Congratulations James Morris, ILB; Signed as UDFA by the New England Patriots

James Morris, Iowa Hawkeye ILB

James Morris, Iowa Hawkeye ILB

It’s reported that the New England Patriots have signed Iowa Hawkeye LB James Morris as an undrafted free agent today. James Morris can be considered the epitome of the scholar-athlete and has left an indelible mark on the Hawkeye Football program. Morris was one of 9 true freshman to play for the Hawkeyes in 2010 and has been a force on the Iowa defense ever since.  Morris began starting as a freshman in 2010 and was named Freshman Team All-American by College Football News.

Because of his physical style of play, he leaves Iowa as one of my all-time favorite Hawkeyes and was a clear favorite of mine to photograph.  Clearly a team leader from the moment he took the field, it seemed as though he was in on every play and his motor never stopped.

Morris, from Solon, Iowa, became a permanent team captain as a junior in 2012, continued in 2013 and played alongside LBs Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens in what was arguably the best trio of linebackers in the Big Ten in 2013. For more information on James Morris, visit Hawkeyesports.com .


MorrisHorizontalSack

MorrisSackDance

Photo Sep 28, 5 13 30 PM

Photo Oct 26, 10 19 43 AM

 

 

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Iowa vs. Michigan: The Mark Weisman Touchdown Photo Sequence

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The play that capped the furious Iowa Hawkeye comeback knotting the score at 21 points in the 4th quarter was the 9-yard touchdown run of bruising running back Mark Weisman.  I held down the shutter button during this play and grabbed 10 shots showing the will and determination of Weisman during this run.  As you play through the slideshow, keep your eye on N0. 45 as he bulls his way up the middle breaking tackles for the score.

It’s Just Northwestern: Week 8 Preview

I don’t know about you, but 3 weeks is a long time to be away from Kinnick Stadium for game day when the heart of the B1G season is upon us.  This week, the Hawkeyes welcome those pesky Wildcats from Northwestern to town.  The last time Northwestern traveled to “Beautiful and Historic Kinnick Stadium” we not only won the game, but we were also treated to that awesome card stunt event.   I recall someone sitting behind me saying afterwards “I feel like I just witnessed something special.”  Indeed.

Pre-game Card StuntIowa vs. Northwestern

I doubt we get treated to any of that pre-game fun this year.  But, nonetheless, maybe it will be the Hawkeye offense that gives us something spectacular to witness.  I would be happy with a similar game plan the coaching staff put together against Ohio State.  I just hope we can sustain the positives for 4 full quarters.  With that said, here is a pictorial tribute to the Tight Ends and offensive line.  We will need to be more physical than Northwestern and we will need to contain the scrambling threat from QB Kain Colter, usually a tall order for our defense.

I want some more gritty OL play like we saw against Minnesota and against Ohio State for the first half.

I want some more gritty OL play like we saw against Minnesota and against Ohio State for the first half.

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These tight ends, led by CJ Fiedorowicz are enjoying their elevated role in the Hawkeye offense.

Insert your own "Duzey" reference here.

Insert your own “Duzey” reference here.

Pat Fitzgeral was bewildered near the end of the 2011 game at Kinnick.  No doubt, he has given this look more than a time or two over the last couple weeks.

NW Coach Pat Fitzgerald was bewildered near the end of the 2011 game at Kinnick. No doubt, he has given this look more than a time or two over the last couple weeks.  “He hates Iowa”.

You can't complain about the job DJ Hernande has done with the group of Hawkeye TEs.

You can’t complain about the job DJ Hernandez has done with the group of Hawkeye TEs.

