Two days away from kickoff at Rutgers, it’s a mixed bag today at the Hawkeye 10@10.
Desmond King and Matt VandeBerg’s thoughts on bouncing back, the possibility of a student boycott at Rutgers and Kirk Ferentz’s thoughts on athletes who protest during the National Anthem are among today’s daily dose of Iowa football news and notes.
1. Desmond King doesn’t expect Iowa to venture from its roots as it works to rebound from its first regular-season loss in 15 games.
“I don’t think there will be any changes,’’ King said. “Our plan is perfectly fine. We’ve just got to be ready to play when the game comes around.’’
King believes that didn’t happen last weekend against North Dakota State.
“It was a tough lesson to learn, but we better learn from it,’’ the senior cornerback said.
2. This is a week when a team’s leadership is tested and Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said that leadership extends beyond the senior class.
“We need everybody to step up,’’ VandeBerg said. “The underclass guys, they can and need to help lead our team. We’re all trying to lead by example.’’
3. A group of students at Rutgers is threatening to boycott Saturday’s game against Iowa after the university forced the closure of a student tailgate lot organized by the school’s athletics department.
The first-year lot drew a crowd of 1,000 for the Scarlet Knights’ season opener but attracted more than 3,000 students for last week’s game against New Mexico.
Rowdy behavior prompted an appearance by director of athletics Patrick Hobbs at last week’s event in hopes of calming the crowd.
When video of Hobbs surfaced on social media sipping on a beer he had been handed by a student and then telling the crowd, “If they card me, I’m OK … Go RU!’’ university administrators became involved.
Tuesday, the athletics department announced that the area known as “The Alley’’ was being closed after just two games because of safety concerns.
In less than 48 hours, more than 2,100 people have signed an online petition urging the re-opening of the lot and urging students to stay away from games until administrators reversed their decision.
4. Chris Laviano continues to be listed as the Scarlet Knights’ starting quarterback, but Rutgers has put the ball in the hands of five different players behind center this season.
Performance will continue to dictate how much action the junior receives as the team continues to transition to a spread attack.
“Every single day we go out to practice and we evaluate his performance,’’ coach Chris Ash said. “If we felt like there was somebody that could go out and play the game better than Chris and give us a chance to win, we’d be playing him.’’
Ash said he has not been satisfied with the consistency of performance at quarterback.
“Chris right now is in a competition to see if he’s going to continue to be the starting quarterback. That’s the way it’s been since we’ve gotten here,’’ Ash said. “He’s got to perform better. He knows that. We all know that.’’
5. Saturday’s game provides Iowa with one final test in the month of September, historically a significant month for team’s during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa.
“You can go back and look in the books, what we do in September, how we grow, how we improve – not that we don’t want it to continue in October and November – but if we’re not growing in September that’s a bad sign,’’ Ferentz said. “We’ve never been a dominant team by any stretch in September. I can’t recall that time. I don’t know when that would be.’’
6. Kirk Ferentz hasn’t had to deal with it yet, but he does have a preference as to how things would play out if one of his players felt the need to protest in some way during the playing of The National Anthem.
“I would hope they’d come to me and let’s talk about it first,’’ Ferentz said. “My preference, not saying it’s a mandate, but my preference is that we all be unified, bit it our uniforms on the field, how we do things, certainly how we stand for The National Anthem. That would be my preference, but that’s in a perfect world.’’
Ferentz calls it a “tricky topic’’ for coaches.
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“The biggest thing is I’d hope we could have some discussion,’’ Ferentz said. “And a national commentary, I’d like to think there are better ways to voice how we feel about things.’’
7. Running back Derrick Mitchell will not travel with Iowa to Rutgers.
On his weekly radio show Wednesday night, coach Kirk Ferentz said that a leg injury suffered in practice last week will keep Mitchell off the field for a second straight game.
Ferentz did say that center James Daniels and guard Sean Welsh will return to the lineup this week after missing last week’s game.
8. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he cannot put himself in the shoes of Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann, who will look across the field and see his son on the other sideline.
Ferentz said he has not thought what it might be like some day to coach against one of his sons.
“I have not prepared for that,’’ Ferentz said. “I’ll push that one off for a couple of months, too.’’
9. Iowa verbal commit Peyton Mansell was named Wednesday as the Class 6A Ford Texas High School Football Player of the Week.
The Belton quarterback accounted for 522 yards of offense last week and scored the winning touchdown in a 41-34 win over Round Rock with a one-yard run with 17 seconds left in the game.
Mansell completed 24-of-35 passes for 325 yards and rushed 29 times for 197 yards, throwing two touchdown passes and running for four scores in the win.
10. The first Hawkeye Huddle of the season will take place Friday night in midtown Manhattan.
Hosted by the National I-Club and the UI Alumni Association, the event which includes snacks, cash refreshments, door prizes and appearances by Herky and the Iowa spirit squads is open to the public free of charge and are scheduled prior to every Iowa road football game.
This week’s huddle is scheduled to be held from 6-8 p.m. (EST) at the Sheraton NYC Times Square, 811 Seventh Ave. and West 53rd St in New York City.