Iowa's Jonathan Parker talks about his expanding role after the Hawkeyes' road win at Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Pat Harty / Hawk Central
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Iowa redshirt freshman running back Jonathan Parker didn't let two fumbles against Ball State bring him down.
Fortunately, for Parker, his head coach felt the same way.
Instead of losing faith in Parker, Kirk Ferentz stuck with him and it paid dividends during the Hawkeyes' 24-10 victory Saturday at Purdue.
Parker caught two passes for 43 yards and had a 47-yard kick return against the Boilermakers. He also had one rushing attempt for four yards while helping to fill the void for senior running back Damon Bullock, who missed Saturday's game because of an injury.
"I've been through a lot in my life, so I just used (the fumbles) as one of those moments when I persevered," said Parker, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound native of St. Louis. "I just worked hard in practice every week, and once they gave me my chance, I just did what I had to do."
Ferentz defended Parker after the Sept. 6 Ball State game, in which Parker's first fumble, on a handoff, led to a Cardinals touchdown — a play on which Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff was injured. His second fumble, on a kickoff return, set up a Ball State field goal.
"You have to ride the elevator a little bit with young players, at times," Ferentz said. "That's just the way it goes. He's a fast guy, but he's really earned the right to be on the field."
What exactly did Ferentz tell Paker?
"Just keep my head up and keep working," Parker said. "That's life. It's football. It happens, just come back and do what you can do."
Parker is listed as a running back, but he lined up as a slot receiver several times against Purdue. He is fine playing either position.
"I'm classified as a running back, but I feel like I can do anything," Parker said. "I guess that's what the coaches see in me. So they put me out there, and I love it."