Hawkeye(HQ) Headlines: 5 things before Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 8: Iowa celebrate a win of the game against Minnesota with Floyd of Rosedale Trophy on October 8, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Iowa defeated Minnesota 14-7. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

 

The No. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes are looking to win two games in a row for the first time since early October, and it’s another trophy game. Floyd of Rosedale is on the line this week as they take on Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium. Coach Ferentz and a handful of players spoke to the media this week. Here are some of the major storylines going into Saturday’s game.

Injuries giveth and injuries taketh away

Some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good: After missing the last three games, corner Riley Moss is back. He wasn’t listed on the two-deep depth chart this week, but Ferentz sure sounded confident.

“He’s feeling pretty good right now,” Moon Family Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Unless we hit a pothole along the way he’ll be full throttle Saturday. Anytime you’re getting guys back that’s a helpful thing especially veteran players like Riley. He was playing at a high level.”

Junior guard Cody Ince and senior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin are both also set to return this week against Minnesota.

The bad news: Starting quarterback Spencer Petras looks to be a no-go this week after leaving last week’s game in the first quarter. Sophomore Alex Padilla has been getting most of the number reps with Petras sidelined. Redshirt freshman Deuce Hogan is listed as the backup this week.

Tackle Mason Richman also looks to be out this week after getting rolled up on and leaving the game last week at Northwestern.

There (might) be a new sheriff (QB) in town

So what happens when Petras is healthy enough to return? The short answer: who knows. Coach Ferentz has the long one:

“Alex is helping himself or helped himself Saturday,” he said. “So the good news as we stand here today, which is really premature, we have two guys that have played pretty well. We know more now than we did a week ago. That’s for sure. And I’d love to have both guys healthy, ready to go. See where it all goes here.”

Padilla played well in relief of Petras last weekend. After a largely ineffective effort by the offense on its first couple drives, he came in and along with Tyler Goodson, led the team on two touchdown drives. He was able to push the ball down the field a little bit, finding Keagan Johnson a few times for big gains.

Regardless of who has the title of QB1 at the end of the season, it’s still all about the team.

“Spencer, at some schools you might see quarterbacks getting a little bit frustrated or salty about getting their job taken, but you don’t see that here,” Arland Bruce IV said. “He’s watching film and helping AP with things he maybe didn’t see in practice.”

They grow up so fast 😥

The passing offense has been lacking in terms of statistics this season, as the Hawkeyes rank 108th in the country in passing yards. One bright spot however, has been the growth of the freshman wide receivers.

This time last year, they were playing high school football. This year, Keagan Johnson ranks second on a top-20 team in receiving yards and Arland Bruce IV has made a number of plays over the past couple weeks, including scoring an impressive touchdown against Northwestern.

“It definitely helps me build confidence,” Bruce said. “It’s just the greatest feeling in the world. I can’t even describe how it feels in the end zone, especially at an away game, shushing the crowd.”

Their impact has been growing each game. Last week in particular, Johnson and Bruce accounted for more than half of the teams receiving yards. A veteran attitude is a big reason for their rapid acclimation to the college game and coaches have taken notice, giving them more opportunities.

“They’ve earned everybody’s confidence, just through their play,” Ferentz said. “They’re beyond their years focused and take practice really seriously.”

It’s a rare trait in young players. Coach Ferentz is happy to have found two of them.

“I mean the guys are silly but it’s just rare when — doesn’t sound that hard — to get guys that are really wired in, they’re pretty uncommon. It’s amazing,” he said. “Love to take credit. I don’t know that any of us taught them that. I think they just came this way. I’m not sure who taught them.”

Discipline!

The Minnesota offense might be down several running backs, but it presents another interesting wrinkle for the Iowa defense. That’d a lot of RPO. When it comes to defending that, the Hawkeyes have one main key.

“It’s definitely eye discipline,” Kaveon Merriweather said. “You have to make sure you’re on top of what you’re reading, make sure of your run keys. If you’re supposed to fit the run, fit the run. If you’re supposed to play the pass, make sure you’re playing the pass at all times, because you never know when the ball might be coming out.”

There’s an extra emphasis this week on the “R” part of the RPO, as the Gophers have one of the best rushing attacks in the country, despite all the injuries.

“Just being good in the run game,” Joe Evans said of stopping the Minnesota offense.

This is also quarterback Tanner Morgan’s fourth year in the offense, so as expected, he’s quite good at running it.

“He’s been there for as long as I can remember and he just gets better and better,” Evans said.

No, after you

If Iowa wins on Saturday, someone is going to have to carry the trophy.

“I just touch them,” Evans said. “I don’t know how much they weigh.”

It’s not a matter of who gets to carry it, but who actually wants to. And it tends to fall on one group in particular.

“No, no weight lifting,” Evans said. “We’ll leave that to the big boys, those big o-linemen. Tyler Linderbaum, Shooter, we’ll let them pick those up.”

They’re more than happy to let them do it. Call it a business decision.

“I pretty much just let the big guys have it, just get out of their way, because they’re moving,” Merriweather said. “They’re moving to go get it.”

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