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Iowa football: Damon Bullock’s TD lifts Hawkeyes past Northern Illinois

[ 0 ] September 1, 2012 |

Chicago, Ill. — Talk about the element of surprise — Iowa tailback Damon Bullock was expecting new offensive coordinator Greg Davis to call a passing play on third-and-9, 23 yards from the end zone and just more than 2 minutes to play Saturday afternoon.

“I was ready to pass-block,” Bullock said after scoring the winning touchdown in the Hawkeyes’ 18-17 victory against Northern Illinois before a mostly Hawkeye crowd of 52,117 Saturday at Soldier Field.

“I wasn’t even expecting what he called. Third and long — I was expecting a passing play.”

So was Northern Illinois, and that play combined with a brilliant short punt and field goals of 34, 29, 22 and 50 yards by Mike Meyer were the reasons the Hawkeyes enter Saturday’s Iowa State game with momentum after stopping the Huskies’ winning streak at nine.

“Playing against a team like Iowa, you have to execute to have a chance,” said Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren, a former Drake player and assistant coach. “There are a couple plays I wish we could have back.”

Under previous situations, that third-and-9 late-game call might have been a pass, but with Davis now in charge of the Iowa offense — anything goes.

So he called a running play, one Bullock turned into a 23-yard touchdown run that flipped Iowa’s five-point deficit into a one-point lead.

“They weren’t expecting a run at the time, either,” said Bullock, who answered his first starting call with 30 rushes and 150 yards. “They were blitzing.”

Northern Illinois defensive coordinator Jay Niemann agreed.

“Credit them for a good call at that time,” said Niemann, an Iowa State graduate. “It wasn’t necessarily what you’d expect with that down-and-distance situation — but you still have to play through the down, and we didn’t do a good enough job.”

But for the initial 57-plus minutes of the 60-minute game, Iowa appeared headed toward its first opening-game loss since Kansas State in 2000. Quarterback James Vandenberg was sacked six times, while his elusive counterpart, Jordan Lynch, had a 73-yard touchdown run.

“We missed tackles all day, but their quarterback on that run — he was good. We were all trying to chase him,” Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde said.

Six sacks were the most for Vandenberg in a game.

“I have to do a better job getting rid of the ball,” said Vandenberg, who completed 21 of 33 passes for just 129 yards.

His average completion was just more than six yards. His longest was a 20-yarder to Keenan Davis.

“We knew going into the game that they don’t give you a lot of shots. We knew it was going to be a lot of dinks and dunks,” said Vandenberg, throwing against a team that returned 11 starters from last season’s 11-win team. “We were able to take one or two shots, but they really weren’t open.”

The other significant play on a humid afternoon was the one that set up Iowa’s touchdown — a John Wienke pooch punt that Greg Castillo downed at the 1-yard line with 5:36 to play.

“I saw the ball and I touched it,” Castillo said. “It was that easy.”

Officials reviewed the play, thinking the punt crept into the end zone, but it didn’t.

“I knew it wasn’t in the end zone,” Castillo said.

Iowa’s defense forced a three-and-out, causing the Huskies to punt from the end zone. The Hawkeyes took over at the 24. Three plays later came the surprising call from the press box.

“We talked about that play at halftime,” said Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, the tackle on the side the play was run. “If they were going to show up in a specific defense, we were going to run that play.

“Once I heard the crowd yelling, I looked to my left and he was off to the races.”

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Player of the Game

Iowa tailback Damon Bullock rushed for a career-best xxxx yards during his first collegiate start. His glory moment was a 22-yard run around the left end withy 2:15 to play as Iowa rallied to victory. Bullock came into the game with just 10 career rushes for 20 yards.

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Odds & Ends

– Greg Davis’ first play as Iowa’s new offensive coordinator was a pass – a 4-yarder to Kevonte Martin-Manley. Greg Garmon’s first collegiate play was a no-gain rush.

– Tom Donatell started at strong safety ahead of Nico Law. That was an either/or situation throughout the week.

– Connor Kornbrath’s first college punt was a good one, a 51-yarder that resulted in just a 5-yard return.

– Iowa used four true freshmen Garmon, Kornbrath, and DBs Sean Draper and Kevin Buford.

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Odds & Ends

– Greg Davis’ first play as Iowa’s new offensive coordinator was a pass – a 4-yarder to Kevonte Martin-Manley. Greg Garmon’s first collegiate play was a no-gain rush.

– Tom Donatell started at strong safety ahead of Nico Law. That was an either/or situation throughout the week.

– Connor Kornbrath’s first college punt was a good one, a 51-yarder that resulted in just a 5-yard return.

–Iowa used four true freshmen Garmon, Kornbrath, and DBs Sean Draper and Kevin Buford.

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Lost in the Shuffle

While Damon Bullock was starring on the offensive side, place-kicker Mike Meyer kept Iowa in the game. He was 4-for-5 in the field goal department, his longest of 50 yards coming with 9:33 to play and pulling the Hawkeyes within 17-12.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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