Onside kicks haunt Hawkeyes

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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The feeling was familiar for Kevonte Martin-Manley.

The Hawkeyes were lined up in onside-kick recovery formation, anticipating the ensuing 10-yard bouncer from Central Michigan. Iowa had just recovered one, after all.

But following a delay of game penalty, the ball was moved back 5 yards, and the Chippewas were given a second chance to upset the Black and Gold.

Central Michigan kicker David Harman lined up on the 30. The ball landed at the 37, bouncing past Iowa tight end Henry Krieger Coble. Chippewa receiver Jesse Kroll pounced on the ball at the 42, giving his team one last chance at the win.

“It was like, ‘What happened?’ — you know?” Martin-Manley said.

The Iowa receiver was on the opposite side of the field for the onside kick, but he said the feeling in his gut after the play was similar to one he had last year, when Minnesota converted an onside kick over the Hawkeyes. He said it’s especially frustrating because he said he felt if the ball went his way, Iowa might have gotten a victory on Sept. 22.

“At the end of the game, obviously I had the confidence in myself and my abilities to make a play like that,” he said. “I want to make plays like that for our team. But it went to the opposite side. I still have confidence in my guys, but we couldn’t get it done last week.”

A 15-yard penalty on Iowa the following Chippewa possession helped set up a winning drive, capped off by a Harman field goal to give Central Michigan the upset.

Three years in a row, Iowa has lost a game after failing to recover a late onside kick. In 2010 and 2011, the Gophers converted fourth-quarter onside kicks, giving them the coveted Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

Looking at the play for a second, third, fourth, maybe fifth or sixth time, it seems Krieger Coble had the best chance to recover the ball for Iowa. Except jumping on the pigskin might not be what he and other Iowa players are coached to do in that situation.

“The coaches coach, if the ball comes screaming at them, let it go,” wide receiver Keenan Davis said. “Let the guys in the back handle it, it will slow down by then. If it’s able to be fielded, if it’s a slow dribble, take it.”

Davis was right in the thick of things during the aftermath of the onside kick. He reflected on the urgency of the situation.

“[I remember] How important that ball was,” he said. “I was towards the middle, I was trying to stop the middle dribble. I think that part is just, everybody is thinking how important that ball was.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday that it’s difficult to decide where to place personnel on the onside kick team — especially a deep return man. Ferentz said if the deep man is closer to the ball, it leaves his squad susceptible to a pooch kick over their heads.

What Ferentz was sure of is that there was little jubilation to be had in the wake of those onside-kick failures.

“We haven’t celebrated, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said.

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