Oct. 12, 2003
It can be comforting to know that yesterday as you were watching Wisconsin defeat Ohio State or on Friday as you were watching Michigan pick up a win over Minnesota, so too were the players of the now ninth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes.
Oh, the glories of a bye week.
Last year, Iowa didn’t have a week off on its march to the Big Ten Championship and the Orange Bowl. But it’s also safe to say it didn’t need one.
This year, the story is much different.
Before the season even began, running backs Jermelle Lewis and Albert Young were known casualties to the football injury gods. But then, steadily, there was a succession of misfortune for the Hawkeyes as the injuries piled on.
Strong safety Bob Sanders had surgery on his foot, fullback Champ Davis sprained his ankle, crucial wide receivers Maurice Brown and Ed Hinkel were both out and offensive linesman David Walker got hurt. Cornerback Jovon Johnson got injured too, and Ma’Quan Dawkins, a redshirt freshman cornerback, may be out for the rest of the season after a mishap in the Michigan game.
Sadly, the list could probably continue. But now, after a week off, the Hawks have a way to recoup some of their losses and field a competitive team against now eighth-ranked Ohio State next Saturday.
Oh, the glories of a bye week.
“We really haven’t caught a lot of breaks this year, but we may have with our scheduling last year,” said coach Kirk Ferentz. “The worst thing that could have happened was a bye week because we were healthy, but this year it’s really a blessing for us because we need more time to regroup and get us back healthy. I’m really pleased with that.”
Although Sanders has been healthy enough to play since Michigan State, the bye week has enabled Davis, Hinkel and Walker to get back into the swing of things. In fact, Johnson and even Brown may move off out and onto questionable by Tuesday’s press conference with the coach.
“The good news is that I think both of them have a chance to help us in the second half of the season.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz on Jermelle Lewis and Albert Young
But the most surprising news of the off-week is that Lewis and Young may be ready to play by Saturday. However, the coach is quick to emphasize the “may”.
“Jermelle and Albert are both in the same category. Jermelle’s come along far faster than I expected,” Ferentz said. “If he can come through this week, then maybe there’s a chance we can move forward. I think Albert’s in the same situation. The good news is that I think both of them have a chance to help us in the second half of the season.”
Aside from injuries, the Hawkeyes got an extra week of preparation before facing the Big Ten co-champion Buckeyes.
“It’s invaluable,” senior quarterback Nathan Chandler said. “They’re a great team with a great tradition. It’s to our benefit that we get this time to prepare.”
Chandler, who has gone 70-of-124 for 821 yards on the season, is pleased with the improvement he’s seen so far.
“I just feel as an offense, we’re gelling more and more,” he said. “As we get more guys back, they’ll only help us out. I’m not where I want to be yet. I’m a perfectionist. I strive for the perfect game, and that’s hasn’t happened yet.”
Wide receiver Ramon Ochoa is finding success on offense
Wide receiver Ramon Ochoa, who has really started to shine this season with 10 catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns, is also pleased with the progress in the Hawkeyes.
“We kind of had a setback in the first quarter of the Michigan game,” he said. “But I think it showed a lot of heart and courage from our offense to come back being 14 down, knowing we had to score points to keep us in the game. It helps a lot to know that we’re capable of doing that.”
Ochoa is also growing into his role on offense. He had previously been almost solely a special teams’ kick returner.
“I’ve always prepared as a starter for situations like this, where if they call upon me, I’ll be ready to play,” he said.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com