Notebook: Perry steps up, Niemann blocks punt, and Wadley rushes 100-plus yards


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Reggie Spearman’s two-game suspension meant someone needed to step up at linebacker for Iowa against Northwestern. It was presumed that Josey Jewell would be promoted to starting weak-side linebacker in Spearman’s place.

But on morning of Nov. 1, before Iowa dismantled Northwestern 48-7, Quinton Alston was announced as the starter at weak side and Travis Perry slid in to start in the middle. Jewell had been injured, despite practicing throughout the week.

“I’ve been playing middle linebacker the past few weeks,” Perry said. “Early in the week was when I found out. Coach said I was going to start, and we were going to rotate. We went from there.”

Perry, just a junior, flourished in just his second-career start. He had 5 tackles, tying a career high, and managed his first-career sack early in the third quarter.

“We came out ready to go, and we executed,” Perry said. “We just ran to the ball.”

Perry’s performance highlighted a solid game from each linebacker who played. In total, Iowa’s linebacking corps compiled 21 stops and broke up three passes.

“Everybody in this linebacking corps plays either two of the positions or all three,” Alston said. “We pride ourselves on not being one-dimensional, and I believed that helped us out today.”

Niemann blocks punt, scores a touchdown

True freshman Ben Niemann figured he could block one of Northwestern’s punts. He said he had a chance to get the first one and just missed.

“Their personal protector didn’t really come out to me,” he said. “I noticed that, so the second time, I tried to bend it a little more, and I got the block.”

Niemann blocked a Northwestern punt late in the first quarter. He then recovered the ball and walked into the end zone for his first-career touchdown, giving Iowa a 24-0 lead at the time. It was Iowa’s first punt block since 2011, and the first punt block returned for a touchdown since Paki O’Meara did so against Eastern Illinois in 2010.

“Once I found it, I picked it up and got into the end zone. It was a pretty crazy feeling,” he said. “It was a great moment, exciting and celebrating with my teammates is an awesome feeling.”

Head coach Kirk Ferentz praised Niemann after the game, saying it was “nice to see a young guy like that make a nice play.”

“We had gotten some pressure, and we do try to get a couple guys in there just to make sure we keep him honest,” Ferentz said. “… We were close, I think, on the punt before that and the one before that. Just a good effort from him.”

Other game notes

• Iowa’s 48 points scored is a season high and the most points scored in a Big Ten game since Nov. 19, 2005, against Minnesota.

• Iowa has scored 30 or more points in three-consecutive games for the first time since opening the 2011 season with four-straight games with 30-plus points. The last time Iowa scored 30-plus points in three-straight conference games was 2010 — 38 against Michigan, 30 against Wisconsin, and 37 against Michigan State.

• Iowa scored a touchdown on its opening drive for the second-straight game and just the third time this season.

• Akrum Wadley is the first Hawkeye with 100-plus rushing yards in a player’s first game with a carry since Brandon Wegher in 2009.

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

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