Oct. 1, 2005
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Kenny Iwebema feels strong games coming every time he steps out onto the field, but few saw Saturday’s performance in their crystal ball.
The sophomore defensive end blocked two of Illinois kicker Jason Reda’s three field goal attempts and kept the Illini in a position of subservience in the first half as Iowa rolled to a 35-7 win inside Kinnick Stadium and picked up its first Big Ten Conference victory.
Reda missed a 44-yard attempt in the first quarter and a 31-yard attempt in the second.
“I believe I was just in the right place and the right time on both of them,” Iwebema said. “Coach just puts you in the right place in the right time on certain occasions and I was just there.”
Iwebema recorded his first blocks of the year against the Illini.
“That was all fundamental technique,” he said. “It just proves that whatever the coaches say works.”
Reda’s kicks were low, and his third attempt missed wide left without the help of any of the Hawkeyes’ special teams.
“The two that were blocked there’s no question they were low and protection was there,” Illinois Coach Ron Zook said. “That’s something you worry about with a young kicker – him getting in that grove. We have to get him back in that grove because he is a good kicker and he can do it.”
Reda had made 8 of 9 so far this season and had just one block in two years of kicking for the Illini.
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz praised Reda, a Rock Island, IL.-native, and credited his special teams’ performances.
“They helped obviously,” the coach said. “Red zone defense, you’ve got to keep them out of the end zone. That’s extremely critical. Obviously if you can give them three points instead of seven it’s a positive, and to get a block is a big plus also.
“It looked like the ball was coming in low, but Kenny was doing what he needed to do to give himself a chance. Reda’s a good kicker and we had a lot of strong feelings for him, but it wasn’t a fit for us with our kicking situation with Kyle (Schlicher) being younger. He’s a tremendous kicker.”
Iwebema said he knew he wasn’t going to get the ball at the snap, but he carried an air of confidence about his performance.
“We needed that W after last week. That’s something we were shooting for and we did and it felt good.”
Defensive end Kenny Iwebema
“You run it a whole bunch of times and you don’t get to the ball and you’re like, “Oh well,” he said. “But you’ve got to stick with technique and fundamentals.”
Center Brian Ferentz said the blocks were “huge” for the offense. The recovery allowed the offense to take the field at its own 28 and the second missed field goal gave the Hawkeyes the ball at their 20.
“It gives you huge confidence when the defense bends but it doesn’t break, and then comes back with a big football play to get you back on the field and keep them off the scoreboard,” he said. “That’s huge. It’s just huge.”
As defensive end, Iwebema recorded four tackles – one in the form of a sack on Illinois’ Tim Brasic for a seven-yard loss.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “Get that W on the board. We needed that W after last week. That’s something we were shooting for and we did and it felt good.”
Kirk Ferentz, though, said the young defense still has a ways to go and Saturday’s game proved it.
“The way I look at it, we’re still really young up front and we’re going to continue rotating those guys,” the coach said. “We’ve got to clean up the missed tackles and holding penalties and things of that nature.”
By the same token, though, Ferentz said younger players can take bigger strides and make greater improvement.
“That’s again the good news about young or inexperienced players,” he said. “I’m really confident that we’re going to see strides. I really believe that. That’s going to enable us to do some things.”
Iwebema said he already feels as though he’s made significant progress.
“From now to the beginning of the season there’s been a lot of improvement with all of us,” the end said. “People are reading blocks better and getting more pressure. But we’ve got to keep making strides. We’re not where we want to be but we’re better than we were, and that’s all that counts.
“We’re trying to get better every week.”
Iwebema demonstrated that Saturday.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com