Nov. 22, 2010


IOWA CITY, Iowa — You could see it in their faces as they trotted off the field. For 26 University of Iowa seniors, Saturday’s result was not the way they wanted to leave Kinnick Stadium on senior day.

Iowa battled No. 7 Ohio State, yet ultimately came three points short for the second consecutive year, falling 20-17.

While the final home game of 2010 was dubbed senior day in recognition of Hawkeye seniors, the underclassmen for Iowa made their mark in a game that highlighted the soon-to-be departing players.

Not to suggest that the Iowa seniors played anywhere near a subpar level — quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 65 percent of his passes for 195 yards, one touchdown, and no turnovers. Defensive end Christian Ballard registered a sack, and linebacker Jeremiha Hunter had a game-high 11 tackles.

However, the non-seniors were a bright spot for Iowa as it heads into the season finale against Minnesota.

Junior receiver Marvin McNutt led all players with seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown, junior and sophomore cornerbacks Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde each intercepted Terrelle Pryor passes, and freshman running back Marcus Coker started in place of Adam Robinson and rushed nine times for 70 yards, including a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“(Coker) definitely is showing that he’s going to be a great player for us,” said McNutt. “He did his job. When we put it on his shoulders, he carried the load and he did a good job.”

Coker’s touchdown came the play after his 26-yard rush put Iowa at the 1-yard line. The offensive series was set up by Prater’s third-down interception that he returned to the Ohio State 27 yard line. Freshman linebacker James Morris got a hand on the ball and deflected it enough for Prater to come up with the pick. While assisting on an interception, Morris also registered nine tackles in the game.

“One of those backers tipped it, and I caught it and I just tried hit up the field to the right side,” said Prater. “If you have a chance to make a play out there, you have to. This conference is so tough. These quarterbacks are smart, these offensive coordinators are smart, so they will find a way.”

The other interception came from Hyde. With Ohio State driving into Iowa territory with less than a minute remaining before halftime, Pryor heaved a pass deep toward the end zone that was tipped into the air, and a soaring Hyde reached back to snag it with one hand in the end zone.

“I think it was a boot to the far side, away from me,” said Hyde. “Sash and Prater actually went to get the ball and ran into each other or something and popped the ball up in the air and I was just there to catch it. It was a great play by Sash and Prater, they were right there. They knew exactly where he was going to throw it to, the post.”

Prater praised his teammates, saying that the team played hard for the seniors and that it “showed the love” they have for them. The loss didn’t sting just the seniors, it hurt everyone inside the Hawkeye program.

“We’re following the seniors,” said Hyde. “They’ve been out there practicing hard all year. They showed us what we have to do. It was just us following in their footsteps; they wanted this, and it was a big game. We came up short, but we have a lot to look forward to next week.”

There is good news for Iowa as it heads into the final two games of the season and stretching into next season. While Iowa is losing 26 seniors that will be hard to replace, the underclassmen are more than capable of making plays now and into the future. Players like McNutt, Sash and Prater will have their chance to make sure senior day ends with a win in 2011.

However the focus now is on Minnesota, and Minnesota only as the Hawkeyes look for their eighth victory of the season. The last time Iowa had three straight seasons with eight or more wins was 2002-04.

“It’s a trophy game, and 8-4 looks way better than 7-5,” said Prater.