Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s game-changing performance in the Holiday Bowl

Hawkeye Headquarters

“He called it out. He said, ‘Watch the tunnel screen,’ so that’s why I literally stopped,” said Ihmir Smith-Marsette. “You know, all I had to do was adjust to him.”

It didn’t matter if USC knew the play.

“You know, we saw that they were having problems with it on tape. The coaches do a good job at taking advantage of those,” said Nate Stanley.

Or Iowa dialed up the perfect play call. It was not going to be stopped, especially not by the kicker on the junior’s game-changing, 98-yard kickoff return. It gave the Hawkeyes a second-quarter lead they would not relinquish.

“I said it before, I’m not going to let no kicker catch me. Don’t let the kicker catch me, the last guy. Just using my speed, got to the end zone. Turned around, thanked all my teammates,” said Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

Smith-Marsette had actually been limited leading up to this Holiday Bowl. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game that it was only a good week of practice here in San Diego that gave the staff confidence he’d be ready to go.

“Really glad to see him play the way he did. He hasn’t been full speed here the last couple weeks. Had a couple minor things going on. Came back the last week, couple days, practiced well, sure looked like he was full speed tonight. That was good to see,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

“There’s a lot of plays scripted for specific people, depending on the situations that come up, those plays get called. Ihmir got the lucky draw today, had a lot of those plays called for him,” said Nate Stanley.

Smith-Marsette made some Hawkeye history in San Diego. His second quarter kickoff return for a touchdown was the junior’s second this season. That’s the first time in the history of the Iowa program that it’s been done.

For more Hawkeye coverage, follow @AdamJRossow and @HawkeyeHQ on Twitter and Facebook — and sign up for our HawkeyeHQ.com pregame and postgame newsletter. All you need is an email address and we’ll send you a newsletter every Friday and Monday during football season.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.