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Mid Season Awards

Mid Season Awards

10/7/2002 by Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation

 

Can the season really be half over already? The optimist in me wants to say, ‘But Jon, that means that there is still another half to play.’

That is true, but as fun as the ride has been following the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2002, I just don’t want it to end.

After six games, Iowa is 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten and ranked 17th in the nation by the Associated Press. Teams that Iowa is ranked ahead of on 10/7/02: LSU, Kansas State, Nebraska, Colorado, Washington, Wisconsin, Auburn and Alabama, among others.

The Florida Gators check in at #16. Penn State is ranked 15 th and Iowa beat them at their house two weeks ago.

Raise your hand if you felt Iowa would be 5-1 or better at this juncture. One…ok there is three. Alright, five of you. No, six, I didn’t see you way there in the back.

The vast majority of Iowa fans polled on Hawkeyenation.com earlier this year felt that 7 or 8 wins would be the final tally. With seemingly easy outs against Indiana (road game) and Northwestern (home) still on the schedule, seven wins seems like a lock.

Iowa hosts a dangerous Michigan State team this weekend and will host Wisconsin on November 2nd . Iowa will also travel to Michigan later this month and they close the regular season at Minnesota, never an easy game.

But clearly, Iowa is in a position to have something to say with regards to the Big Ten champion and it’s been at least five years since they could say that.

Without further adieu, here are our mid-season awards.

OFFENSIVE MVP: This was a difficult choice. First of all, none of the skill position players would be turning in the big numbers without the offensive line, so the big uglies received major consideration. Fred Russell is ripping off yardage at a clip that has not been seen at Iowa outside of Tavian Banks in 1997.

Nate Kaeding is Mr. Perfect and is turning in a season for the ages.

But my vote goes to Brad Banks. Banks is third in the nation in passing efficiency and he has thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Banks has also rallied Iowa to back to back wins on Iowa’s final possession of the game. Two weeks ago, he found CJ Jones in the end zone in Iowa’s 42-35 win in OT at Penn State in front of 107,000+ fans.

Last week, he led Iowa 87 yards in eight plays in just 1:09 with no timeouts remaining.

He picked up 48 of those yards on the ground with two runs and Iowa got the rest of those yards through the air, culminating in Dallas Clark’s seven-yard touchdown reception. Banks was cool in the pocket and the biggest word to describe him this season is simply: poise.

Iowa has a lot of weapons and the offensive line is paving the way, but the level of success will ultimately fall on the shoulders of Banks. DEFENIVE MVP: When you have the 2 nd best defense in the nation against the run, it’s hard to pick the player who has meant the most to the team. Colin Cole, Jared Clauss, Howard Hodges and Jonathon Babineaux are flat out getting it done. Most of the time, those four are the only players stopping the run. Clauss just played possibly the best game of his Iowa career against Purdue and Iowa’s defensive ends, including backup Matt Roth, really helped preserve the win against Penn State.

Right now, my nod goes to Colin Cole who leads the Hawkeyes with seven tackles for loss and four sacks and is third in the Big Ten in both categories.

Also vying for honors would be Iowa free-safety Derek Pagel who has two interceptions to his credit and is second on the team in tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS MVP: Nate Kaeding is a football player in a kicker’s body.

He is as mentally tough as they come and he is enjoying one of the best seasons ever seen by an Iowa kicker or any kicker for that matter. Nate the Great is 11 of 11 on his 2002 attempts, including six of six from 40 yards and beyond. He has hit two 51-yard field goals and a career best 55 yarder as well.

He is 27 of 28 on PAT’s with his only miss coming against Penn State on a blocked attempt. He is riding a school record streak of 14 straight field goals made which bettered his own school record streak of 11 in a row snapped last year against Penn State.

Kaeding has shortened the field for the Hawkeyes, as basically he is in range when the Hawkeyes cross the opponent’s 40-yard line.

Honorable Mention goes to David Bradley, Sean Considine, Scott Boleyn and Matt Roth.

MOST IMPROVED: Again, a number of players could vie for this honor. Fred Russell is among the nation’s leading rushers and is tops in the Big Ten. Mo Brown has come out of nowhere and is finally realizing the promise that so many people had pegged for him.

