Oct. 21, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A spark was needed and Jordan Cotton answered.
The University of Iowa trailed undefeated Big Ten Conference-leading Penn State 38-0 with 14:25 remaining in front of 70,585 shocked fans on Black and Gold Spirit Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium. Cotton returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, putting the Hawkeyes on the board after 45 ½ minutes.
“That was certainly a spark; other than that, there wasn’t a lot to cheer about that was good,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Jordan made a nice grab, too, so hopefully he continues to progress.”
Cotton caught a 13-yard pass from quarterback James Vandenberg on the series after the UI score, but it was his kickoff return that was the highlight of the evening. Cotton caught the ball at the 8-yard line and ran up the left hash. He benefited from a de-cleating block from Henry Krieger-Coble, who knocked the helmet off Penn State’s Curtis Dukes. Hawkeyes Travis Perry and Tevaun Smith were also opening holes.
“Coach kept saying, `Keep fighting, keep fighting.’ I saw a big hole from the blocking and I hit it and took it for a touchdown,” Cotton said. “My mindset is if the ball is in my hands, I’m going to make a play. I have to credit all the blockers on the kick return team because they are doing their jobs and it is making my job a lot easier.”
It marked the first time a Hawkeye returned a kick for a touchdown since Nov. 27, 2010, when Derrell Johnson-Koulianos went the distance from 88 yards against Minnesota. Cotton’s return ties the 10th-longest return in school history, sharing the distance with Levi Mitchell in 1969 and Henry Vollenweider in 1939.
For the game, Cotton returned four kicks for 152 yards. His other returns went for 17, 19 and 24 yards. In the previous six games, Cotton returned two kicks for 70 yards. He had a return for a touchdown called back at Michigan State on Oct. 13 because of an illegal block.
“I was a little disappointed,” Cotton said of his return at Michigan State being called back. “You have to keep moving forward and that’s what we did. Our special teams units are getting better every week.”
Iowa returns to action Saturday, Oct. 27, at Northwestern with an 11 a.m. (CT) kickoff from Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.