IOWA CITY, Iowa - If you think Iowa's propensity to fall for fake punts defies logic, the head coach's suggested solution might push some of you over the edge.
Kirk Ferentz on Saturday said that the Hawkeyes may never set up a punt return again to avoid being snookered in the future. It was thought to be tongue-in-cheek comment.
Nope. He was serious.
"I was being dead serious," Ferentz said Tuesday at the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
Michigan State converted a fake punt for a first down to begin the fourth quarter. The Spartans turned into a field goal, pushing their lead to nine points in a defensive tussle. They celebrated it like it had been stored in their back pocket waiting to be withdrawn at just the right time.
That made a lot of sense when considering that the Hawkeyes had been burned by fake punts five times before it dating back to 2010.
Ferentz offered no answers to why it happened after the game. That didn't change on Tuesday.
"I may be leaning towards the point where you may never see us try to return one again," Ferentz said. "We'll just to catch it and try to keep it off the ground."
Perhaps it's a ploy by the Iowa coach. Maybe he's attempting to discourage future opponents from calling a fake punt by putting out there that the Hawkeyes are tapping out. More likely, they really don't have an answer to the problem, at least not yet.
"If you pressed me today, I'd say we may never try to return a punt again," Ferentz said Tuesday. "When you do that, to block guys, you have to turn and go with those guys to shadow them. So, when you do that, you open the door.
"Michigan State did a good job of taking advantage of that, to their credit."
Ferentz has favored a conservative approach to the punt return game throughout his 15 years leading the program. It's rarely been about having a speedy player capable of ripping off a long run. Instead, the coach has opted for using sure-handed guys and giving his offense the responsibility to move the ball.
Kevonte Martin-Manley electrified Kinnick Stadium when he returned a pair of punts for touchdowns in a 59-3, Week 4 win against Western Michigan. It may have been last time that the Hawkeye fans get to cheer the exciting special teams play.
"What helped us a couple of weeks ago, hurt us on Saturday," Ferentz said. "It cost us a field goal and a possession."
INJURY UPDATE: Iowa has benefited from players staying healthy, for the most part, this season. That changed a bit against MSU when starters Martin-Manley, Mark Weisman, Dominic Alvis, Christian Kirksey and Brandon Scherff all missed action with injuries. Martin-Manley and Alvis were knocked out of the game in the first half.
"If we're lucky at all, I think all of the guys have a chance to be pretty good by the end of the week," Ferentz said. "If we were playing Saturday, we'd probably be in some trouble but hopefully by the end of the week, early next week, we should be good."
LESHUN LEFT OUT: Iowa removed the redshirt from true freshman running back LeShun Daniels earlier this seaosn. He carried in the ball 13 times for 54 yards against Western Michigan but as otherwise not seen the ball and rarely been on the field.
"Its tough to get guys in the game," Ferentz said. "We didn't have a lot of possessions, a lot of snaps the other day. That's probably not the best time in the world (to play Daniels). We just thought Damon (Bullock) gave us our best chance and he stepped in (for the injured Weisman) and did a great job."
Coaches sometimes are concerned with pass protection when it comes to young running backs. That doesn't appear to be the case with Daniels.
"That doesn't worry us too much with him, at least," Ferentz said. "That's one thing he does a pretty good job with. That wasn't a big issue, nah."
BETTER OFF: Iowa sits with the same 4-2 record record it did a year ago through six games. Last season, the Hawkeyes dropped their final half dozen games.
"I think we're a better team right now (than at this point in '12), but time will tell," Ferentz said. "Everybody wants to predict the future. I know that's part of -- the fans, the media, everybody. But there is no way to predict the future. I'm just saying, I think all of us feel this is a better football team. We're a more capable team right now. But every year is a new adventure, every game is a new adventure, what have you. But we like the football team. We're on the right path right now.
BACKUP PLANS: Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis sung the praises of starting quarterback Jake Rudock on Tuesday. He also expressed pleasure in his No. 2, C.J. Beathard.
"I told him Sunday, we'd like for him to play more," Davis said. "He's got an extremely quick arm. I think he also has the ability to make some plays with his feet. But it just hasn't been one of those deals."
Beathard, a redshirt freshman, played in the second half of the Western Michigan blowout. He completed 1 of 3 passes, the one being a 54-yard bomb to Damond Powell.
TAKING THE HIGH ROAD: Davis helped Texas win a national championship before being shown the door by head coach Mack Brown, who has come under fire for subpar performances in Austin the last few years.
When some fans wanted Davis out as the Longhorns offensive coordinator, a plane was flown over the football stadium saying as much. Given the chance to comment on his former boss' current predicament, Davis declined.
"I don't have any reaction to that," Davis said.
BRINGING THE HEAT: Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker said his team has blitzed 59 times on 384 snaps this season, which works out to 15 percent of the time.
"We're 73 percent (success rate) when we blitz," Parker said. "We gave up three touchdowns on 59 -- I think it was 15 percent blitz overall. You give up 3 touchdowns and then it's a low percentage. When you look at it, you look how many good plays came out of it. It's a balance. You've got to watch what you're doing."