The linebacker tells reporters of the lessons learned from his helmet-to-helmet hit.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Josey Jewell will get a do-over on his 2016 football season-opener this Saturday, and he said he intends on never repeating what caused him to miss almost all of Iowa’s most recent game.
The Hawkeye middle linebacker was ejected a mere 3 minutes into Saturday’s 45-21 victory over Miami of Ohio, the result of a targeting penalty that he incurred after a wicked-looking helmet-to-helmet hit during a punt return. The RedHawks’ Matt Merimee was tended to on the field, but fortunately was able to walk off under his own power. Jewell was banished, forced to watch the rest of the game from the equipment room.
“It wasn’t intentional. I wasn’t going for his face. I was just going for a good, clean block,” Jewell said Tuesday in his first public comments since the incident. “Unfortunately, my head got down, my shoulder got down there to his face mask.”
Jewell acknowledged that players are aware that targeting penalties are a point of emphasis this year for officials. Three Minnesota players were sent off in the Gophers’ season-opening win over Oregon State, for example.
Jewell stopped short of admitting to doing anything wrong, but he said he will be more mindful of playing under control from now on.
“You’ve just got to adjust yourself,” Jewell said. “You have to go in there with the head up and just block them the best you can.
“I wish it didn’t happen. I wish we could have maybe veered off from it.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that he didn’t send tape of the hit to Big Ten Conference officials, saying: “We moved on.”
He defended Jewell, and said coaches need to do a better job of educating players about ways to avoid such penalties.
“It was a great hustle play on his part. He was rushing the punter and working his tail off to get back there,” Ferentz said. “I don't want to speak for everybody else, but looking at it, there was no malicious intent on that. And a lot of these calls are going to be bang-bang calls, but this is 2016. It's a point of emphasis.”
Jewell, a team captain who led Iowa with 126 tackles last season, spent Saturday’s game watching his replacement, sophomore Jack Hockaday, and offering pointers. Hockaday finished with six tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. But the Hawkeye defense struggled in Jewell’s absence, allowing 424 yards to a Miami team coming off a 3-9 season.
Jewell said he spoke to Hockaday at halftime, pointing out some defensive line fits to pay attention to and “some minor calls that he had to make.”
“But he was doing a great job for a young guy, to step in there and play,” said Jewell, who frequently provides advice to younger teammates at practice sessions.
Jewell is eligible to play the entire game Saturday when No. 10 Iowa hosts rival Iowa State at 6:30 p.m. at Kinnick Stadium (Big Ten Network). He knows he’ll be fired up, as always, but also must fight to keep his emotions under check. Iowa needs Jewell to remain on the field.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” he said of Saturday’s ejection. “It really just makes me want to not make it happen again, be smarter out on the football field.”
Ferentz said playing smarter is fine, but that he also doesn’t want Jewell to overreact, to be “defanged.” His intensity is a big part of his success.
“I don't think anybody's ever accused him of being a dirty player, but he is an aggressive player, there's no question about that,” Ferentz said. “Josey is a very aggressive guy.”