Oct. 9, 2006
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Does it get any better for a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes than to help the nationally ranked squad bounce back from a tough loss and secure a victory in the annual Homecoming game?
Yes, frankly, it does.
It does when you do all that plus you make your first start at running back and take advantage of that opportunity to rush for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That’s exactly how Damian Sims, a junior from Boynton Beach, Fla., celebrated Homecoming last Saturday inside sun-drenched Kinnick Stadium.
“It felt good to finally get the run game started and I’m glad I was able to contribute to that,” said Sims, who became the first Hawkeye back to gain 100 yards in a game in 2006 – a mark he crossed before halftime.
“The offense has started as fast as we would have like in our previous games. Today, we hit did. We were hitting on all cylinders from the first drive of the game.”
Sims and teammate Shonn Greene contributed the majority of Iowa’s season-high 286 rushing yards. The pair filled in for Albert Young, who took the day off to rest a sore leg.
Take Note: The Big Ten Conference has announced that Iowa’s game Oct. 21 at Michigan will kick off shortly after 2:30 p.m. Iowa time and will be televised live by ABC.
“I was not surprised they ran the ball, but (I was surprised) at the ease at which they ran the ball…and that’s an understatement,” said Purdue Coach Joe Tiller after having watched his team get torched to the tune of 500 yards and 47 points by the home team.
Iowa did, in fact, start fast. After a turnover deep in Purdue territory aborted the Hawkeyes’ opening drive of the game, UI quarterback Drew Tate and the Hawkeyes turned to Sims, first on a short pass that the fleet-footed junior took for 36 yards and again on a one-yard touchdown run.
The highlight of the day – at least for the 70,585 fans who filled Kinnick Stadium to capacity for the 22 straight game – was Sims’ 44-yard run in the second quarter. That gallop is Iowa’s longest from scrimmage this season.
“I was just running, the other guys were doing the hard work,” he said, giving credit to the play calling and his teammates in the trenches. “Today, we did whatever we wanted, it felt like.”
Early in the third quarter, Sims toted the ball eight yards for his second touchdown of the day and his third score of the season. That score gave the Hawkeyes a commanding 27-3 lead.
“It just felt good to get in a rhythm finally and start moving the pile around. Today, it seemed like everything was going like we wanted it to go,” said Sims, who carried the ball 20 times before deferring to Greene in the later stages of Iowa’s fifth victory of the season and second in Big Ten Conference action.
“It seemed like every play we called, it worked.”
“We don’t have that feeling with many positions,” UI Coach Kirk Ferentz said about the obvious depth the Hawkeyes possess at the running back position. “It’s pretty nice to know that if one guy goes down you can put in a good football player. That’s a big plus.”
Ferentz said Sims is both talented and physically tough. “He’s a tough guy to defend, no question about it. He runs hard and has great vision.”
Sims and Greene have demonstrated great patience waiting for their opportunity behind Young, one of the nation’s top running backs.
“When your number’s called, you gotta be ready,” Sims said.
“It always feels good when you’re out there,” he said. “It was my first start — a kind of different feeling – but a great one. Now, it’s another week of practice and a game at Indiana.”
Iowa, ranked 15th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 and 13th by ESPN / USA Today, travel to Bloomington, Ind., next Saturday for an 11 a.m. (Iowa time) date with the Hoosiers. The game will be televised live by ESPN2.
Editor’s Note — This article was written by Ruth Paarmann, a freelance writer based in Cedar Rapids and a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes.