Iowa football notebook: Duncan preparing for final home game, Ferentz speaks on Brents transfer

Hawkeye kicker Keith Duncan said he likely won’t return for a sixth year of eligibility, meaning Saturday may be his final game at Kinnick Stadium.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa kicker Keith Duncan attempts a field goal during a football game between Iowa and Michigan State in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. The Hawkeyes dominated the Spartans, 49-7. Duncan was perfect on extra points but missed his lone field goal attempt from 37 yards.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Keith Duncan’s career as a Hawkeye took off with a game-winning kick at Kinnick Stadium against No. 2 Michigan as a freshman in 2016. More than four years later, the senior kicker is preparing to play his final home game in the Black and Gold.

The Weddington, North Carolina, native has the option to return for a sixth season of eligibility as the NCAA is allowing all players to play an extra year because of how COVID-19 has impacted this season.

But unless Iowa hosts a game during the Big Ten’s Champions Week, Duncan said during a Zoom conference Tuesday that this Senior Day will be his last home game as a Hawkeye.

“It’s been great being an Iowa Hawkeye,” Duncan said. “I’ve loved every single second of it and wouldn’t trade it for the world. This will most likely be my last home game. Again, it’s a very emotional thing to say and it’s been great being here, but I think it’s time to move on.”

After two years on the bench following his freshman campaign — including a redshirt season — the Iowa kicker earned consensus All-American status last season as a junior. Duncan blew kisses to Nebraska’s sideline in Lincoln after hitting a game-winner against the Huskers as part of his Big Ten Kicker of the Year campaign.

Duncan is one of 22 seniors the Iowa football team will honor ahead of its home game against Wisconsin on Saturday.

Like everything else during this pandemic season, the ceremony won’t be normal. Players likely won’t meet their parents out on the field after their name blares over the loudspeaker.

But family members will still be in attendance in the otherwise-empty stadium. Each player gets four tickets to divide among their family members. Duncan scalped some tickets off of younger players to ensure about a dozen of his relatives can attend his final home game.

“Being a senior, being here for five years is something that I never really would have imagined,” Duncan said. “I learned so much being here, and just having a senior day, whether it’s with or without fans, is just special to me.”

Duncan, Iowa’s sixth all-time leading scorer, is one of many Hawkeyes faced with a similar situation. Senior cornerback Matt Hankins was non-committal to his plans for next season. Senior linebacker Nick Niemann said Tuesday this will likely also be his final home game as he hopes to continue his career in the NFL following this season, an opportunity Duncan also hopes to have.

“I think I do have that ability,” Duncan said. “I’ve said before I think my mental game is very strong and I’m going to use that to my advantage. Training for the NFL, I’m going to work out all the kinks I’ve had this year, whether it be mental, physical, whatever. I’m going to try and do as much as I can to improve and become the best NFL kicker possible.”

All seniors who decide to come back for another season will be welcomed back, head coach Kirk Ferentz said. Even Ferentz said he is unsure exactly how many that will be. 

“Maybe there will be a few that’ll be interested,” Ferentz said. “But I know everybody’s got a clock.”

Ferentz comments on Brents’ decision to transfer

Iowa redshirt sophomore defensive back Julius Brents entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on Monday, becoming the fifth Hawkeye to do so since the start of the 2020 season, joining running back Shadrick Byrd, linebacker Yahweh Juedy, wide receiver Calvin Lockett, and defensive back Daraun McKinney.

On Tuesday, Brents officially announced his decision on Twitter.

Ferentz said Brents spoke to him on Sunday and made clear his intentions to transfer.

We had a fairly thorough conversation,” Ferentz said. “I asked him to sleep on it, come back the next day, just to make sure he was sure. But he had already given it pretty extensive thought, that was apparent. Long story short, I’m a little perplexed by his reasoning. The timing is a little bit interesting. That being said, I respect his honesty, his courage because that’s how he’s feeling right now. He’s going to follow his heart.”

Brents started games as a freshman, but missed most of last season with an injury. This year, special teams is primarily how Brents sees the field.

Ferentz said he asked Brents whether his decision to transfer was related to the investigation into the program’s culture over the summer that found that team rules and practices “perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

“That was not the case with any of them,” Ferentz said. “We stayed in contact with the other four to make sure they’re following through, finishing their academic work here, so they can go wherever they choose to go. We’ve offered to help each and every one of them. All five guys are great guys.

“I wish him nothing but the best. Have nothing but respect for Julius. Tremendous person, a good guy to have on our team… Whenever he chooses to go, I know he’ll do a good job. He’s a first class guy.”

Duncan rooting for Taylor during awards season

Duncan was seemingly robbed of the Lou Groza Award last season, when Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship won despite Duncan’s more impressive statistics.

This season, Duncan is not a semifinalist for the award. But Iowa punter Tory Taylor is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the best punter in the nation.

“It is what it is,” Duncan said. “I’m on the Tory Taylor campaign right now. I saw a Georgia Bulldog in there on the Ray Guy semifinalists so we’re getting a little sketchy, so we’ll see how things turn out.”