BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - One thing we've learned through nine games of Iowa football is that the team possesses quality depth. It trickles all the way down to the true freshmen class.
Coaches really never know what they have in that group. Staffs can only guess.
We opened the season thinking tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz would impact the team more than anyone else in the class. While he has played well on special teams, it's guys like Mike Meyer, James Morris and Marcus Coker who have emerged as key contributors.
Meyer connected on 4 of 5 field goal attempts in Saturday's dicey 18-13 win here against Indiana. It could be argued that he was the difference in the game.
Marcus Coker stepped in for all-Big Ten Candidate Adam Robinson, at running back and rushed for 129 yards in his first career start on Saturday. Morris opened his second game in a row at middle linebacker and shined with nine tackles, a couple of pass breakups and a half of a tackle for loss.
"A week ago, James Morris stepped in there and did a great job," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I thought he played well again (on Saturday). Marcus was called upon and carried more than his share of the load, really the first extensive time he has had and it was impressive."
Ferentz made sure to point our Meyer's efforts on Saturday even when asked about Coker.
"That last field goal was not a routine, chip shot," the coach said. "I know he missed one early in the game, but he showed some resilience there coming back and getting a critical field goal for us."
It's the second time this season that Meyer has played a major role in a game decided late this season. His field goal in the final minutes at Michigan forced the Wolverines to require a touchdown instead of a field goal to tie. Saturday, his career-best 42-yarder brought his team to within one point of Indiana at 13-12. Had he not hit it, the Hoosiers could have tied the game with a field goal at the end.
Meyer won the kickoff duties coming into the season. He was thought a long-shot for the place-kicking job with scholarship veterans Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker on the team. The walk-on from Dubuque took advantage of an injury to Murray and passed Mossbrucker on the depth chart.
"If we didn't believe in him, we wouldn't have put him out there for that attempt," Ferentz said of Saturday's final field goal. "Basically all season long, he's climbing the ladder. When he does make a mistake, he typically comes right back. He's got the ability to flush it, and if you're a kicker, you better have that ability."
Robinson missed the game with a concussion suffered in last week's game against Michigan State. Coker missed most of camp with a broken clavicle. Ferentz said he likely would have used him early in the season had the injury not occurred.
Iowa came into the pre-season with veterans Robinson, Jewel Hampton and Brandon Wegher expecting to compete for playing time at running back. Hampton tore his ACL in Week 3 against Arizona. Wegher left the team for personal reasons in August.
The Hawkeye coaches moved quickly to get Coker and his backup on Saturday, Brad Rogers, up to speed. Rogers, a red shirt freshman, carried two times for nine yards against Indiana.
Coker rumbled for 102 yards on 16, first-half carries. He toted it just six times for 27 after the break.
"We could have run it more, but we felt like we had some chances in the passing game," Ferentz said. "When we did run him in that fourth quarter, he did run well. Really proud of his effort. He did a great job."
A-ROB's STATUS: Ferentz was quick to answer the question regarding the health of Robinson.
"I expect him at practice on Tuesday," the coach said. "I think he's doing fine. If there's a silver lining here, he's well rested. He got a week off. He hasn't been hit in a week and should be ready to go for the last three games."
Ferentz was a little less optimistic about Adam Gettis returning to practice on Tuesday. The starting right guard missed Saturday's game after being hurt in the second half against Michigan State.
"I'm hoping he'll be ready, you know, hoping," Ferentz said. "I think he's got a chance."
LOST IN SHUFFLE: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos now owns the two major receiving records at Iowa. He's first in career receiving yardage and receptions.
He broke the catch mark on Saturday with his first ball. He entered the game tied with Kevin Kasper at 157 grabs. He caught six passes for 72 yards on the day.
DJK delivered two critical catches on Iowa's game-winning drive that were overshadowed by Marvin McNutt's 52-yard touchdown grab. Johnson-Koulianos caught passes of 21 and 15 yards to set up the score.
A lot is made of this kid's media interviews and relationship with head coach Kirk Ferentz. That shouldn't dim any light on what he's accomplished between the lines. I look forward to seeing him announced at senior day in a few weeks. Yell loud, Hawkeye fans.
LINEBACKER LIMBO: Ferentz said he settled on Shane DiBona as his starting strong side linebacker this week after he learned Jeff Tarpinian needed to continue to take it slow in the healing process. They were the first two options there, the coach said.
Tarpinian has missed a lot of action with a neck stinger but has played more in the last few weeks.
"We're losing some guys (to injury)," Ferentz said. "On a positive front, Jeff continues to make strides. We envision him with bigger role each week. That's a good thing."
DOWNPLAYED: Ferentz reached 100 wins in his head coaching career on Saturday. As one would expect, he didn't say much about it.
It's at times like this that his self-deprecating public persona surfaces.
"The honest truth is that I wish we got it like three years ago," he said. "Maybe five years ago. If I was Joe Paterno, I probably would have had it eight years ago. I'm not. That's pretty clear.
"It's a big thing but not nearly as big as winning (Saturday). The most important thing was for us to get our fourth win in the conference. That's really what we were focused on."
BLAME GAME: Iowa Quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw just his third interception of the season on Saturday. His touchdown toss to McNutt put him at 20 touchdowns on the campaign. It was the first time in four games that the senior didn't throw for at least three scores.
"I'm not big at pointing things out, but I will point one thing out," Ferentz said. "The pick was not…we busted a route on that. He's got three picks on his log right now. On two of them, I don't think you can find many fingerprints on them. He wouldn't say that, but I will say it."
Stanzi's first interception of the season came when the ball ricocheted off of McNutt's hands and into the arms of an Arizona cornerback.
PENALIZED: Iowa was flagged for a season-high nine penalties on Saturday. It cost the Hawkeyes 65 yards and most of them seemed costly.
"Those things tend to come and go," Ferentz said. "We were pretty sharp in that department, we were sharp in everything last week. We had five or six in the first half. Those things affect the game. We had enough stuff stack up in the first half, the third quarter as well, that really put the game in doubt for us in the fourth quarter.
"When you're playing a team that's playing aggressively, that's not a good thing."