling, screaming and cursing, and some players being humbled during film review, Parker’s defense rarely makes the same mistakes over again.
Iowa bent on Saturday, but only broke once.
The defense, barring injuries, should be just fine.
2. Brian Ferentz deserves praise for trying to get junior receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. more involved in the passing game.
And though it didn’t produce huge results against Kent State on Saturday, Tracy still finished with five catches for 43 yards. It was the most catches for Tracy in a game since he had six in back-to-back games against Minnesota and Illinois late in the 2019 season.
Tracy only had four catches for 27 yards in the first two games against Indiana and Iowa State, while his high for catches last season was four against Michigan State.
It was obvious that Brian Ferentz wanted to get Tracy more involved in the passing game because he knew that Tracy was frustrated with his lack of productivity and wanted to help.
Brian Ferentz also knows that the Iowa offense needs for Tracy to be more of a playmaker to reach its potential.
Tracy had one catch overturned by the officials on Saturday, even though it appeared to be a catch, and he slipped after having caught a short screen pass. He was close to having a huge impact from a statistical standpoint.
Tracy already has shown what he is capable of from a playmaking standpoint, like the time he had five receptions for 130 yards against Wisconsin in 2019, highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown in which Tracy blew past the Badger secondary.
Iowa receivers coach Kelton Copeland had a zoom conference with the media on Wednesday, and he acknowledged that Tracy is frustrated. But Copeland also praised Tracy for continuing to work hard with a team-first mentality.
It seems that Brian Ferentz wanted to reward Tracy in Saturday’s game, and it worked, sort of.
3. Nobody loves a great story more than Kirk Ferentz, but even he has his breaking point.
And now you wonder if senior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin has reached that breaking point.
Kelly-Martin was replaced in the rotation by redshirt freshman Gavin Williams in the second half against Kent State after having fumbled twice.
Kelly-Martin also lost a fumble in the 34-6 season-opening win over Indiana.
So, that three’s fumbles in two games, and Kelly-Martin could be in danger of being demoted, if he hasn’t already been demoted, although Kirk Ferentz tried to stay positive after the game when asked about Kelly-Martin.
“Keep his chin up,” Ferentz said. “Just got done telling him that, and just hang in there; you’re going to be fine. He’s a top-quality guy. You guys probably noticed he got voted as a captain this week. That’s his teammates voting him in, not the coaches. But we all cosigned that one.
“He does so much for our team beyond running the football. He’s a good running back, a very talented running back, he’s made a lot of good plays for us, and he’s just got to work through it, and he will. He’s a high-caliber guy.”
Kelly-Martin is highly respected by the Iowa coaches and by his teammates, and has also endured a lot from an injury standpoint, including having knee surgery this past December.
He also spoke on behalf of his teammates during the racial unrest from the summer of 2020 and could’ve easily transferred after losing his starting position in 2018.
Kelly-Martin has stayed on what at times has been a difficult course and his loyalty is now being rewarded with Kirk Ferentz’s patience and trust.
Kelly-Martin was also a team captain for the Kent State game, another sign of the respect he has earned.
But he still has to hang on to the football.
4. Tyler Goodson showed against Kent State that he only needs a little room to make big plays.
The Georgia native rushed for career-high 153 yards and scored three touchdowns against Kent State, averaging 7.0 yards per carry.
Goodson’s longest touchdown run on Saturday covered 46 yards, and he also had a 56-yard touchdown run on the fourth play from scrimmage in the season opener against Indiana.
The challenge now for the Iowa offense is to keep doing this, not necessarily that Goodson has to rush for 150 yards and score three touchdowns every game.
But the running game can’t come and go because the passing game needs the running game to pave the way in order to be effective. A successful running game creates play action, and play action is what Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras needs to take advantage of his strengths.
It probably isn’t a coincidence that Petras played better after Goodson had gained a substantial amount of his rushing yards. Kent State had to pay more attention to Goodson, and that helped create some opportunities for the passing game.
5. Tory Taylor’s punts are more impressive from the press box compared to sitting in a recliner at home.
You can’t fully appreciate Taylor’s power from the television screen. You have to be there to understand how well Iowa’s 24-year old punter from Australia is performing right now, and pretty much ever since he arrived on campus last summer.
Taylor is Iowa’s MVP right now and is also being compared to the legendary Reggie Roby without anyone saying that’s getting carried away.
And that by itself is incredible.
Taylor punted five times for a 47.6 average against Kent State in what was just another day at his football office.
Fans hate that Iowa should ever have to punt, but there is also a sense of excitement in the moments before Taylor punts because of the incredible standard that he has set.