Watching the Iowa football team struggle to defeat Ball State on Saturday was agonizing for Solon football coach Kevin Miller, but the surprising close score was only partly to blame.
Miller also sympathized with his former star kicker Marshall Koehn, who now kicks for the Hawkeyes as a fourth-year junior. Koehn missed two of his three field-goal attempts in the 17-13 victory over Ball State at Kinnick Stadium, and is just 2-for-5 this season with misses from 37, 35 and 37 yards.
"I watched it on TV, and obviously, when you have a player who is struggling there is that personal element, you feel bad for him," Miller said Monday afternoon. "You don't want to see anyone fail, obviously.
"But that's something in our program that we hope to do, empower kids to handle adversity and failure. And this is a moment where he's going to have to endure and step up to the plate. This is why the game of football can be difficult and demanding. But with that being said, I expect for him to respond three-fold."
Koehn faced the glare of the media spotlight after Saturday's game, calling his performance unacceptable. He also made no excuses and vowed to keep working to improve.
Hawkeye kicker missed two field goals.
"I have to evaluate myself and take a step back and think about what did I do wrong and how can I help this team better," Koehn said. "I'm going to keep kicking, and they're going to start to fall."
Miller was pleased and proud of how Koehn conducted himself with the media after Saturday's game.
"It doesn't surprise me that he handled the situation in the manner in which he did," Miller said. "That's just the type of individual Marshall is. He's going to take responsibility for his actions. And he understands that he is capable of performing better. And he'll strive to improve, which I'm sure he'll do.
"But I'm very proud of the manner in which he handled the particular situation. And he's going to learn and grow from it."
Facing adversity is something new for Koehn, who was a multi-sport star at Solon High School, earning all-state accolades as a kicker in football and as a second baseman in baseball, as well as being a four-year letterman in soccer. He helped the Solon football team compile a 41-1 record in his final three seasons while also playing receiver and defensive back, and he helped the Spartan baseball team win state titles as a junior and senior.
Now he has a chance to be Iowa's top place kicker, but so far Koehn's consistency in practice hasn't carried to the games. He was replaced by true freshman Mick Ellis for Iowa's final field-goal attempt against Ball State in the fourth quarter, but Ellis misfired from 29 yards. Koehn and Ellis were listed a co-starters on the depth chart that was released Monday.
"Our entire program and community is proud of him, but this is something that he's going to have identify with and improve upon," Miller said of Koehn, who also lettered twice in wrestling in high school. "And I have no doubt he will."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has tried to stay positive with both of his kickers, praising their consistency in practice.
"I've seen those guys do good things in practice," Ferentz said Saturday. "I think they're quality guys. So we've just got to stay with them."
Miller said Keohn rarely struggled with his kicking in high school. Koehn made 13-of-18 field-goal attempts as a senior, along with 49-of-56 point-after kicks. His longest field goal as a senior came from 48 yards, and he also had 45 touchbacks on 82 kickoffs as a senior.
Koehn handles kickoffs for Iowa, and that's one area where he has continued to excel. He had three of his four kickoffs go into the end zone against Ball State for touchbacks.
"He missed a field goal here and there (in high school)," Miller said. "But you can't allow a couple kicks to define what he does moving forward. And that's something all kickers have to do: They have to have a short memory. You have to move on. And I'm hopeful that he will do that because he is tough kid. He's a competitor. And I really believe when he identifies the things he's not doing well, he's going to be fine."
Koehn said after Saturday's game that kicking is 80 percent mental.
"I don't know if it's a technique or a fundamental thing that he needs to improve upon," Miller said. "Obviously, he would know better than anyone."
Miller believes that Koehn's success with handling kickoffs will help Koehn persevere through these tough times.
"His leg strength is not an issue at all," Miller said of the 6-foot, 195-pound Koehn. "He's got a powerful leg. He's exceptionally strong for a kicker.
"So again, I don't know exactly what the issue is from a kicking standpoint. But I'm sure he's going to learn from it, grow from it and become better."
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or email@example.com.