Win or lose, America Needs Farmers

Win or lose, America Needs Farmers

Gameday is Here!! Iowa – NIU 5 Things I’m Looking For

HelmetsIA NIU

In what has got to be the longest off season ever on record in Iowa City, we have finally arrived at Iowa Hawkeye Football 2013!  I don’t think there is any Hawkeye fan out there who doesn’t think this opening game against NIU is anything short of a must-win.  You already know all the past history of what’s gotten us here, so I won’t say the same thing any differently that what has been written before.  But, I am going to keep my eyes on these 5 things, as I think they will be critical in determining if Coach Ferentz has the ship sailing in the right direction.  Here we go:

1.  I need to see some swagger from the Hawkeyes.  I want to know the killer instinct is there.  I watched the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss game on Thursday night.  Neither of those teams are what you would ever call perennial contenders in the SEC.  Heck, I wouldn’t even label them as perennially average, but Thursday night both of these teams looked like they could beat anyone on any given night.  Why?  Swagger.

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Here is an NIU defensive lineman from 2012. I guess face painting is fine if you’re looking for that WCW swag.

Still looks like he could suit up to me.  Crazy.

But, really, I’m talking about some Matt Roth killer instinct swagger!

2. “Smart” better be spelled G-U-T-S.  We’ve heard a lot about the fact that QB Jake Rudock is smart.  That’s just great.  But you don’t have to be smart to execute.  You don’t have to be smart to take some chances.  Temper all that cranial energy with some of that swagger, and I’d bet you have CJ Beathard.  I’m already very concerned that Jake is not the crowd favorite.  And we all know what happens with 70,585 impatient fans and the unpopular choice at QB.  If Iowa falls behind in this game and Jake has engineered a first half full of 3-and-outs, there had better be some shaking up going down on that sideline.  I will be the first to say, if a 2-man QB rotation keeps the defenses guessing, I’m good with that.  Play to win.  Every Quarter.  Period.  Finally, Jake, since you’re so smart, can you just concoct some of the championship-caliber team chemistry, please?

WhoSchoolingWho

Jake Rudock and James Vandenberg engaged in some intimate conversation during the August scrimmage in 2012.

As the conversation really got rolling, maybe the smart guy was the better guy.

As the conversation really got rolling, maybe the smart guy was the better guy. 

Mr. Popularity?

Mr. Popularity?

3.  Special Teams need to be special again.  In the early 2000s when Hawkeye Football really was worthy of the “bullies of the Big Ten” moniker, Special teams play pulled us through time and time again.  We haven’t seen anything special since Adrian Clayborn blocked that punt in Happy Valley to catapult us to the Orange Bowl.  Something special needs to happen again.  I’m not talking about a string of made field goals.  I’m talking a game changing punt block or a kick return for a touchdown.  We need a new Sean Considine to step up and be noticed.   Where, in that locker room, is the next Tim Dwight?  Sorry to inform you this, but the Tim Dwight show happened nearly 20 years ago!  I know Tim was special, but with new coach Chris White coming from the NFL to coach the special teams, I’m expecting to see some dramatic improvement there.

<Insert from my archive here a picture depicting a recent fabulous special teams play.  Oh.  That’s right.  I don’t have any.  Ouch.>

4.  Some solid defensive line play is absolutely critical.  If we let plays get to the linebackers or the secondary, we are in trouble.  Last season, as you’ll recall, it was simply customary for the Hawk defense to give up too many 3rd and long situations to first downs.  Reducing those has got to be Job 1.  I also believe you can’t blitz every play, but there has got to be some pressure on Lynch to keep him moving side to side and force mistakes.

These guys look the part of the classic Iowa DL, especially Carl Davis (71).

These guys look the part of the classic Iowa DL, especially Carl Davis (71).

5.  If all else fails, I’ll probably be fine as long as you just gimme a Yolanda’s pork-on-a-stick. Game day at Kinnick couldn’t have come a moment too soon.

Breakfast of Champions

The Game Day Breakfast of Champions

So with all that said, I’m calling it this way:  After NIU ties the game with a 4th quarter field goal, Iowa wins 24-17 as Jordan Cotton returns a kick for the game winning touchdown.  As sure as my face is stuffed with pork, that’s my swagger.  Go Hawks!

