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Hawks too tough to handle

[ 2 ] September 25, 2010 |

Mike Daniels walked through the door of Iowa’s postgame interview room Saturday and made a beeline for the back corner.

The junior defensive tackle made it halfway across the crowded room before nearly a dozen reporters got in his way and momentarily impeded his progress — perhaps the closest anybody came to effectively blocking Daniels all day.

Ball State certainly couldn’t handle Daniels. For that matter, the Cardinals couldn’t handle much of anything the No. 18 Hawkeyes threw their way during a 45-0 washout at Kinnick Stadium.

Daniels turned the Ball State backfield into his personal workspace, collecting four tackles for loss, and Iowa became the first team in five years to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard. Yet Daniels was hung up on a sack that slipped through his grasp and another tackle he missed in the backfield — a pair of plays that kept him from matching Leroy Smith’s school record for tackles for loss in a game.

“I’m only thinking about those two plays I didn’t make,” Daniels said. “That’s what you have to focus on and try to become as close to perfect as possible.”

The Hawkeyes (3-1) weren’t perfect Saturday — Iowa missed a field goal, lost a fumbled center exchange, dropped four passes and got off to a sloppy start offensively — but their flaws were masked by one of the best statistical performances in Kirk Ferentz’s 12 seasons.

Ricky Stanzi completed 19-of-25 passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns for an offense that piled up 562 yards — the fourth-highest total of the Ferentz era.

Remember last week when Arizona’s defense took turns pile-driving Stanzi into the turf on Iowa’s final series? Unless you count the millions of rain drops that pelted the senior quarterback throughout three quarters of work, Stanzi didn’t get hit Saturday.

“That was something we definitely put a lot of focus on this week — making sure Rick was comfortable back there, he was safe and nobody got to him,” offensive guard Julian Vandervelde said. “You put that zero in the sack column and that’s the goal, that’s something we feel good about. But then again, that’s our job, that’s what we’re supposed to do and that’s what we expect from ourselves every week.”

Stanzi completed passes to five Iowa receivers. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos caught four passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns, Keenan Davis had four catches and a touchdown, and running back Adam Robinson caught three passes out of the backfield for 75 yards to go with 22 carries, 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Remember the running back crisis earlier in the week after Ferentz announced Jewel Hampton was out for the season, leaving Robinson as the only healthy back with notable game experience? Freshmen Brad Rogers and Marcus Coker combined for 19 carries and 126 yards.

“That’s a good start for them,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to need them. We have a lot of football left right now — eight tough conference games — and we’re going to need all three of those guys to help the football team.”

The Hawkeyes are going to need more performances like this out of their defense, too. Iowa limited Ball State (1-3) to 112 yards. The Cardinals didn’t cross midfield until the third quarter and the deepest they got in Iowa territory was the 39-yard-line.

Ball State was playing without two starting offensive linemen. The Cardinals lost left tackle Cameron Lowry to a torn ACL last week against Purdue and center Kreg Hunter was suspended.

“It would have been difficult with those guys, let alone without them,” Ball State coach Stan Parrish said. “We got overwhelmed up front.”

The Hawkeyes overwhelmed a lot of opponents last season with defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns and tackles Christian Ballard and Karl Klug handling the majority of the work. Daniels played a limited role as a reserve.

“Coming out of spring football, we felt like he was right there with the other four guys,” Ferentz said. “That’s not just coach talk. In our minds, he was a starter just like the other four guys.”

Daniels notched the first sack of the season for the Hawkeyes in the opener against Eastern Illinois. Iowa offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan turned to Vandervelde on the sideline and said: “At least we’re not the only line in the country that can’t block big Mike Diesel.”

Ball State certainly couldn’t.

“A couple times, (linebacker) Tyler Nielsen would turn around and be like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Iowa safety Tyler Sash said. “Four tackles for loss … that’s pretty unheard of for one defensive lineman in a game.”

Daniels has 7.5 tackles for loss. That’s one more than the other four defensive linemen combined.

“Mike’s a monster,” Ballard said. “He can’t be blocked. The guy’s strong, physical and fast.”

Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or ahamilton@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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