Oct. 20, 2008
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — In the game of football, like most sports, one injury can ruin a season. Not for the University of Iowa, where depth is evolving into one of the strong points for the Hawkeyes. Backups have to be ready on short notice and for UI players Chad Geary and Andy Kuempel, the mission Saturday was simple — play like a starter and leave nothing behind. Geary, Kuempel and the Hawkeyes did just that, rolling over Wisconsin, 38-16, inside Kinnick Stadium.
Injuries are more prominent in football, a reason why depth is an important part of the game. The Hawkeyes have a roster full of talent. Whether it is a starter or a backup, they learn to play hard-nosed Hawkeye football, hitting and drilling everything that stands in the way.
Defensive end Chad Geary and offensive tackle Andy Kuempel had their numbers called against the Badgers, replacing Adrian Clayborn and Seth Olsen, respectively. Losing Clayborn and Olsen before the game could have been a big punch in the mouth if it was not for prepared teammates stepping up to fill their shoes.
“I hate to lose Seth Olsen, he is not only a good player, but a leader,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But that happens, its football. That’s when other guys carried the slack, grabbed the rope and jumped in there and have done a great job. You have Andy on one side and Chad Geary on the other side doing the same thing — doing a nice job for Clayborn. Guys are pitching in and doing their share.”
“It feels great especially with the win,” Kuempel said. “I’m glad to be talking to you guys under these circumstances. When Seth went down, it was my obligation as a player to step up and play with the kind of enthusiasm and effort that he would, and that is all you can do.”
Clayborn came into the Wisconsin game with 34 tackles and a sack to his name. Olsen is one of the top offensive linemen for the Hawkeyes, creating huge holes for running back Shonn Greene and making sure quarterback Ricky Stanzi stayed untouched in the backfield.
“All season we have had guys step in and do the job when something happens,” Ferentz said. “Andy is a guy who did a good job last spring, tailed off in camp, and was lost in the shuffle a little bit. I thought he really started to rebound the Northwestern week and he has been climbing ever since.”
“We thought we would be fine,” Stanzi said of Kuempel getting the start. “Next man in — Coach always talks about being ready to play at anytime. Seth is a great player and a great leader. He was there today making sure everybody was staying positive. You never want to see a guy go down, but we always know we have the next man in and we should be fine.”
“I hate to lose Seth Olsen, he is not only a good player, but a leader. But that happens, its football. That’s when other guys carried the slack, grabbed the rope and jumped in there and have done a great job. You have Andy on one side and Chad Geary on the other side doing the same thing — doing a nice job for Clayborn. Guys are pitching in and doing their share.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
Seeing playing time is nothing new for Geary and Kuempel. Geary has seen action in every game this year and has 11 tackles. Kuempel has also played in a few games. Coming out of high school, the two players were some of the best in Iowa. Geary is from Tipton and Kuempel hails from Marion. Kuempel was named to the Des Moines Register all-state team, while Geary earned first team all-state honors as a junior and a senior. Both competed in the Iowa Shrine Bowl.
Even with two key players hurt, Iowa’s performance against the Badgers ended with the same result — strong defense and a monster rushing attack.
The Hawkeyes once again played their `bend, but don’t break’ defense, holding the Badgers to 16 points, despite giving up 409 total yards. Iowa also forced three interceptions.
The UI offensive line feasted on Wisconsin’s defensive line, helping Greene to his eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing effort. Greene has gone over 100 yards rushing every game this season, a tribute not only to him, but also to the offensive line that has opened gaping holes for him to run through. The offensive line also did not allow a Wisconsin sack.
Greene not only rushed for 100 yards, he more than doubled it with 217 yards and four touchdowns. The most rushing yards that Wisconsin had allowed all year as a team was 183 yards against Ohio State.
Kuempel found out late in the week that Olsen would not play because of a sprained ankle. It gave him his first shot at starting this season.
“I wasn’t too nervous,” Kuempel said. “I’ve been here for four years, so I’ve been chipping away at it. My teammates have believed in me, so when I got out there I knew that they could rely on me.”
Geary went into the game thinking he would split time with Clayborn. Clayborn warmed up and thought his tender ankle was ready to go, before ultimately deciding he wasn’t comfortable enough to play effectively.
“It felt pretty good to start, but you don’t want to see anybody get hurt, especially Adrian,” Geary said. “Those are pretty big shoes to fill, but it is a compliment to get the start. There were a little more nerves, but I felt pretty comfortable and it is good preparation.”
The Hawkeyes have now won two games in a row and are back to .500 in the Big Ten Conference with an overall record of 5-3 (2-2 in Big Ten).
“It’s a big boost, especially after last week’s win,” Geary said. “It gets us to a level where we can keep going. We are going to take this bye week and look into our next opponent and hopefully have the same result (on Nov. 1 at Illinois).”
The Hawkeyes are clicking on all cylinders — offense, defense and special teams. The depth was evident against Wisconsin. No matter what opponent is out there, the game plan is no mystery — play like a champion. The Hawkeyes are doing that and so much more.