Penn State running back Saquon Barkley intimated that the Hawkeyes didn't want to be there after last year's game. Iowa linebacker Bo Bower discusses that and night games. Chad Leistikow/The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Revisiting Iowa’s 41-14 loss last year at Penn State conjures up some lasting images for Iowa linebacker Bo Bower.
Most involve Saquon Barkley.
One memory was the Nittany Lions’ fantastic, 5-foot-11, 230-pound running back high-stepping (ahem) into the end zone to complete a 44-yard touchdown catch. It was a fourth-quarter punctuation of a rout, with Bower trailing behind.
“There’s certain big plays we gave up — and for me, personally, on my side of the ball that we gave up,” Bower acknowledged Tuesday.
And then there were the postgame comments from Barkley, after he had amassed 211 of Penn State’s 599 yards of total offense.
“You can see in their demeanor when they don’t want to be on the field no more,” Barkley said afterward.
More than 10 months later, Barkley’s comments haven't been forgotten. Nor were they a major focus Tuesday, as 3-0 Iowa prepared for Saturday’s 6:42 p.m. home game against the 3-0, fourth-ranked Nittany Lions.
“If it doesn’t bother you, then you shouldn’t be playing the game, obviously,” Bower said.
Added fellow linebacker Josey Jewell: “That’s fine, I guess, that he said that. He must’ve seen something. We’ll just go (all) out all the time.”
No point-total edict
Iowa is playing another nationally televised night game against a top-five opponent, and Jewell certainly sees similarities to the last time that secnario arose.
When No. 3 Michigan rolled into Kinnick Stadium with a spotless record and national-title aspirations last November, Jewell brashly told his offense: “Just get us 14 points, and we’ll take care of the rest.”
Iowa won, 14-13.
Jewell was asked Tuesday if he’s just as confident this week.
“You have to be confident every week ... to understand if you give your best shot you should have a close score, you should be able to come out with a win,” Jewell said.
But did he ask his offense for a specific point total?
“Not this time,” Jewell said.
Jewell, the senior leader of the Hawkeyes' defense, injured his ankle in the Sept. 9 win at Iowa State. He wasn’t his normally explosive self Saturday against North Texas, either.
“I’m pretty good. You’re never 100 percent after the first week,” Jewell said Tuesday.
Those who follow Iowa football injuries know that was similar to the recurring line in 2015 used by quarterback C.J. Beathard — who hobbled his way through the season and eventually had sports-hernia surgery.
This is just an ankle. But it's undoubtedly worth watching, considering Jewell is Iowa's best player when healthy.
“I think I could have been maybe a little faster (against North Texas), but it’s fine," Jewell said. "It will be fine by this week, too.”
Hesse: ‘We have a lot more in us’
Iowa’s defensive line hasn’t lived up to its potential through three weeks. Junior Parker Hesse, who has been by far the best of that unit, did not hesitate to admit as much Tuesday.
“I think everyone in the room feels that we have a lot more in us and a lot more that we can contribute to this team,” Hesse said. “And this week we’ve really been trying to kind of hammer out who we are and what we’re going to take pride in from here on out.”
Hesse leads Iowa with four tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries. His 14 total tackles is more than twice as many as the next closest defensive lineman (Anthony Nelson, with six). The eight players who’ve routinely taken snaps on the line have managed only three sacks.
“It starts with me improving myself,” Hesse said. “I’ve been working on trying to be critical of myself in practice from last week’s tape.”
His teammates need to follow his lead.
Wirfs on the rise
Much like fellow true freshman A.J. Epenesa’s ascent on Iowa’s defensive line, it appears there’s no turning back for offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs.
Wirfs got his first college snaps Saturday against North Texas: some on field-goal/extra-point protection, and nine at right tackle in the fourth quarter.
James Daniels, Iowa’s junior center who had been the most recent true freshman to play on Ferentz’s offensive line in 2015, could relate to Wirfs’ excitement to get on the field.
“He’s been ready. He’s been practicing good,” Daniels said. “When you’re waiting on the sideline, you’re waiting for your name, when I am going to get called?
“I feel like he did good. Real good.”
With starting right tackle Ike Boettger out for the season coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that Boettger had successful Achilles tendon surgery — Wirfs could be one snap away from the starting lineup. For now, natural guard Sean Welsh is the starter.
But if Wirfs can climb the ladder quickly, perhaps Welsh could slide back inside. For now, though, Ferentz said the best lineup is the one that started vs. North Texas: Alaric Jackson, Boone Myers, Daniels, Keegan Render and Welsh.
Snyder return 'possible' this season
The rehab of free safety Brandon Snyder is progressing ahead of schedule, Ferentz said Tuesday. Snyder had knee surgery after tearing the ACL in his left knee in April.
"His attitude has been great," Ferentz said. "He's been pushing hard, and it's all good. But we'll see where it goes week by week. He's climbing the hill, that's for sure."
Ferentz said it was "possible" Snyder, who started every game at free safety a year ago and led the team with three forced fumbles to go with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, would return during the regular season. The Hawkeyes need help at safety, with Miles Taylor, Jake Gervase and Amani Hooker all expected to play Saturday.
"If (Snyder's return) happens, it happens, great. It's a bonus," Ferentz said. "But right now, we'll go with the guys that we have."
Hawk Central's Mark Emmert contributed to this report.