I thought about retiring the Rob Report this season but just couldn’t bring myself to cut the cord. Despite there being more ways for you guys to receive information through other avenues, like social media, I felt there still was a place for this long-running weekly feature. I hope you agree.
AMES, Iowa – This summer, shortly after he arrived in Iowa City, Ihmir Smith-Marsette found himself on a dirt road surrounded by corn. He knew he was a long way from his New Jersey home.
Iowa’s freshman receiver was brought out to the rural outskirts of town by mentor Akrum Wadley, the team’s senior running back. It was an indoctrination of sorts, a way to get him acclimated to his new surroundings.
Smith-Marsette showed Saturday that he’s perfectly comfortable a half a country away from his urban home. He caught two touchdown passes in a 44-41 overtime victory at rival Iowa State, including the game-winner.
Wadley understood the need for showing his pupil the Hawkeye culture, the focus on hard work even in the offseason. They sprinted through the fresh air surrounded farms.
“We were grinding, me, him and Toren Young,” said Wadley, who also attended the same high school, Newark Weequahic, as Smith-Marsette. “We were racing up and down the long hills.”
It helped prepare Smith-Marsette (6-2, 175) for what was coming during a tough training camp. Wadley said the youngster arrived with the right mindset as well.
“As soon as he stepped foot on campus, he was like, yo man, I’m ready to play. Let’s go. He has a great family. His nana talks about him playing here. He stepped up big for us (Saturday) and I hope he doesn’t look back, he keeps moving forward,” Wadley said.
Smith-Marsette delivered an incredible 15-yard touchdown grab with his team trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter. With sold-out Jack Trice Stadium at a fever pitch, he laid out to catch the ball in the back right corner of the end zone. It helped the Hawkeyes recapture some momentum.
After Wadley came through with a electric 46-yard touchdown catch and run, tying the game in regulation, his protege stepped up in overtime. Smith-Marsette caught a five-yard touchdown in overtime that provided the difference. The Hawkeyes ran off the field with a hard-earned win.
“The last play was something we have been practicing hard in practice. It is a play that we know if we need something, we can go to it. We were down at the goal line so it was a perfect play to run. We knew exactly what we wanted out of it, they played the perfect coverage to go against it, and we executed,” he said.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette showed resiliency. On his the first touch of his college career last week against Wyoming, he fumbled the ball away on a jet sweep.
“It shows that (the coaches) believe in me. Last week I had a minor setback, but this week I came back and they
showed they believed in me and I took advantage of it,” he said.
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Coach Kirk Ferentz felt the newcomer had moved past his mistake quickly.
“It really goes back to the first time we met him. There’s something about Ihmir. He’s got a little spirit to him that we really like,” Ferentz said. “Intuitions aren’t always right but sometimes you feel like a guy has a football mentality. He certainly has that.
“He’s not the biggest guy right now but that’s what we have a strength program for. He’s got a little spunk to him, a little personality. He seemed like a guy that could shake (the fumble) off.”
INJURY REPORT: Starting right tackle Ike Boettger suffered an injury to his lower right leg in the third quarter. He did not return and the outlook after the game was not good. He left the stadium on crutches.
Ferentz said it was feared that the senior from Cedar Falls suffered an achilles injury. That would mean he’d be lost for the season, the coach added.
Fullback Brady Ross wore a cast on his left arm. He was able to play.
Offensive lineman Boone Myers, who hasn’t started the first two weeks because of an undisclosed ailment, jumped in at left guard when Boettger went down. Ferentz said he thought Myers would be available moving forward.
“The good news is it looked like Boone was cranking pretty good out there and based on what I saw in the locker room, I think he’s ready to go,” Ferentz said.
TRAVELING MUSIC: The Hawkeyes brought three of their four true freshmen wide receivers with them. In addition to Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith and Max Cooper experienced their first road game. The did not play in Week 1.
Smith came into the game late in the first quarter and saw reps throughout the rest of contest on Saturday. Cooper did not play.
Iowa traveled with only three quarterbacks. Nate Stanley, Tyler Wiegers and Ryan Boyle suited up but freshman Peyton Mansell had to wait for his first trip to Jack Trice.
Other first-year players who traveled were Ryan Gersonde, Geno Stone, Matt Hankins, Tristan Wirfs and Ivory Kelly-Martin. All but Wirfs Gersonde have played. Kelly-Martin returned two kicks for 39 yards Saturday.
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LAST LAUGH: It was not a good day for the Iowa secondary. Cyclones quarterback Jacob Park threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns.
The defensive backfield showed up in crunch time, however. Park completed just one of his last six throws. One was a crucial drop by Hakeem Butler in overtime.
One of the bigger stops made in the game came from backup cornerback Michael Ojemudia. He separated ISU star receiver Allen Lazard from the ball on a first-down, fade-route in the end zone. Park-to-Lazard already had connected for two touchdowns.
“That was huge,” fellow cornerback Joshua Jackson said. “That was probably the turning point. I think if they scored a touchdown there, we could still be playing. That was a big play on his part.”
THAT’S SPECIAL: How the Hawkeyes lined up on special teams:
Kickoff Coverage – Ojemudia, Hooker, Ward, Dafney, Jones, Recinos, N. Niemann, Mends, Stone, Young and Hankins.
Punt Coverage – Rastetter, Kluver, Kelly-Martin, Clayberg, Kulick, M. Taylor, Bower, Ojemudia, Hooker, Jansen, Kelly.
Kick Return – Wadley, Young, Kulick, Hockenson, Jones, Pekar, Dvorak, N. Niemann, Beyer, Ward, Hooker.
Punt Return – Jackson, N. Niemann, Ojemudia, Hankins, Hooker, Dafney, Dvorak, Jones, Young, Mends, Clayberg.
EXTRA-POINTS: Safety Amani Hooker served as Iowa’s nickel back instead of Ojemudia, who started at corner in place of suspended Manny Rugamba last week…The teams were a combined 11 of 11 in the red zone…After going 4 of 13 on third downs last week against Wyoming, the Hawkeyes converted 7 of 15 Saturday…On first down running plays, Iowa averaged 3.1 yards on 20 attempts. When throwing the ball on first down, it was 14 of 19 for 212 yards…Wadley has rushed for 100 yards in four straight games. He has 11 career 100-yard rushing games…Nick Easley is the first player under Ferentz to have a TD reception in each of his first two career games…Iowa is 7-4 all-time in overtime games…Four of Iowa’s five touchdown drives in regulation were 89 yards or more (plays-yards: 10-76, 10-91, 11-94, 11-92, 7-89).