Stepping in When Needed

Oct. 22, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Saturday was another step in the growth of a young, inexperienced football team. While many University of Iowa fans shared in the coaching staff’s displeasure with a 24-point loss to an undefeated Big Ten Conference opponent, there was some encouraging news.

OK, so you have to look a little harder than usual to find a silver lining, but it is there. If you didn’t notice it during the Black & Gold Spirit game against Penn State, you will in the future…the near future.

An injury to starting offensive left tackle Brandon Scherff creates a vast hole; it also created an opportunity for junior Nolan MacMillan to once again see extensive time with the first unit. In 2010, MacMillan was named to a couple freshman All-America teams, but he sat out all of 2011 because of injury.

“We’re all trying to make sure we’re preparing properly in practice so we’re ready to go. Anybody would have been ready in that situation.”
Nolan MacMillan
UI offensive lineman

When Scherff went down with a right leg injury in the first half, MacMillan was called as a replacement.

“We’re all trying to make sure we’re preparing properly in practice so we’re ready to go,” MacMillan said. “Anybody would have been ready in that situation.”

MacMillan said the Hawkeye linemen practice at several different positions during the week, making the in-game transition to either guard or tackle position easier. Still, it doesn’t remove the sting of watching a teammate laying on the Kinnick Stadium turf with the remainder of his season in doubt.

“You care about them a lot, we all care about each other in the room,” MacMillan said. “It’s hard to see him go down like that. You play harder out there and try to pick up the slack and get it done for him.”

“Nolan knows what to do and he stepped in during a tough circumstance,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He competed hard and did a lot of good things. We’re going to need him down the stretch to help us get the job done up front.”

Sophomore strong safety Nico Law also saw his playing time increase against the Nittany Lions. By his own account, Law said he averaged around four snaps a game in the first six contests of the season. He was a mainstay for much of Saturday’s game — except for a least one play when he was forced to the sideline after hitting a Penn State player so hard that his helmet flew off.

“I got a lot of reps,” Law said. “This is a learning experience and I’m trying to work into a larger role. I’m trying to get experience and not make the same mistake over and over again. The more experience you get, the better you get.”

Law finished the game with four tackles — two solo and two assists — with the Hawkeyes’ only tackle for loss.

“I felt like I had a pretty decent performance,” Law said. “I’m focusing on getting better every day. We lost and it doesn’t feel good to lose. We’re going to come back, look at film, and do what we have to do to come back next week and get a win.”

“We felt it was a chance for him to get in there during the second half,” Ferentz said. “Like you would expect for a young player, he made some mistakes, but he also did some good things.”

The Hawkeyes are aiming for their second consecutive league road victory Oct. 27 when they take on a six-win Northwestern team on Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (CT).