Moeaki emerges for Hawkeyes


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When the Iowa Hawkeyes left the field on Sept. 5 with a 17-16 victory over Northern Iowa, all the talk afterwards was about the game’s ending.

And rightfully so.

The Hawkeyes had to block two field-goal attempts in the game’s final seven seconds to prevent themselves from being a national story line for the wrong reasons.

But there were positives for Iowa to take away. Aside from the outcome of the game, perhaps nothing was more beneficial to the Hawkeyes than the return of senior tight end Tony Moeaki.

After missing 12 games over the past two seasons, he gave the Iowa faithful a reminder why he was considered one of the country’s elite tight ends in high school and why, in July, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Moeaki has the chance to be as good as any tight end Iowa has had.

The 6-4 tight end did it all against Northern Iowa, showing shades of Dallas Clark against Purdue in 2002 when he tried to hurdle a Northern Iowa defender after making a catch in the second quarter — a move Ferentz admitted made him “cringe.”

The Wheaton, Ill., native also showed ability to make catches in double coverage, which comes with the role he is asked to play as a senior.

“Anytime you get the ball in his hands, it’s going to be a positive, and not only that, he’s a smart football player,” junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “He knows when to sit down and block on certain plays and how to chip up and get different guys.

“Having him as the leader of our offense definitely helps us out.”

Then there’s the 6-yard touchdown he caught in the fourth quarter, which came at the back of the end zone. Moeaki not only made the grab, he got the one foot down that’s necessary for his catch to count.

That 6-yard strike proved to be the game-winning score.

By game’s end, Moeaki had finished with the following statistics: 10 receptions, 83 yards receiving, and that one touchdown. The 10 catches surpassed his previous high of eight receptions in a game against Syracuse in 2007, and the one touchdown matched the number of times he scored last season.

The most passes Moeaki has caught in a single season is 14. One game into 2009, and he’s only four receptions away.

In the summer, Moeaki said, he and Stanzi threw the ball to each other on their own time. He wouldn’t credit his success against Northern Iowa to that but acknowledged it could have played a part.

“Anytime you do extra work, it pays off somewhere,” he said. “Maybe it had something to do with it, maybe not. We were out there just trying to win.”

No one will forget what happened at the conclusion of last weekend’s game. And if 2009 ends up being a breakout season for Moeaki, his performance against the Panthers was a good start.

“We only saw a little bit of Tony Moeaki [on Sept. 5] and what he’s going to contribute to this team,” junior wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said. “I’m more than positive that there’s a lot more to come with Tony, and we’re really going to utilize him to our full abilities here.”

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