BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – When Tevaun Smith sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the second quarter, it didn’t look good.
Iowa’s most explosive and experienced receiver tried to get on his feet, but quickly crumpled to the ground.
He went to the locker room and made a surprising return in the second half after suffering what he termed a back injury – no concussion.
“You talk about guys playing tough, he came back and played,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s going to be hurting tomorrow, I promise you.”
The guy that hit Smith in the head didn’t come back, and it was a key moment in the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes’ 35-27 win at Memorial Stadium. Hoosiers middle linebacker T.J. Simmons, a three-year starter, was ejected for targeting after a video review.
“It was huge to lose him, because T.J. is such a big part of the run game,” Hoosiers linebacker Marcus Oliver said.
Smith had three catches for 50 yards in the first half; he made one grab for five yards after returning, but his presence always is helpful in loosening up the run game. He's a deep threat on the outside.
“My back’s hurting pretty bad right now,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be able to (return). I had to fight through it and do what I had to do.”
Fisher leaves and returns, too
That wasn’t concussion protocol either for Iowa weak-side linebacker Cole Fisher, who went to the locker room in the first quarter after suffering migraine symptoms.
The senior said the lights and noise were getting to him, so he took himself out of the game. Travis Perry replaced Fisher, going to middle linebacker with Josey Jewell sliding to the weak-side role for one series.
“They just happen at random times for me,” Fisher said of the migraines. “I get really splashy vision in my peripherals; I can’t see very well when it happens. That’s why I had to come out.”
Canzeri could return next week
Iowa leading rusher Jordan Canzeri should be able to return for next week’s game vs. Minnesota, Ferentz said. The fifth-year senior hasn’t played since suffering a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter against Northwestern on Oct. 17.
Canzeri suited up Saturday and went through warmups, but the coaching staff thought it would be best to keep him out another week even though he practiced Wednesday and looked good in pregame drills.
“There’s no reason to expect he won’t be back next week as long as we don’t have a setback,” Ferentz said. “That’s a real positive. He wanted to go. We tried that with LeShun (Daniels Jr.), and that didn’t work out so well.”
Iowa’s three-pronged running attack worked well Saturday. Akrum Wadley rushed 12 times for 120 yards, including a 65-yarder on the game’s second play. Daniels, who was slowed in two games with a high-ankle sprain of his own and missed three others, was the workhorse at Indiana with 23 carries for 78 yards. Derrick Mitchell Jr. did a good job in pass protection.
Wadley left the game and didn’t return after spraining his ankle.
“I don’t think it’s anything too major,” Ferentz said.
Hillyer comes up big, then gets help
Iowa fifth-year senior Jacob Hillyer doubled his career-high with four receptions Saturday.
“It was fun,” said Hillyer, who accounted for 53 receiving yards on tosses from C.J. Beathard. “Some different targets opened up, and we took advantage of what they gave us.”
But Hillyer almost had a forgettable moment late, after Indiana cut Iowa’s lead to 35-27 with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left. The Hoosiers squibbed an onside kick, and Hillyer had a chance to cover it. Whoops.
“That one was scary. I thought I had it,” Hillyer said. “When I fell on it, it slipped out of my back.”
Hawkeye tight end Henry Krieger Coble came away with the loose ball on the bottom of the pile. And Iowa moved to 9-0.
Back to the drawing board
After sophomore strong safety Miles Taylor left the game with a left knee injury, Indiana star running back Jordan Howard started to bust out big runs. He bolted 37 yards for a score with 8:52 left in the second quarter, then a 29-yarder to give Indiana a 17-14 lead with 3:52 before halftime. Howard’s first-half scores were just the second and third rushing touchdowns Iowa had allowed all season, and it evoked bad memories of last year’s Indiana offense at Kinnick Stadium, when Tevin Coleman rushed 15 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns.
Iowa’s defense allowed 407 yards and a season-high 27 points.
“They hurt us with the run game,” Ferentz said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board on that one. We knew that we were going to have to come up with points.”
Taylor returned in the second half, replacing Anthony Gair, and Iowa seemed to find its footing defensively – pitching a third-quarter shutout. Taylor wore ice on his knee after the game, but said he’d get treatment and would be fine to play against Minnesota.
Rosy help from Lincoln?
Nebraska upset previously-unbeaten Michigan State, 39-38, on Saturday night. That would help Iowa's Rose Bowl chances if it doesn't reach the College Football Playoff.
If the Big Ten champ goes to the playoff, the Rose Bowl gets its pick of a Big Ten team. It said it would take the next-highest team in the CFP rankings, and with the Spartans' loss, that will put the Hawkeyes in good position to earn that spot if it were to win the West. Michigan State was ranked No. 7 in the initial poll, with Iowa No. 9.