Rewind: Northern Illinois vs. Iowa 2012

If you were at Soldier Field last year watching the game between the Hawkeyes and the Northern Illinois Huskies, you likely remember three things without much reminder:

  1. You did just as much radar and cloud watching as you did game watching, as Chicagoland was being severely threatened by the waterlogged remnants of Hurricane Isaac but you managed to stay dry as the rain stayed just 5 miles south of the stadium.
  2. You remember the Hawkeyes being behind most of the game and growing more and more frustrated as the game wore on because of missed opportunities, until about 4 minutes left in the game and,
  3. The Hawk D pinned Jordan Lynch’s Huskies deep in their own territory, forced a short punt retuned adequately by Micah Hyde setting up the great Damon Bullock 23-yard run off the left end as he  went untouched to the house.

There were other storylines that day, including:

  1. Damon Bullock’s 150 yard day capped by that late touchdown run
  2. James Vandenberg being sacked 5 or 6 times
  3. Mike Meyer going 3 of 4 on field goals, missing a 40-yarder.
  4. NIU QB Jordan Lynch becoming a household name, where in this game he did more with his legs (119 yards) than his arm (6 of 16 for less than 60 yards) and scoring a 73 yard TD run of his own.
  5. The Hawkeyes controlled the clock for 38 minutes of offensive plays, but missed several scoring opportunities, which became the script of the Hawkeye offense the rest of the season.

Here are some shots I took from the game last year highlighting some of the players who will return for the season opener for both schools – a game the Hawks simply must win.

The Husky DL pressured QB Vandenberg all day sacking him 6 times.  2 of these 3 linemen return in 2013 for NIU.

The Husky DL pressured QB Vandenberg all day sacking him 6 times. 2 of these 3 linemen return in 2013 for NIU.

Carl Davis on the bottom of the pile revocering a fumble setting up excellent field position for the Hawkeyes

Carl Davis on the bottom of the pile revocering a fumble setting up excellent field position for the Hawkeyes

Kirksey fights off his blocker and goes for the tackle

Kirksey fights off his blocker and goes for the tackle

Tanner Miller tackles Jordan Lynch in the open field

Tanner Miller tackles Jordan Lynch in the open field

Mike Meyer kicked this 34-yard field goal early in the 1st quarter to give the Hawkeyes a 3-0 lead

Mike Meyer kicked this 34-yard field goal early in the 1st quarter to give the Hawkeyes a 3-0 lead

Hawkeyes Soldier Field Swarm

Hawkeyes Soldier Field Swarm

This fan was calling for a safety late in the 4th quarter.  Many wondered why NIU did not take a safety to avoid having to punt from deep in their end zone.

This fan was calling for a safety late in the 4th quarter. Many wondered why NIU did not take a safety to avoid having to punt from deep in their end zone.

Damon Bullock with the go ahead touchdown for the Hawkeyes as it proved to be the game winner.

Damon Bullock with the go ahead touchdown for the Hawkeyes as it proved to be the game winner.

Davis celebrates his fumble recovery off Joe Gaglione's forced fumble of Lynch

Davis celebrates his fumble recovery off Joe Gaglione’s forced fumble of Lynch

Top Shots 2: Iowa vs. Nebraska

Captains for both squads meet at midfield for the opening coin toss.

Here is another set of shots I took at Kinnick on Black Friday as Iowa played Nebraska for the Heroes Trophy.  As always, each shot is clickable to a full screen view.

Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah tries to elude Hawkeye DB BJ Lowery. Nebraska used Abdullah extensively in the first half and then brought in Rex Burkhead to wear down the Hawkeye defense in the second half. Unfortunately for Hawk fans, that strategy worked to perfection for the Cornhuskers.

Here is that Rex Burkhead guy being brought down by defensive lineman Darian Cooper.

Micah Hyde (18) runs upfield during his best punt return of the day.

