IOWA CITY — He tossed, he turned and then Conor Boffeli competed.
It was a year ago this week when the Iowa guard received the first starting opportunity of his career, taking the field against the Purdue team the Hawkeyes face again at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“That was a pretty sleepless night,’’ Boffeli said. “There were some jitters. I felt like I was ready, but I really wasn’t certain.’’
Illustrative of how injuries impacted Iowa’s offensive line a year ago, Boffeli became the fourth player in four games to start at the position when he took the field to face the Boilermakers at Kinnick Stadium last season.
He hasn’t missed a start at left guard since.
“I remember that day pretty well,’’ Boffeli said. “There were some first-time jitters and I didn’t really have any idea what to expect, so I wasn’t entirely confident in how things would play out. The coaches had faith in me and I went out and did my best.’’
Boffeli sleeps a little better before games now and getting the start against a Big Ten opponent is not as intimidating as it once seemed to the senior from West Des Moines Valley.
“Things are a little easier now,’’ Boffeli said. “It’s become a little more routine.’’
Things haven’t been routine for Iowa’s offense in recent weeks. The Hawkeyes are working to regain the flow they enjoyed during the opening weeks of the season.
Boffeli believes an attention to detail has been lacking at times and that has cost Iowa the ability to run the ball as effectively as it did earlier in the season.
“It’s a collective thing and when you’re playing the level of competition that we’ve seen the past few weeks, the competition that you see in the Big Ten, the little things make a big difference,’’ Boffeli said.
He points to himself as an example of how costly a small mistake at a critical moment can be.
In its overtime win against Northwestern, Iowa faced a third-and-2 situation on the 3-yard line and the call was for Iowa to take a zone running play through the heart of the Wildcats’ defense.
“Myself and the offensive line, we were going to pretty much decide if we got it into the end zone,’’ Boffeli said.
But Boffeli took off a count too early, and the false start backed Iowa up five yards where Jake Rudock hit C.J. Fiedorowicz with the game-winning touchdown pass.
Rudock’s throw under pressure bailed out Boffeli in that situation, but also provided a learning opportunity.
“It’s something we talk about all the time,’’ Boffeli said. “You work hard to move the ball into that position and when you get it there, you have to be perfect.’’
Iowa and the Purdue team it faces Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium rank 11th and 12th in the Big Ten in red-zone production.
The Hawkeyes have scored points on 26 of the 36 drives this season when they have snapped the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, reaching the end zone 16 times and settling for field goals on 10 other occasions.
That 74.3 percent success rate is ahead of only the 62.5 percent rate recorded by the Boilermakers, who haven’t taken a snap in the red zone since Sept. 28 and have scored on 10 of their 16 trips there this season.
“I feel like we are close, but the little details we need to take care of them so that we don’t let chances slip away,’’ Boffeli said. “We can’t take things for granted.’’