After a rough start to the season, redshirt freshman Jonathan Parker has given Iowa's offense a lift of late.
He had two catches for 43 yards against Purdue and returned a kickoff 47 yards. There was also some deception. Fake handoffs to Parker on a jet sweep opened some big lanes for Iowa's running backs against the Boilermakers.
Ferentz said the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Parker "did some things in real life the other day that made me think we're on the right path with him. But we also went through some real lows with him, too, and almost didn't survive a couple of really critical plays that he was involved in."
Parker's fumble was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Ball State in the second quarter of the season's second game. Compounding the problem was that left tackle Brandon Scherff injured a knee on the play. Scherff returned the next week.
Later in that game, Parker fumbled a third-quarter kickoff that Ball State turned into a field goal and a 13-3 lead. Iowa rallied to win 17-13.
"But we didn't put dirt on him," Ferentz said. "We just kept working with him and kept believing in him, and he's rewarded us a little bit. We're not out of the woods there yet."
Hawkeye running back discusses Iowa's struggling ground game.
CANZERI UPDATE: One reason Iowa's ground game has struggled to get any rhythm is the fact that running back Jordan Canzeri hasn't been healthy.
Canzeri wasn't 100 percent when fall camp started. He also injured a heel on a kickoff return against Ball State in the second week of the season.
Canzeri was a good option last season with a burst that got him big yards in the second half of the season. His 165 yards against Purdue last season, nine games ago, is the last time an Iowa back cracked the century mark.
That burst has been missing this season. Canzeri had 15 carries for 63 yards at Purdue in Iowa's most recent game Sept. 27. But he had several holes where a burst would have produced more yards. Ferentz is hoping the bye week will give Canzeri some of his old burst back for Saturday's game vs. Indiana.
"For him to get back full speed would really help us," Ferentz said. "And hopefully he's feeling a little better now. But time will tell."
Iowa to face some of nation's top backs rest of season
RETURN TO RETURNING: Riley is listed as Iowa's punt returner after replacing an injured Matt at Purdue.
It was a stop-gap move, and showed no intentions of actually trying to run a punt back. Coach Kirk said Tuesday the Hawkeyes may take a more aggressive approach this week.
"Hopefully, we'll get that train moving a little bit," said. "I think that's his first game out there, so we'll get (him) going a little bit."
BOW OR DANCE? A penalty flag thrown at Oregon linebacker Tony Washington sent shock waves through the college football world.
Washington made a bowing gesture after a sack and was called for excessive celebration. It may have reminded some Hawkeye followers of a similar post-sack reaction by Louis .
"Makes me think if I get a sack, I've just got to go back to the huddle," Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. "You work so hard and sacks are so hard to come by … To get one of those, I really do think you should be able to celebrate."
Davis questioned whether Washington waited too long to celebrate but also understood how a player can get caught up in the emotions of a moment.
"When you've got all those fans screaming at you and you make a big play, you feel good about it," Davis explained. "It's a great feeling. It can't be duplicated."
What would Davis do if he didn't have to worry about a penalty?
"Man, I've got some stuff in my bag," he said. "I've got a couple dances I might pull out. If I could, it would definitely be a show."
-- Andrew Logue contributed to this report