By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — First road victory. Check.
Bouncing back after a loss. Check.
Coming out fast after a bye week. Check.
The University of Iowa football team returned to action Oct. 6 and racked up 48 points and 420 yards during a 48-31 win at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes improved to 4-1 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten Conference.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz sat down with hawkeyesports.com for his weekly Sunday conversation. Here are some of the topics he covered:
Reaction to how the team handled its first road game of the season:
“You are always curious, it’s kind of like the first game of the season. First games, you are always interested seeing how the team will respond and how you will handle a new environment and that type of thing.
“Your first road trip, there are some parallels there also. First time we were on the road, different environment, different hotel, different routine. Whether it was our veteran guys or younger guys, I thought they all handled things well. The logistics of the trip went well and the big measuring stick is how we show up at kickoff. It was good for us to get off to a fast, positive start. It is a reflection of the guys doing a good job handling the different circumstances that come with a road game.”
Performance of sophomore receivers Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette:
“You think about a year ago, they were true freshmen. We were thin at that receiver position, we had Nick Easley who was a good discovery, an older guy. Those two guys played a lot of football for us last year as true freshmen. We have seen continual improvement from both. I don’t think there was any doubt it was Brandon’s best game of his young career. He did a lot of good things and played aggressively. Good to see his growth, his attitude has been great, he has been practicing well, and that is where all that game day performance shows up, from his practice habits.
“Ihmir has done a lot of good things and he had another good game yesterday, not only as a receiver but a nice job in the return game for us also.”
On scoring 48 points and the offensive line allowing only five sacks this season:
“We’re improving. You think about our two offensive tackles a year ago, one was a true freshman (Tristan Wirfs) and the other was a redshirt freshman (Alaric Jackson). They were young players as well and now they are both seasoned sophomores if you will. Still young players, but they are playing a lot better and confident than they did last year and for good reason.
“The guys inside are doing a good job; Dalton Ferguson has been a good story for us doing a nice job there. Keegan (Render) is kind of the leader of the group and Ross Reynolds has been solid. Those guys as a unit are playing well and put that with Nate (Stanley) and some receivers that are better than a year ago and we’re starting to develop a little bit of a passing attack.”
New faces on defense and an injury update
“The good news is, based on what we saw today in testing, Jack (Hockaday) should be back. I don’t know if it will be this week, I’m not optimistic there, but he should be back in the near future. That is important for any player especially for a senior, Jack has done a nice job. Hopefully we’ll get him back.
“We had a couple other guys leave the game, we’ll know more midweek or so, but hopefully they will be back playing with us this Saturday. (Linebacker) Amani (Jones) will not be playing for the first half (because of a targeting call at Minnesota).
“The younger guys stepped in and that is something we talk about all the time, the next man in concept. We didn’t invent that, stole it, but it is pertinent in football. You get into October and November you are always going to have injuries to deal with. Riley Moss and Julius Brents stepped in and did a good job.
“We had a couple bumps in the road yesterday, but the team responded well, played through those bumps and came out victorious.
Playing Indiana for the first time since 2015
“When we went to 14 teams it’s a whole different world now in the fact you don’t play teams for a prolonged period of time. Indiana throws the ball around, much like the team we just played, and have some young players and they have played good football. We know we’re walking into a situation and will have to be at our best. Obviously we have to match up with every opponent we play, but our No. 1 focus is on what we can do to improve.
“We talk about a lot of players who are playing better football than they were a year ago. We want to keep adding to that group. With the young players being forced to play due to injury, it is important those guys try to keep pace with the veteran players.”