Jared Clauss, Jonathon Babineaux and Howard Hodges are all performing at a championship level and Brad Banks is more comfortable this year than last year. Iowa’s special teams are viable candidates.

But punter David Bradley has meant a lot to the team thus far and he will continue to be a very important factor down the stretch.

Bradley had a poor season last year, a point that has been well documented. But in 2002, he has answered the bell and is averaging 39.7 yards per punt. If Iowa is going to challenge for a league title or a BSC bowl, Bradley will have a lot to say about that.

SPOT DUTY ALL-STAR: This goes to the player who doesn’t start but still is putting forth an effort that is key to the team’s overall success. I have to go special teams here and I am going to split this one up. Scott Boleyn and Sean Considine have been outstanding on special teams this year. Considine has blocked two punts and Boleyn has been excellent as a gunner on the punt coverage team. Those two get the nod.

Matt Roth has been a great wedge buster and ball hawk on kick off coverage and Jermire

Roberts is always coming off of the pile on kickoff coverage.

COACH OF THE MID-YEAR:; How about a big hat’s off to Lester Erb and any other Iowa coach that has had a hand in special teams. Since Erb is listed specifically for special teams, he can divide up this on-paper mid-season honor.

Iowa is allowing just 14.5 yards per kickoff return and a paltry 3.9 yards per punt return.

Last year, Iowa allowed 19.0 yards per kickoff return and 7.5 yards per punt return. Not only is that a great statistical improvement, but the numbers that

Iowa’s coverage units are putting up are championship caliber. Iowa is also averaging 37.5 net yards per punt this year compared to 32.6 a year ago.

Nine of Bradley’s punts have been downed inside the 20 compared to 12 all of last season. Iowa allowed three blocked punts last year to none this season and they have matched last year’s total of two blocked punts of their own.

When the smoke clears on this year and if Iowa’s special teams keep up this pace, they will be one of the main reasons for success and those numbers will rank those units among the nations best collectively.

FRESHMAN OF THE MID-YEAR: Even though he is taking a lot of heat, Antwan Allen is getting better each week, which is all that you can ask of a player being thrown to the wolves as a starter during his redshirt freshman season, so he gets our nod.

Jovon Johnson appears more than game and Clinton Solomon will be a good one before his time at Iowa is finished. Abdul Hodge will also help Iowa replace Fred Barr next year and may end up being the better player.

GAME OF THE YEAR: It’s a tossup between Penn State and Purdue. Iowa gave up double-digit fourth quarter leads in both contests and Brad Banks threw touchdown passes on Iowa’s final drive to win both games. I am going to have to pick the Penn State win at this juncture, since it was played before the largest crowd to have ever witnessed an Iowa football game and Iowa also exorcised the demons that were left over from the Iowa State loss.

In last week’s comeback win against Purdue, Iowa could draw on their trip to Happy Valley as a positive experience and they did not falter on the last drive, even though the offense was stagnant for much of the day.

# # # # # # # # #

With six Big Ten games remaining (three at home and three on the road), Iowa has a great shot to remain in the thick of the league championship race. Is 4-2 being too optimistic?

In addition to facing a dangerous and explosive Michigan State team, Iowa travels to Michigan and Minnesota and hosts Wisconsin.

I said before the season began that there were four swing games that would the difference between 6-6 and 10-2. Iowa State, Purdue, Michigan State and Wisconsin. I picked Iowa to lose three of those four games in my preseason prognostication, with the win coming against Purdue.

With just one win against Michigan State and Wisconsin, I feel that Iowa is guaranteed an 8-win season. Just two Iowa teams have won more than eight games in a year since the start of the 1988 season and just seven teams in Iowa’s football history have exceeded that total. Iowa would still have a bowl game to play at that point.

If Iowa were to close out the regular season with a mark of 8-4, I would be very happy with that total, even though that means a 3-3 finish during the next six games.

But 9-3 is a possibility as well while 10-2 might be pushing it.

We will all know more after this week’s game against the Spartans.


Hawkeye NationHawkeye Nation was founded by Jon Miller, and later acquired by Rivals and Sports Illustrated. You can visit them at HawkeyeNation.com

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Mid Season Awards - Summary of Iowa football and basketball games