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This Hawkeye hopes to celebrate birthday with a victory

[ 0 ] August 30, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Christian Kirksey turns 21 on Saturday.

“What a great way to bring it in,” Iowa’s starting outside linebacker said. “First game, senior year, and it’s your birthday.”

The Hawkeyes open the 2013 season at 2:42 p.m. Saturday against Northern Illinois. Kirksey hopes he’s in the mood to celebrate after time expires on Kinnick Stadium’s new scoreboards.

“It will be a good celebration if we win the game,” Kirksey said. “And I don’t even want to think about losing.”

Christian Kirksey

Christian Kirksey

Kirksey will spend part of his birthday chasing a Heisman Trophy candidate around the steamy Kinnick Stadium turf. Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch, who finished seventh in Heisman balloting last season after leading the Huskies to 12-2 record and an Orange Bowl berth, is a run-pass threat on every snap.

Kirksey’s strong suit is his ability to cover the run and pass. He’ll need to be at the top of his game in both areas Saturday.

“He’s a great player,” Kirksey said of Lynch, who became the first player in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for more than 3,000 yards (he had 3,138) and run for more than 1,500 (he amassed 1,815) in one season. “Just watching him on film reminds me that he is a great athlete.”

Kirksey wasn’t on the field last season when Lynch got loose for a 73-yard touchdown run in Iowa’s 18-17 victory at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Lynch (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) was in his first season as a starter. While he was leading Northern Illinois to 12 straight wins between the season-opening loss to the Hawkeyes and a 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, Iowa was dropping its last six games to finish 4-8, the program’s worst record since 2000.
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A self-described hungry Hawkeye team is determined to have a bounce-back season.

“It’s always important to win your first game,” Kirksey said. “Especially coming off the season we had. We just want to see where we are as a team.”

Iowa expects to see a better version of Lynch than it faced a season ago. So does Lynch.

“I would say it’s a night-and-day difference,” Lynch said. “I have 14 starts under my belt. I’m more comfortable.”

This time around, it’s Iowa with the inexperienced quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Jake Rudock will make his first college start.

“No doubt it was the same for Iowa last year with Lynch,” Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said. “They had no idea about him.”

Slowing down Lynch will be a team effort. Iowa’s defensive line will have to maintain their gaps.

“Not get too far upfield and contain,” tackle Dominic Alvis said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

The secondary can’t bite, either.

“You have to recognize that he is a dual-threat quarterback, and you can’t let him lull you to sleep,” cornerback Jordan Lomax said. “You might think he’s running. And the next thing you know, the ball is going over your head.”

Kirksey and the other two starting linebackers, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens, are the bedrock of Iowa’s defense. Hitchens, the weak-side linebacker, led the Big Ten in tackles a season ago. Morris, the middle linebacker, was second. Kirksey was 10th.

“I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way to Anthony, but if Christian played that position he’d have a lot of tackles, too,” Ferentz said. “It’s just kind of the nature of that position. LeVar Woods played it, Grant Steen, A.J. Edds, you go right down the line. By nature that position doesn’t get involved as much with tackling, but it’s a really critical position for us to play good defense.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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