The Iowa Hawkeyes have one weapon the Gophers need to keep under control if they want to win Saturday, and that’s Kevonte Martin-Manley, the 6-foot junior wide receiver and punt returner for the Hawkeyes.
While Manley has 20 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown this season, his biggest contribution has been in the return game. He has seven punt returns for 218 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came last week in the Hawkeyes’ 59-3 rout of Western Michigan.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was concerned about his special teams units coming into this season, but Martin-Manley has alleviated some of those worries.
“We’re not there yet,” Ferentz told the Cedar Rapids Gazette this week. “But at least we’re, I think, starting to make some strides. That was a concern a couple of weeks ago, a big concern.”
Another Hawkeye the Gophers will need to stop is junior running back Mark Weisman. He rushed for 177 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries last year in Iowa’s 31-13 victory over the Gophers. This year Weisman is averaging 117 rushing yards per game.
• The Big Ten started handing out Freshman of the Week football awards in 2010 and two Gophers, both quarterbacks, have earned the honor: Philip Nelson won the award last year after throwing for 246 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-28 victory over Purdue, and Mitch Leidner won it this week after rushing for 151 yards and four touchdowns in thumping San Jose State 43-24.
• Jerry Kill and the Gophers coaching staff must also feel good about their No. 1 recruit for next season, Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones. In three games this season, Jones has 51 carries for 513 yards, 11 touchdowns and only one fumble. That’s averaging 171 yards per game.
• The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a story this week about team founder Art Rooney saying that he believed the Steelers’ 1976 team was the greatest in franchise history, even though it lost 24-7 in the AFC Championship Game at Oakland. That Steelers team started the season 1-5 before running off nine consecutive victories.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org