Sept. 23, 2007
IOWA CITY — Remember in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” when Robert Redford – “The Kid” – on the run with Paul Newman, a.k.a. “Butch” – peered over a rock high atop a bluff on the plain, spots a group of determined men on horseback and muses in an interesting mixture of frustration, fear and amazement, “Who are those guys?”
Well, despite all the post-game bravado of being a “four-quarter football team,” the nationally ranked Wisconsin Badgers must have felt the same way through the final play of Saturday’s thriller in Madison.
Already a thin bunch offensively, the heavily favored home team watched three starters on Iowa’s offensive unit – Iowa’s top receiver, tight end Tony Moeaki; Iowa’s No. 2 receiver and its No. 1 punt returner Andy Brodell, and offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde – get carried off the playing field with game-ending injuries during the first quarter of what proved to a classic smash-mouth Big Ten football game. Undoubtedly, the UW coaching staff also noted the absence of Iowa’s first-string placekicker, Austin Signor, from pre-game warm-ups.
Deep down, even the most battle tested of Badgers must have thought, “Game over.”
“Not so fast, my good Badger friends,” said the Hawkeyes.
Instead of laying down for dead, Iowa’s offense responded to each punch and jab with a punch and jab of its own, and pushed the Badgers to the brink of defeat, a push that lasted until the Hawkeyes’ final offensive play when red-shirt freshman wide receiver Paul Chaney, Jr. got free behind a UW defense that was playing centerfield from the warning track, but came up inches short on what could have been a 73-yard game-winning touchdown toss.
“Give Iowa credit. (Because of the injuries), they’ve had to turn to freshmen to make plays and they’re getting it done. They are stepping up and growing up right before our eyes.”
Kirk Herbstreit, ABC-TV
You couldn’t blame the Badgers, television announcers, radio announcers, fans in the stands and, yes, even the most die-hard fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes for turning to the nearest person willing to listen and asking, “Just who are these guys?”
Well, the answer is simple: They’re the “Next Guys In.” Entering the year – like all Iowa Hawkeyes – each were ready to make contributions when called upon. However, none probably expected to see significant playing time in the Hawkeyes’ 2007 Big Ten Conference season opener. All did and responded like Hawkeyes.
Chaney was one of three Hawkeyes who caught a team-high four passes while working to fill the void created by the losses of Moeaki and Brodell. His four grabs netted 22 yards for the UI.
Johnson-Koulianos – another red-shirt freshman receiver who hails from Campbell, Ohio – made the most of his first significant playing time. His four receptions covered 45 yards and included a nifty one-handed 21-yarder that gave Iowa a 10-7 lead going into halftime.
Murray contributed field goals of 41 and 37 yards in his first collegiate start. The 41-yarder were the first points of the game; the 37-yarder pulled Iowa’s to within one point with just over six minutes to play. Both were struck with confidence, were plenty long and easily inside the uprights.
A red-shirt freshman from Iowa City, Murray learned late in the week that he would be handling the placekicking responsibilities in the Hawkeyes’ second primetime appearance of the 2007 season.
“Give Iowa credit,” said ABC-TV’s Kirk Herbstreit. “(Because of the injuries), they’ve had to turn to freshmen to make plays and they’re getting it done. They are stepping up and growing up right before our eyes.”
“They sure didn’t look intimated out there,” Kirk Ferentz said of the first-timers during his post-game interview on the Hawkeye Radio Network. “They competed and competed hard. I can’t say enough about the attitude and the courage of our guys.”
Ferentz conceded that nobody plays the game to play hard and finish a close second. But, he liked what he saw Saturday night in Madison, a team that is resilient, a team that refuses to quit, a team that picks each other up, and a team that kept thinking, kept pushing and, will much sooner than later, reap the benefits of that commitment.
“We carried ourselves like a good football team tonight. Our guys worked hard, competed, never gave up. Good things are going to come out of that,” he said.
The play of Iowa’s rookies also caught the attending of linebacker A.J. Edds, who like the Hawkeye defense, had a monster game, collecting seven tackles to go along with his first interception of the season.
“You win, you lose as a team. It’s tough to see guys like Tony go down, but the young guys delivered,” he said.
Iowa returns to action Saturday when they entertain Indiana at 11 a.m. inside historic Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The game is Iowa’s 2007 Homecoming event and will kick off shortly after 11 a.m. The Big Ten Network will provide live national television coverage.
“It’ll be a tough challenge, but I like this team and our chances,” said Ferentz.
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