Iowa football embraces bye week, hunts for turnovers

Iowa’s bye week helped with injuries, let players relax, and helped the Hawkeye secondary focus on turnovers.

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Iowa football embraces bye week, hunts for turnovers

Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin runs with the ball during the Iowa/NIU football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskies, 33-7.

Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin runs with the ball during the Iowa/NIU football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskies, 33-7.

Lily Smith

Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin runs with the ball during the Iowa/NIU football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskies, 33-7.

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin runs with the ball during the Iowa/NIU football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskies, 33-7.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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For the Hawkeye football team, bye week came at a perfect moment.

Before getting a week free of a game, Iowa fell at home to Wisconsin in gut-punching fashion, losing, 28-17, in a game that could end up being a pivotal spot in the race for the Big Ten West.

“It was disappointing … I feel like there’s some positive things we can take away, but at the same time, we want to finish those games,” wide receiver Nick Easley said. “We feel like we could have won.”

The Hawkeyes used the bye to regroup, refocus, and flush the post-Wisconsin feeling, but they also used the break in the action to gain traction with injuries.

Running back Ivory Kelly-Martin played against the Badgers, but he missed the previous two contests because of ankle issues.

While he was good enough to play on Sept. 29, Kelly-Martin’s ankle wasn’t at full strength. He said that while any nagging injury is frustrating, the bye week aided in his full recovery.

“It’s definitely feeling a lot better now,” he said. “Bye week was really essentially for probably all the guys here, and at this point, we’re all humming. We’re all ready to go for Minnesota.”

But for some of the Hawkeyes who live somewhat close by, the bye week also presented an opportunity to relax and spend time with loved ones — something that often gets lost during the regular season.

Easley, whose family lives in Newton, said he went home during his free weekend.

“I was able to go home, and chill with my dog and my dad, and just kind of hang out. It was nice” he said. “Watched some college football with a different eye, kind of watched as a fan, sitting on the couch.”

Secondary hunting for turnovers

As good as Iowa’s defense has been through four games, one thing has been missing: interceptions.

The Hawkeyes have 2 picks in 2018, the same number they had in their first game last season. In 2017, Iowa had recorded 5 interceptions at this point, living in pick city in each of the first four games.

“Part of it has to do with a lot more sacks by our D-line,” safety Jake Gervase said. “[Opposing quarterbacks] aren’t getting the ball off or throwing down field. But at the same time, we’ve done a good job of eliminating big plays as a secondary.”

Minnesota will roll with quarterback Zach Annexstad as its starting quarterback on Saturday. He’s a redshirt freshman who has started all four of the Gophers’ contests this season, and he’s looked sharp. He has completed 52.3 percent of his passes for 706 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, compiling a 116.9 passer rating.

But he’s inexperienced, as far as college in-game experience goes, and that’s something the Hawkeyes think they can capitalize on to both fix the elusive turnovers and move to 4-1.

“I don’t think it changes our preparation … we do think we’re going to have opportunities to hopefully get some turnovers, because that’s something where we’ve lacked as a secondary and as a defense — the turnover margin,” Gervase said. “We can do a better job of creating turnovers, whether that’s interceptions or forcing fumbles, rallying to the football. That’s something we stress.”

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