Iowa City, IA – Not bad for openers. Hayden Fry, Ed Podolak, Ray Jauch and Bernie Wyatt were among those who marveled at a 593-yard offensive barrage produced by Fred Russell, Jermelle Lewis, Brad Banks and a number of other Iowa football players today on Varsity Club Day. The Hawkeyes, of whom much is expected in Kirk Ferentz's fourth season as coach, made some mistakes but still ran all over hopelessly-outclassed Akron, 57-21, before a sun-splashed audience of 51,495 at Kinnick Stadium. So overpowering was Iowa was that it didn't have to punt all day.
"Oh, gosh, they look explosive!'' said Jauch, a halfback on Hawkeye teams coached by Forest Evashevski in 1958, 1959 and 1960. "I think they have some great weapons on offense.'' Jauch, 64, a former Iowa assistant who also coached in the Canadian and Arena Leagues, is now retired in Mendota, Ill.
"Defensively, I think Iowa is pretty good, too, although I was impressed with the Akron quarterback,'' Jauch said. "He can throw the ball. Akron got hammered, but they're not that bad.'' The Zips' quarterback was Charlie Frye, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Those statistics didn't surprise me. I told Jauch that rarely do guys named Frye (or Fry) fare poorly in Kinnick Stadium.
For those who don't consider it an official Iowa football season unless Hayden Fry – the Hawkeyes' coach from 1979-1998 – is in the stadium, they got what they wanted.
Indeed, it was the second time in three days that Fry was watching a team coached by one of his former assistants bash an opponent. It was Iowa's Kirk Ferentz on Saturday. It was Western Illinois' Donnie Patterson on Thursday. Ferentz's Hawkeyes erupted for a school-record 37-0 lead in the first quarter and a 51-14 margin at halftime. Patterson's team rolled to a 50-7 halftime lead over Drake before settling for a 64-7 victory.
Fry joked that both of his former staff members had to "call off the dogs'' after their early blitzes.
Asked his thoughts of the Hawkeyes, Podolak – the standout Iowa back from 1966-1968 and veteran radio commentator on games involving his alma mater – said all someone had to do was look back two seasons. "In 2000, we lost to Western Michigan – a Mid-American Conference team – by a 27-21 score,'' he explained. "Now here we are, ready to be accused of running up the score against Akron.
"The improvement is outstanding in Iowa's offensive line, which is the key. Most of them have played together for three or four years. They're like a well-oiled machine.'' Wyatt, who lettered as a halfback from 1959-1961, watched the game from the Iowa sideline. The former Iowa and Wisconsin assistant coach, now a resident of Madison, Wis., was the Hawkeyes' honorary captain.
He liked what he saw.
"Ever since Kirk Ferentz got here, the thing that has always impressed me is that his teams play real hard and they're tough kids. Now it's just a matter of getting a few more athletes, and that will happen. "The more you win, the better the recruiting goes for you. They do a great job here, they work hard and they're tough. That's half of it.''
Watch out, Aaron Greving.
Fred Russell and Jermelle Lewis are poised to take your job. Greving had to sit out the Akron game because of an ankle injury, so Russell ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns in 14 carries after starting at running back. Lewis totaled 123 and also scored twice.
Russell, a 5-8, 185-pound junior, opened some eyes with his nifty 44-yard touchdown dash with 1:59 gone in the game. Later in the first quarter he scored on a 35-yard run.
"It was a relief to finally be able to get out there and show people what I could do,'' he said. "I hope I can play even better in the future than I did today.''
Asked where he thinks he stands in the tailback race, Russell said the coaches "have pretty much told us it's going to be a one-two punch. But it may be a one-two-three punch with Jermelle!
"I knew I had to have a big game today to show the coaches that I want to be a starter just like everybody else.''
Brad Banks, who played second-fiddle to Kyle McCann last season, passed for 125 yards and two touchdowns before turning Iowa's quarterback job over to Nathan Chandler.
"We have some weapons, and we used them today,'' Banks said. "The offensive line played an outstanding game. They gave Fred and Jermelle some big holes to run through.
"As for my performance, it was OK, but I was shaky in some areas. I'll straighten them out before next Saturday's game (at Miami of Ohio).'' Don't expect the game at Miami to be anything like today's. While Iowa was blitzing Akron, Miami was winning at North Carolina, 27-21.
As impressive as Iowa's performance was, a surprisingly-large number of people missed it. Capacity in Kinnick Stadium is 70,397, but there were nearly 19,000 empty seats on a beautiful afternoon. Guys were standing in front of the stadium at 9 a.m.—two hours before game-time--holding up signs that read, "I NEED TICKETS.''
I wonder why.
Vol. 2, No. 55
Aug. 31, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is email@example.com ]