Takeaways from Iowa-North Texas: McCarney's praise, remarkable Canzeri
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Of the 127 FBS coaches in America not named Kirk Ferentz, Dan McCarney probably knows the Iowa football team best. As a former player and assistant at Iowa and rival head coach at Iowa State, he’s the seen the good Hawkeye teams and a few of the bad ones.
This Iowa team, he said after his North Texas team lost 62-16 at Kinnick Stadium, is a good one.
“I put Iowa in my top 25 last Sunday (in the coaches’ poll),” McCarney said. “I’m sure going to do it again tomorrow when we vote.”
The Hawkeyes improved to 4-0. They’ve gotten here led by resiliency, a physical defense and quarterback C.J. Beathard.
“I’ve coached against them many times when they had those kind of teams. I think they have that. I truly do,” McCarney said. “The physicality of the team, the play-makers, the return game, punters, kickers, tremendous quarterback that really knows how to execute (and) good backs.”
OTT’S A LOT BETTER
McCarney’s quarterback, Iowa City native Andrew McNulty, finished 14 of 36 for 137 yards and was sacked three times. One of those sacks came courtesy of Drew Ott and was accompanied with a lost fumble as North Texas was on the move and trailing 35-16.
Ott started at right defensive end, two weeks after suffering a dislocated left elbow at Iowa State. He showed more explosion than he did a week ago in a limited return against Pittsburgh.
“I kind of struggled today, so it was nice to break one through,” Ott said. “It was pretty rusty coming back.”
Ott, one of the top defenders in the Big Ten Conference when healthy, said he’s been doing bicep and tricep curls to try to strengthen the elbow joint. There was talk that he might get held out of the game completely to rest for next week at Wisconsin, but Ott felt he needed to be out there on the Kinnick field turf.
“I really haven’t played that much this season,” Ott said. “I need to work on my cardio and stuff like that. It was nice to play.”
TIGHT END SIGHTINGS
Junior tight end George Kittle collected his first career touchdown reception on a 43-yarder from Beathard to make it 21-3. He broke wide open with Iowa running a hurry-up look and made a nice catch on a deep ball that was slightly off the mark.
It was nice to see the athletic 6-foot-4 native of Norman, Okla., making a big-play impact after a strong spring and summer. He had been slowed by a knee strain. Not long after his TD grab, another tight end returned from injury as the Jake Duzey watch ended.
Iowa’s presumed starter at tight end has been out since April surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon. He estimated he played on six or seven snaps, but the senior who has 58 career catches and five touchdowns was just glad to be part of game action.
“It felt normal. Just got to get used to it again and get some rust off,” Duzey said. “I’m getting there. I’m not taking a ton of reps, but when I’m in there, I’m going.”
SHAKY EDGE FOR FIRST TIME
Iowa’s rush defense allowed 153 yards combined in the first three games. North Texas gained 183 Saturday — and it was actually 215 not counting sack yardage.
Iowa linebackers Cole Fisher and Josey Jewell admitted that the Mean Green’s spread attack got the Hawkeyes a little off balance.
“They just spread us out pretty well, and they knew where to go, I guess,” Jewell said. “We didn’t always play our right technique or right alignments. So they took advantage of it.”
YOUR 5-FOOT-9 GOAL-LINE BACK
Jordan Canzeri tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns. The last Hawkeye to do that was Shonn Greene vs. Wisconsin in 2008.
At 5-9, 192 pounds, Canzeri isn’t the prototypical goal-line back — but that’s what he has become as LeShun Daniels Jr. remains slowed with an ankle injury. Canzeri had 22 rushes for 115 yards; Daniels five for 21.
“Obviously it’s a positive to prove that you are capable of getting that job done,” said Canzeri, who mentioned that someone needs to do the job after the graduation of 240-pound Mark Weisman (32 rushing TDs in three seasons).
What a difference a year makes. Canzeri has eight touchdown runs this season on 63 carries. He had zero in 2014 on 102 carries.
Ferentz has been more pleased with another aspect of Canzeri’s game over the past four weeks.
“When I think about Jordan, the first thing I go back to is last week and his blitz pick-up. Those guys were coming hard from Pittsburgh,” Ferentz said. “He did a lot of good things touching the ball last week, but I think his pass protection enabled us to really — it was a key part of our victory. So the point I’m making there is he’s really playing a well-rounded game.”
AND IN CONCLUSION, CLASS ...
What have we learned the most about the Hawkeyes through four September Saturdays?
Fifth-year senior center Austin Blythe doesn’t always have a lot to say, but on this topic, his answer was telling.
“Just our resiliency. We’ve been in some tough situations, like today, we let up that fumble (lost at Iowa’s own 6) and they scored on the very next play,” Blythe said. “And we went back and scored on the very next drive. That’s a good thing as a football team, to be able to flush it down.”