Miguel Recinos, Brandon Smith keep calm in windy win for Hawkeyes
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The wind — and the Iowa offense — was rushing through Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
The conditions turned out to be perfect for Hawkeye place-kicker Miguel Recinos to have the best game of his career. And for wide receiver Brandon Smith to stop run-blocking long enough to one-hand his first college touchdown.
The No. 22 Hawkeyes turned to the running game to hold onto the football for 40 minutes and 55 seconds, setting up Recinos for three white-knuckle field goals through winds that constantly shifted direction and reached 40 mph at times.
Smith got his 10-yard touchdown despite a defender depriving him of the use of his left arm. And the Iowa defense did the rest, gathering a touchdown of its own, to stop Maryland in its tracks in a 23-0 victory before a sellout crowd of 69,250.
“We handled it really, really well,” Recinos said afterward, speaking of holder Colten Rastetter and himself. “I think all our decision-making for adjustments was very accurate.”
Iowa (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) showed its gameplan early, running the ball seven times to gain 43 yards. Quarterback Nate Stanley’s first official pass attempt was intercepted. (Stanley's initial throw was ruled a lateral.)
So back to the ground the Hawkeyes went, grinding 9 minutes off the clock while running a season-high 17 plays on their next drive. This one bogged down at the Maryland 5-yard line. Recinos was called on for the first time to give Iowa an important lead in a game that clearly was going to be low-scoring.
But he didn't kick before Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz called a timeout before the first quarter expired. He wanted Recinos kicking into the south end zone, with the northwest wind at his back.
It was a long wait. Recinos has learned to take his mind off of things. And a kicker’s mind is a little different.
He pulled Rastetter aside, and they talked about a movie they’d watched this week: “X-Men: Apocalypse.” If Recinos were superstitious, he probably would not be discussing anything with “Apocalypse” in the title before being asked to make a kick through swirling winds that could set the tone for his team.
But he does not like “X-Men” movies. He had something on his mind.
“I’m kind of a literal guy, so sometimes science fiction stuff makes me mad, because it’s so stupid,” Recinos said. “We were talking about one of the scenes just the whole time and then, ‘All right, it’s time to go.’”
Recinos’s kick from 23 yards was true. So was his next one, a 25-yarder in the opposite direction. His third field goal was the gnarliest. The wind was even stronger in the second half, and Recinos was asked to make a 36-yarder.
“I almost got blown out of my stance,” Recinos said. “Colten leaned back to me and said, ‘Go left middle. It’s really strong.’ So I did. It ended up swinging really hard to the right, but we put it in.”
Recinos made all three of his field goals and both extra points. His career-high 11-point day gave him 138 for his career, good for 21st in Hawkeyes history.
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“There's nothing easy about what he did today,” Ferentz said of his senior kicker.
There was nothing easy about Smith’s first career touchdown, either. First of all, the sophomore spent most of the game blocking for running backs Ivory Kelly-Martin (98 yards rushing) and Mekhi Sargent (54).
Smith, at 6-foot-3, 219 pounds, is considered Iowa’s best blocking wide receiver. But that doesn’t mean he enjoys it.
“Everybody likes to talk about my size. So I had to come to terms that I’m a pretty big receiver. I look like I can block good, so I’ve got to block good,” Smith said.
“I don’t think any receiver likes blocking. But you’ve got to do it for your team.”
It wasn’t until the Hawkeyes' final offensive play of the first half that a pass came Smith’s way. Iowa was at the Maryland 10-yard line and leading just 6-0 despite its statistical dominance.
Terrapins cornerback Tino Ellis took away the inside route, so Smith beat him off the line toward the right corner of the end zone. Ellis grabbed Smith’s left arm, drawing a penalty flag. Smith went up with his right hand and cradled the ball to his midsection as he fell out of the end zone.
“I knew I had it once it hit my hands, and I tucked it. I just tried to hold it real tight in my right hand,” Smith said.
“I knew he was holding me. After I looked up, I saw a flag, but I’m just glad I caught it anyways.”
The wind had the football swaying on its way to Smith. Despite that, plus a defender hanging on for dear life, Smith’s concentration was exemplary.
Afterward, Smith got his first on-field TV interview. He was nervous.
“I didn’t want to mess up. It was probably an 8 out of 10,” Smith said of that performance. “I need to improve on these interviews. I’m just glad I can have them. It means I’m doing something right.”
Smith had a lot of family in attendance. He also had his best friend on hand for the first time in his Hawkeye career.
“He probably needs to come to a lot more games,” Smith said.
The friend’s name?
How appropriate, after what Smith and the Hawkeyes did Saturday.