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Football Notebook: Gair to start, Plewa day-to-day

BY CODY GOODWIN | SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Starting free safety Jordan Lomax will miss the first half of Iowa’s upcoming game with unbeaten Pittsburgh because of the targeting penalty assessed against him on Sept. 13 against Iowa State.

In his spot will be 6-2, 200-pound sophomore Anthony Gair. The sophomore saw time in the Hawkeyes’ 20-17 loss to the Cyclones after Lomax was ejected in the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t have much time to get nervous,” Gair said and smiled. “It was just exciting to get in and try to help the team as much as I can.”

Gair finished with 2 tackles and brought his physical style of play to Iowa’s already stout defense. He said the experience of playing bodes well for him ahead of the team’s first road game of the season.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Gair “did OK” in what was his first real action in a live game. Ferentz noted that this week of practice is crucial for Gair, because he’ll be playing almost all of the first half against Pittsburgh — Lomax will be available for Iowa in the second half.

“He stepped in and did a competent job,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully, now he can build on that.”

Gair said Tuesday he’d be practicing closer with Lomax and strong safety John Lowdermilk to better prepare for his first career start. Lowdermilk said Gair has practiced with the first-team defense before.

“I get a chance to step in,” Gair said. “It’s definitely exciting. I’m looking forward to the challenges.”

Road challenges

The Pittsburgh football team presents its own challenges — primarily on the ground; running back James Connor averages 181 rushing yards per game, good for fourth in the country. The Panthers, as a team, are averaging 344 rushing yards per game, good for fifth nationally.

Football game aside, some Iowa football players said Tuesday they’re excited to finally hit the road after three-straight home games to open the season.

“We have a lot of guys who will be playing their first road games of their careers,” offensive lineman Austin Blythe said. “It’ll be a good opportunity to go play a team like Pitt on the road.”

Blythe, a junior, noted that some of the younger players are excited to play away from Iowa City. It helps, too, that this weekend’s game will be played at Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

The experience of playing a road game, Blythe said, will bode well for those younger players. Many of the team’s veterans will help them adjust to traveling and preparing for road games.

“Sure, once we get there maybe,” Blythe said when asked about the team was exciting about playing at Heinz Field. “But I think it’ll wear off pretty fast.”

“… Once they get that first [road game] under their belt, it’s like riding a bike.”

Plewa day-to-day

Ferentz announced on Tuesday that junior fullback Macon Plewa could be back to play in Saturday’s game.

“We’re hoping to get Macon Plewa back,” the head coach said. “We’ll see how that goes. It’s day-to-day right now.”

Plewa was listed as the first-string fullback on the latest two deeps. Linebacker-turned-fullback John Kenny, who played in Plewa’s place against Iowa State, was listed behind him.

Ferentz also said wide receiver Riley McCarron is now healthy and cleared to play. McCarron suffered a shoulder injury in mid-August, and he was expected to make a return during the team’s first bye week.

“We’ll get him back in the fold this week,” Ferentz said. “Other than that, not much to announce there.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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