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Rick Brown: 'Historic' Kinnick witnesses more history Saturday

[ 0 ] September 21, 2013 |

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IOWA CITY, Ia. Iowa’s sports marketing office calls it “historic’ Kinnick Stadium. And Saturday, inside the 84-year-old home of Iowa football, people were mentioning Nile Kinnick and Kevonte Martin-Manley in the same sentence.

Iowa's Kevonte Martin-Manley celebrates after returning a punt on Saturday against Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register)

Iowa's Kevonte Martin-Manley celebrates after returning a punt on Saturday against Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register)

Now there’s some history for you. Martin-Manley became the third player in Big Ten history to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game. He accounted for 184 punt return yards in the first half alone, and needed just 18 more to pass Kinnick’s school record of 201 against Indiana on his way to the 1939 Heisman Trophy.

Alas, Martin-Manley never got another crack to pass the man the stadium is named for.

“If I had done that, it would have been a humbling experience,” Martin-Manley said.

Cornerback B.J. Lowery also took a bite out of history. He became the first player in Iowa history to return two interceptions for touchdowns.

“I didn’t even know I was part of history until just now,” Lowery said. “ I’m pretty honored.”

But the real silver lining Saturday came in the fact that coach Kirk Ferentz was able to rotate multiple players at every position – yes, even quarterback. Nothing builds depth like experience, whether it’s 17-year-old freshman linebacker Reggie Spearman or junior college transfer Damond Powell at wide receiver.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had a chance to get guys in the game and actually let them play,” Ferentz said. “That’s going to help. We’re trying to work hard with those guys in practice, and get them extra work. But there’s no substitute for experience.”

Quarterback James Vandenberg took every snap in Iowa’s 4-8 season in 2012. The school of public opinion questioned why no one else got their feet wet. On Saturday, freshman C.J. Beathard did. And those who did some hand wringing over Mark Weisman’s mountain of carries – his 85 rushes in the first three games were more than anyone else in the nation – could relax. Weisman had just 10 carries Saturday.

“Everybody should be happy,” Ferentz said, tongue in cheek. “We got our backup quarterback in, so that bodes well for the future, right? And Weisman only had 10 carries. So it’s a double-double victory this week.”

Canzeri and true freshman LeShun Daniels both had 13 carries. They had combined for 14 in the first three games.

“We spread the wealth a little bit,” Weisman said. “It was definitely nice.”

Powell had his first touchdown catch, one of eight players with a reception. Twenty-four different players had some kind of defensive statistic. Linebackers Quinton Alson, Marcus Collins and Spearman got a lot of reps.

“I remember how big it was for me as a freshman the first couple of games, Ball State…Iowa State…just getting your feet wet,” senior linebacker James Morris said.

Starting quarterback Jake Rudock did another good job of managing the game Saturday. After getting off at least 80 plays in each of the first three games, the number dropped to 76. Iowa ran just 31 plays the first half, when Martin-Manley was more effective at keeping the Iowa offense off the field than the Western Michigan defense was.

“I told him, “Why don’t you let the offense get out there a little bit? ’” Weisman said.

The Iowa defense, which has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, also took a step forward. The Broncos went three-and-out on their first six possessions of the game.

“Coach Ferentz talked (after the game) about our progression, and how we ‘ve grown the last couple of weeks,” Lowery said. “Two weeks ago, we were not where we are now.”

Ultimately, the real measure of that improvement comes Saturday, when Iowa opens Big Ten play at Minnesota.

“Big game,” Weisman said.


Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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