Kyle Schlicher patiently awaits the opportunity afforded his predecessor. He works on the play every day in hopes of running in the open field, football in hand, wind at his back.
"We practice all of the field goal fakes year round," Schlicher said. "We're trying to come up with new ones; practice the old ones. We practiced the one that Nate did two years ago just as much as anything else."
Former Iowa Kicker Nate Kaeding galloped in the end zone when the Hawkeyes pulled off a fake field goal during their 2003 game in Columbus. He was the only player on his team to cross the goal line in a 19-10 setback against Ohio State.
Iowa returns to the land of Woody Hayes and The Shoe on Saturday (11:00 am, ABC). Schlicher the kicker still is awaiting word on his number being called.
"They haven't said anything to me," the junior said. "Last year during the Michigan game, we were going to run something similar to that. I guess if the look is there, then we'll run something. I haven't had a go-ahead from the coach or anything like that."
The look on Schlicher's face when he talks about faking out the opposition is dead serious. You get the feeling that it's only a matter of time before the 5-9, 179-pounder (and, wow, are those numbers generous) is gliding passed the yard markers.
Unlike his predecessor, Kirk Ferentz leans towards the conservative when it comes to philosophy. Hayden Fry is known for being Inspector Gadget when it came to play calling.
Still, the Iowa coaches continually ask Schlicher and holder Andy Fenstermaker to stay ready for trickery. And it really doesn't include anyone else on the field.
"The coach just tells us to keep our skills fine tuned and always be ready for that type of situation," Schlicher said. "There have been times during our team field goal segment (in practice) where the coach will whisper to the holder and I to run the fake, which really doesn't involve the line.
"Nate's (fake) just involved Bradley and him. Bradley just pitched out to him and he ran into the end zone. Sometimes we cover that, but we practice it on our own a lot."
Even if deceiving the opposition fails to come to fruition this week in Columbus, chances remain good that Schlicher could play an important role in the game's outcome and those contests down the road for the Hawkeyes.
Although he hasn't faced a big kick through three weeks, the Ankeny native is preparing for crunch time in what should be a closely contested slate of Big Ten games.
"It starts with practicing those scenarios," Schlicher said. "Every day, I do at least f5-10 game winners. We'll have ones where we'll run onto the field with like 10 seconds left in the game. We'll have somebody yelling counting with a stopwatch.
"As far as mentally, I try to approach every field goal, no matter who it is against or where it is on the field, like I do an extra point. Why should a 50-yarder be any different than an extra point? As far as pressure situations, that's just something through practice and through my experience, it all plays back to realizing that why should this one be any different than the thousands of other field goals I've done in games and practices."
Schlicher's job ranges outside just putting the leather through the uprights. He plays a huge role in field position when kicking off. This week, that aspect could prove even more critical with Ohio State game breakers, Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes, lining up to return. "I haven't heard much about (Ginn) other than he's a great returner," Schlicher said. "All I can tell you that as a kickoff team, all we can do is keep the ball away from him. I'd like to kick the ball through the end zone every time. That's something that I'll always be working on and have been a pretty good job of doing that.
"As far as a kickoff coverage unit, we practice not necessarily kicking the ball away from those guys but as far as placement; hang time; just kicking the ball as far, deep and as high as I can to get that coverage team down there to pin them deep inside the 15."
ON THE RUN: After ranking 116th (72.58 YPG) in Division I-A football rushing last year, Iowa is rediscovering its running game. The Hawkeyes rank 26th (215.0 YPG) nationally heading into Columbus.
Ohio State enters Saturday's game ranked ninth in the country against the rush (57.7 YPG). It would appear, something has to give.
"We haven't played a defense like this, but we feel we can run the football," said Iowa running back Albert Young, who ranks 31st among DI-A rushers at 99.33 yards per game. "They're a good team, but we've had some success in the run game. We're going to keep plugging at it. We're pretty confident about it. We'll see at the 12 o'clock kickoff on Saturday what we're about."
Young has ripped off runs of 36, 31, 31, 26, and 20 yards this season. On a few of those occasions, he seemed to be in position to break free for bigger plays, but he still is searching for that next gear after ACL surgery last fall.
"It's just getting back into the grove," he said. "Every game, I'm getting stronger. I'm up there. The quickness is there. I'm still getting to 30 or 40 yards real fast. But my (right) knee is not 100 percent like the left leg. I'm not going to sit here and make up excuses. I don't like to do that. But it's getting better each week."
A lot of talk surrounding Young in the offseason focused on his abilities as a receiver. He hasn't really showed off those skills through three games.
"We don't know about that," said Young as he laughed coyly. "We'll wait until Saturday. But it's whatever Coach (Ken) O'Keefe calls. He calls a good game plan. The offense has been there this year, except for Iowa State, where we hurt ourselves with penalties. Still, we had some success there.
"Why mess with things if you don't have to? If it comes on Saturday that we need to get the ball to the backs more out of the backfield passing, I'm sure he'll exploit that."
BACK ON TRACK: After taking his lumps (literally) at Iowa State, Hawkeye Quarterback Drew Tate looked locked in against Northern Iowa.
"I felt a lot more focused in the UNI game," the junior said. "I saw things a lot better. They did a lot of things that nobody else has done as far as looks. They had a lot of different fronts.
"We've seen everything these last three weeks that we're probably going to see the rest of the year. So, it's going to help us out."
On a 71-yard scoring strike to Clinton Solomon, Tate fired a laser that hit the receiver in stride. A week earlier, the quarterback nearly pulled his helmet off in frustration after a first-quarter throw intended for Solomon was directed off course.
Tate realizes the competition level increases greatly this week. And the 100,000 plus fans in Ohio Stadium also will provide an obstacle.
"It makes it hard because it's so loud," Tate said. "We're going to have to keep it real simple and try to have everyone on the same page."
EXTRA POINTS: Ohio State Tight End Marcel Frost, who verbally committed to the Hawkeyes before changing his mind, has not cracked the two-deeps. Senior Ryan Hamby is the starter, and Brandon Smith, a redshirt freshman, backs him up. Frost (6-5, 255) is a redshirt sophomore…Iowa's 33-7 victory against the Buckeyes last season represented its most lopsided win in the series…Hawkeye defensive tackle reserve Mitch King leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with six…Iowa has won its last six games that were decided by four points or less dating back to 2001.