There was a lot for the 15th-ranked Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) to joke and feel good about Saturday night. They beat Penn State for the eighth time in nine tries, they passed their first test in the Big Ten and they have two weeks to heal and prepare for No. 18 Michigan (5-0, 1-0).
“I’m normally not a big fan (of the bye week), I’d rather just keep playing,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But this week couldn’t be better. It’s right in the middle of our season. We’ve been at this thing eight weeks, now we’ve got eight more from today, so I couldn’t find a better time for it. And we’ll work our younger guys, get them caught up because we’re going to need them and try to rest some of the guys that have been playing a lot.”
Perhaps no position needs the break more than middle linebacker. Starter Jeff Tarpinian has been dealing with stingers and didn’t start against Penn State. Senior Troy Johnson left the game with a minor concussion. Tarpinian exited Saturday night after a brief appearance, leaving true freshman James Morris to handle the on-field defensive calls for the Hawkeyes.
“He’s the man,” Iowa linebacker Jeremiha Hunter said of Morris. “He’s going to be a good player here. He’s hard on himself and works hard. If Troy and Tarp don’t get back, he’ll be the guy.”
Ferentz said he expects Tarpinian and Johnson will be ready for Michigan. Morris falls into the young guy category. The Solon grad collected seven tackles and broke up a pass Saturday night in his most extensive playing time.
“He does his homework, and he’s very serious about things, and he’s worked hard,” Ferentz said. “He’s gotten his feet wet on special teams, so at least he’s been on the field. But all that being said, it had to have been quite an experience for him. I’m sure it was. I probably won’t ask him. I don’t know if I want to know.
“He’s been in the stadium, he’s been around the program and he was here all summer with the guys. Those are all pluses, but even so, I’d be a little more comfortable if our third-team middle linebacker wasn’t out there for as much of the game as he was. But it’s a credit to him.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football