IOWA CITY — Ihmir Smith-Marsette provided Iowa with some of the best field position the Hawkeyes enjoyed Saturday, one of few bright spots in the 14-10 loss to Northwestern.
The sophomore finished with a career-high 198 all-purpose yards, an effort that included 100 yards in kick returns, a career-best 90 yards in receptions and 8 rushing yards.
He scored Iowa’s lone touchdown on a 28-yard pass play in the third quarter.
Smith-Marsette credits his blockers with opening the holes that have allowed him to have the type of returns he has enjoyed throughout the season, including a long of 43 yards against the Wildcats.
"If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able to get that far down the field," Smith-Marsette said. "All credit goes to everyone that blocks on that unit."
Coach Kirk Ferentz considers it a collaborative effort.
"When a guy’s doing what (Smith-Marsette) is doing, it gives everybody a little incentive to hold the block," Ferentz said. "He’s doing a lot of good things on his own, too. That part of our game’s really been pleasing and consistent, and he’s coming along as a receiver, too."
A pair of picks: Geno Stone and Jake Gervase added to their collection of interceptions in the second half Saturday.
Stone intercepted his team-leading fourth pass of the season to end the Wildcats’ opening drive of the third quarter, and Gervase recorded his third pick of the season later in the quarter, grabbing a ball that Jack Hockaday had tipped.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Gervase said. "All the credit on that play goes to the defensive line for getting pressure and Jack Hockaday for forcing the ball up. Anytime we can create turnovers it’s big for our defense."
Iowa went three and out following Stone’s interception but scored its only touchdown of the day two plays after Gervase put the ball back in Hawkeye hands.
Back to work: Matt Hankins figures he didn’t play his best football game Saturday, but he played a game, and that’s progress.
After missing five games as he recovered from wrist surgery and a sixth because of a one-game suspension, the Iowa cornerback finished with eight tackles in the Hawkeyes’ 14-10 loss to Northwestern.
"I’m not 100 percent yet, but it was good to go back to work," Hankins said. "It was good to be out there making plays."
Grounded: Ferentz said Iowa’s issues with the running game, limited to an average of 2.9 yards per attempt and 64 total yards on 22 rushes, are multifaceted.
"We’re not consistent right now, not consistent enough," Ferentz said. "We have to give (Northwestern) some credit, but we’re going to have to find a way to be a little more effective running the football if we want to be successful."
Streak stopped: Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos saw a string of 11 consecutive made field goals end when he rattled a 38-yard attempt off the right upright midway through the third quarter.
The miss was the first for the senior since he missed the first of his two attempts in Iowa’s win over Northern Iowa. Recinos has now hit 14 of the 18 field goals he has attempted this season.
Shaking things up: Picked apart by Purdue quarterback David Blough for 333 yards a week earlier, Iowa shuffled its lineup at cornerback Saturday.
Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia, starters in the Hawkeyes’ first four games of the season, returned to the lineup against Northwestern, and the starters in the previous five games, freshmen Julius Brents and Riley Moss, returned to a reserve role against Northwestern.
Iowa’s fourth-leading receiver, Brandon Smith, missed Saturday’s game after spending the past week going through the concussion protocol. A starter in the first nine games, Smith took a hard hit during the fourth quarter of the Purdue game.
Starting fullback Brady Ross missed his fourth straight game for Iowa with an ankle injury.
Warm thoughts: The early November snow that left a little over an inch of snow in Iowa City on Friday had crews chipping ice off of bleacher seats at Kinnick Stadium about 2 1/2 hours before kickoff.
While the temperature at kickoff was 27 degrees under a cloudy sky, fans were warmed by the sight of a video of a yule log that was shown on the stadium’s video board for more than an hour before the game.
Honorary captain: Former Hawkeye Jason Baker was Iowa’s honorary captain on Saturday.
The all-Big Ten punter who played in the NFL from 2001-11 joined Hawkeye captains at midfield for the pregame coin flip, spoke to the team on Friday and was with players before and after the game.
Tis the season: Representatives from three bowl games were at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday for the Iowa-Northwestern game.
Holiday and Outback bowl representatives got their first look at the Hawkeyes, and the Citrus Bowl also had representatives at the game.