Hawkeye RB Mark Weisman produces that familiar stiff arm to get himself a few more yards on this carry.

This shot shows the net result from the shot I posted yesterday of Greg Garmon running into the Big Red wall. He did manage a nifty spin move to get a few yards from nothing.

The Husker offensive line showed a lot of versatility in their shifts and power sweeps as this shot shows.

After a Nebraska player was shaken up on a play, Cornhusker coach Bo Pelini comes onto the field to check on his injured player, then offered this glance over to Kirk Ferentz on the Hawkeye sideline.  Not quite sure what that was about but it was not the same friendly look he gave during the pre game handshake.

Hawkeye senior QB James vandenberg runs back to the Iowa sideline with Mark Weisman after Vandenberg rushed a yard for his last touchdown as an Iowa Hawkeye.

Nebraska won the game and right to possess the Heroes Game Trophy for another year.

Hope Floats: Purdue 27, Iowa 24

Danny Hope and Kirk Ferentz exchanging pleasantries prior to kickoff.

There is still hope for Danny Hope.  However, Iowa’s hopes for a bowl game, took another crushing blow.

4 in a row.  Hawkeye fans are accustomed to 4 in a row.  4 wins in a row, that is.  Well, this day marks 4 losses in a row.  4 B1G Conference game losses in a row for the first time since 1999, which was early in Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa.  Iowa trailed most of the game but it was never out of reach, although with this offense, a 10-point deficit seems like a major mountain to climb.  Iowa knotted the game at 24 on a field goal late in the 4th quarter, then sputtered by attempting to go for it on 4th and 3 instead of attempting a 41 yard FG into the breeze.  Of course, the Hawkeyes chose to complete a 1 yard pass on that 4th and 3 try.  How many times have we seen this Greg Davis-engineered offense run a play where most passing routes never cross the first down marker?  It would probably be a tossup when comparing that scenario to the number of dropped balls that killed drives.  Whatever the scenario, the number is countless.

Here is the pass from James Vandenberg on 4th down with 3 to go with about 21 seconds left in the game. Note Keenan Davis at the top right of the shot, which looks like his route is beyond the 1st down marker and a clean passing lane in that direction for a comeback route.

Instead the pass goes to a well covered Zach Derby whose route does not cross the 3 yard distance and is completed for only a 1 yard gain.

 

So, here are some additional shots I was able to capture from the action inside Kinnick today.  My vantage point today was from the 50 yard line, a mere 4 rows up from the Hawkeye bench.  I’ve never sat there before.  The experience was awesome even though we came up short on the scorecard.  Thanks to the no-shows for making them available for me and my Kinnick-rookie neighbors Don and Eli.  I captured a lot of new scenes from that vantage point.  Enjoy the shots.  More to come throughout this week.

 

Jordan Cotton takes the games opening kick as Tevaun Smith prepares to make his block.

In honor of Veteran’s Day, the crowd at Kinnick is treated to a flyover across the bright blue skies. The weather was 70 degrees and sunny at kickoff.

 

Steve Bigach (54) forces a fumble which the Hawkeyes recover.

Hey, now. This looks like a “personal foul” to me.

Last year I coached in the Super Bowl.  Here is when a picture is worth a few choice words….

Coach Darrell Wilson congratulates Micah Hyde on his fumble recovery for a touchdown.

 

Freshman WR Tevaun Smith saw a lot of action in the game for the Hawkeyes. He makes a nice grab here.

You Hawk fans know what that is. That’s Kirk’s naughty card. The naughty card got a workout today. More on that in an upcoming post….

 

Purdue QB Robert Marve makes a throw here, coming right at you.

When a picture is worth a few more choice words, Part 2. These choice words were aimed right at the DBs.

 

14 seconds was all Purdue needed to move within field goal range. The Hawkeye defense gave up a lot of yardage quickly in the final drive. With 2 seconds left, the kick was up….

….and good. Boiler up. Beaks down.