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Sunday roundup: Christensen showed poise under pressure

IOWA CITY — The stats weren’t spectacular for Jake Christensen on Saturday, 4-for-5, 27 yards passing, but his play was as clutch as can be after he came on the field cold at the end of the third quarter of Iowa’s 17-5 win over Iowa State.

Consider the circumstances …

A week earlier, Christensen, who had entered the season as the incumbent starter at quarterback, was booed off the field by his own fans. Booed off the field on a day he completed 8 of 12 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception. Booed off the field on a day his team won 42-0. That’s pretty harsh. 

After that game against FIU, the game during which he was booed by Hawkeyes fans and lost his starting job to Ricky Stanzi, Christensen met the media, just as he did after every game last season, and answered all the questions head on. At times, it looked like he fought back tears. Showing up in that interview room was as gutsy as anything I’ve seen a college football player do on the field. You have to give him a lot of credit for that. He said all the right things and deferred to the coaches on the question of which quarterback should start. You could tell he was hurting.

Then Monday, he found out he’d officially lost his starting job to Stanzi and would come off the bench — and, perhaps, not play at all — against the Cyclones.

So, what did he do?

“He probably had his best week of practice since he’s been here,” coach Kirk Ferentz said, “which speaks volumes about the way he handled a tough circumstance.”

Then Saturday, after Stanzi struggled through three quarters (5-for-14, 95 yards, 2 INTs), Christensen was called upon to come off the sidelines and enter the game and revive a sputtering Iowa offense that had managed only three points to that point in the game. He completed his first three passes and called an audible that led to a 20-yard Shonn Greene run and, eventually, an Iowa touchdown, the clinching touchdown.

After the game, after he lifted the Cy-Hawk Trophy, Christensen met the media again. He was asked how he’d kept his poise coming off the bench.

“I’ve played 13, 14 games here,” he said. “This was just another walk in the park.”

It couldn’t have been as easy as that, but Christensen handled the situation the way you’d hope. And he’s got his hat back in the ring for the starting job.  

Random thoughts from Saturday’s game

- Iowa’s defense is deep. It was amazing how many people played, in the front seven and in the secondary, and I really didn’t see much drop off in performance. Defensive end Broderick Binns and cornerback Shaun Prater were two reserves who really stood out to me.

- Ferentz had blood on his shirt in the postgame press conference, a spot on his stomach and another smudge on his shoulder. I asked him if he’d gotten in a fight on the field or something and he said something like this: “No. I rubbed up against someone out there, I think. Not sure on that. … No, I haven’t been shot … yet.” Shot? Was he alluding to his 3-6 record against Iowa State before Saturday?

- Three great storylines came out of Saturday, the kind you enjoy writing about when you’re in my position. 1) Christensen coming back a week after getting booed, obviously. 2) Andy Brodell completing his return from the hamstring injury. And 3) Pat Angerer playing really well in his first start at middle linebacker. Angerer’s a great kid who has had nothing but bad luck since he came to Iowa. It’s nice to see him having success this season.

- I’m wondering if Ferentz will continue to use both Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker at place-kicker. He doesn’t seem to mind having them split reps. I’m a believer in the one-kicker system. Don’t know about you? 

- I didn’t get it in my notebook yesterday, but Brett Greenwood dislocated a finger at some point during the game. He had it put back in on the sidelines and went right back on the field. Not sure if that was before or after his interception.

Recruiting watch

(weekly recap on players committed to Iowa)

- Sioux City Heelan running back Brandon Wegher’s team put an emphasis on its passing game early in a 34-0 win over Desison-Schleswig. Wegher, right, still had 227 yards on 24 carries and scored four rushing touchdowns (80, 3, 3, 3). He now has 800 yards in three games for Iowa’s top-ranked Class 3A team.

- Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic running back Brad Rogers had a big second half in his team’s 31-14 win over St. John’s Jesuit. Rogers ran for 105 yards and two scores in the final two quarters. He did fumble once on offense, but atoned for it with a fumble recovery from his linebacker position later in the game. He and teammate Mike Marrow, an Alabama recruit, have been nicknamed the “Bash Brothers.” Gotta love that. Rogers finished the St. John’s game with 126 yards on 25 carries. He has 273 yards and four touchdowns in three games, having missed a game two weeks ago with a bruised left knee.

- Mount Pleasant’s Jordan Cotton carried 14 times for 211 yards and three touchdowns (15, 77, 29) and also had a 31-yard receiving touchdown in his team’s 47-6 rout of Fort Madison. His younger brother Darian, a sophomore, had 129 yards on seven carries and returned an interception 20 yards for a TD.

- No stats available on Cedar Rapids Washington wideout Keenan Davis, but his team beat Prairie 20-7 in sloppy conditions. I do know Washington only had 94 yards passing and committed five turnovers.

- Brett Van Sloten’s Decorah team beat New Hampton, 24-6.

- Drew Clark’s Marion team lost to De Witt, 10-7.

- Solon junior James Morris went nuts again, running for 221 yards on 19 carries. He had scoring runs of 55, 66 and 3 yards for the top-ranked team in Iowa’s Class 2A, which beat Wilton, 48-7.  

2 Responses to “Sunday roundup: Christensen showed poise under pressure”

  1. David Says:

    I saw Greenwood’s injury. I think it was early in the 4th quarter when he was defending a pass. He stood up and you could see his pinkie pointing the wrong direction…pretty gross. So I was surprised to see him back in the game right away, and I think his interception came a series or two later.

  2. Adam Says:

    I’m fine with two kickers. It’s become clear that Mossbrucker is the more accurate of the two, but Murray has the stronger leg. Let Mossbrucker handle the short stuff and Murray do kickoffs and longer field goals (which seems to be what’s happening). If you’ve got two guys who’s skills complement each other like that, why not take advantage?