Hawkeyes Experience Growing Pains

Sept. 29, 2007

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by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY — Frustration and disappointment weigh heavy on the minds of coaches, players and fans after the Hawkeyes have started the Big Ten season in a 0-2 hole. Iowa lost to the Indiana Hoosiers 38-20 Saturday, not exactly the Homecoming outcome Iowa was expecting.

Five games into the season and it has already been an interesting ride for the youthful Hawkeye offense. Last weekend against Wisconsin, junior Andy Brodell’s season prematurely ended when he tore a hamstring. Mackey Award tight end candidate Tony Moeaki was also injured during the Wisconsin game and will miss at least a month.

The depleted receiving corps is down, but not out. The future looks bright for sophomore quarterback Jake Christensen and a hearty group of freshmen receivers, who are getting valuable game time experience. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos caught everyone’s attention last week with his one-handed touchdown grab in Madison. Johnson-Koulianos — along with Paul Chaney Jr. — have done a solid job replacing Brodell on returns.

On Saturday, the young receivers helped Christensen hit on three touchdowns and 308 passing yards. Johnson-Koulianos led the way with 68 yards and yet another impressive over-the-shoulder touchdown as Iowa trailed 31-20 with 10:01 left to play.

“My performance was not good enough to win,” Christensen said. “We just didn’t get it done and we have to figure out what we are missing. Hopefully we’ll go to work and have a great week of practice, a great week of preparation and be prepared to play a tough game (at Penn State).”

Junior tight end Brandon Myers — along with freshman receiver James Cleveland –also put up respectable numbers in the Iowa defeat against Indiana. Myers had three grabs for 44 yards and a touchdown while Cleveland caught five passes for 62 yards.

“I know they are getting experience, which is a positive,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know if we’re improving — at times we are, at times we aren’t. We just have to keep pushing forward.”

“I think they are improving pretty fast,” Christensen said. “The curb is going to be real steep for freshman so they are improving really well.”

Perhaps the best spectacle of the game came when Christensen threw a ball up for grabs as the first half expired with several Hoosier players surrounding the aerial. The ball was eventually tipped into the hands of sophomore Trey Stross for a touchdown.

The offensive line had a rough afternoon as Christensen was sacked nine times. They were able to open a few big holes for the running game but could not hold the pass rush in check, including Indiana junior Jammie Kirlew, who had 3.5 sacks on the day.

“We’re not making it secure enough or comfortable for him,” offensive lineman Rafael Eubanks said. “That’s a lot of stuff that we need to work on and offensively it is frustrating. We had the chance to do some stuff but I think we just kind of killed ourselves.”

“We never lose confidence in each other whether we make mistakes or have a bad game or bad play,” Christensen said. “I have a hundred percent confidence in everyone. I’m sure we all made a lot of mistakes and we are going to try and correct them. We win and lose as a team and we do everything together, so it is not just one person’s fault — we all take the blame and we have to move forward.”

The Hawkeyes may have a few kinks to work out in the offense, but the future certainly looks bright for an inexperienced team that will continue to build on small successes.

“I don’t know how much confidence we had coming in, but that is our job right now to build some confidence and gain some confidence,” Ferentz said.

For such a young team, growing pains are only natural.

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