Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Kirk Herbstreit: Ferentz the top coaching performance in Week 3

By SEAN BOCK 20 hours ago

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit publishes his list of the top team and coaching performances after every week during the college football season.
Herbstreit listed his top performances on Monday, and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was awarded Herbstreit's top coaching performance of the weekend.

The Hawkeyes went into Ames on Saturday to square off with in-state rival Iowa State, and took care of business topping the Cyclones 18-17. In a game that had two weather delays totaling 2 hours and 55 minutes, the Iowa special teams and defense came up in the clutch to give the Hawkeyes their third win of the season.
Ferentz addressed the struggles of this year's Cy-Hawk game in his Sunday Conversation on

"What we didn't know is that it would become a nighttime game, which makes it that much harder," said Ferentz. "The delays threw a monkey wrench in there. The players handled things well, the staff had a good plan, too. The players, their ability to adjust to the variance in times and then with the second one which got a little challenging with the length of the delay (2:06). Guys started getting hungry and all that, so we had managers go out and getting food."
"All in all, everybody handled it well. Luckily we weren't worn out. Those were three pregame warmups we went through which is unheard of. All that stuff going on, yet the players stayed focused and competed better as the game went on."

Iowa got a nice boost from a few different players.

One of the big performers of the night was kicker Keith Duncan, who converted on all four of his field-goal attempts, including the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. Duncan is known for his walk-off field goal to upset Michigan in 2016. The past two seasons, Duncan didn't get as much action due to the emergence of Miguel Recinos.

Instead of transferring, Duncan kept working, and was named the starting kicker this year and has delivered thus far. Duncan was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

Iowa cornerback DJ Johnson was named the Big Ten Freshman of the week after starting his first collegiate game on Saturday due to multiple injuries in the secondary. Johnson made a couple of rookie mistakes during the game, but adjusted as time went on, and came up with a pass deflection that would've resulted in a huge gain for Iowa State.

"I love adversity,” Johnson said. “Adversity, it shows us who we really are. So when (the double-pass for a touchdown) happened, I just kept talking. I went to the bench and prayed and then I just kept playing and everything just worked out.”

Right below Ferentz in second place on Herbstreit's list is Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton, who lead his team to victory on the road at Illinois, one of the biggest upsets of the weekend.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Huskers in the NFL: Week 1

By MICHAEL BRUNTZ 20 hours ago

(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)
Rex Burkhead once again proved to be a do-everything back for the New England Patriots in week one of NFL action.
Burkhead helped New England get off to a good start with a 33-3 win over Pittsburgh by carrying eight times for 44 yards and making five catches for 41 yards in just 32 offensive snaps. Burkhead also played 15 snaps for the Patriots on special teams.
In what was a cool moment for Burkhead, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady came to the line of scrimmage, and audibled to a new play by saying, "Lincoln, Lincoln," before turning and handing the ball to Burkhead.
The former Husker showed he still has some shiftiness on the play.

Burkhead was the bright spot in what was an otherwise quiet weekend for former Huskers in the NFL. Here's a quick look through some of the stats.  
Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Had seven tackles, including one for loss in Tampa's loss to the 49ers. 

Chris Jones, Arizona Cardinals: Made three tackles and defended one pass in Arizona's game against Detroit. 

Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets: Made one catch for -4 yards against Buffalo. 

Alex Lewis, New York Jets: Appeared on two special teams snaps for the Jets against Buffalo. 

Brent Qvale, New York Jets: Was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season. 

Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots: Carried eight times for 44 yards and made five catches for 41 yards against Pittsburgh.

Spencer Long, Buffalo Bills: Appeared in three special teams snaps for the Bills against the Jets. 

Joshua Kalu, Tennessee Titans: Was placed on injured reserve prior to the season opener against Cleveland. 

Andy Janovich, Denver Broncos: Was not active against the Oakland Raiders because of a pectoral issue. 

Brett Maher, Dallas Cowboys: Made all five of his extra point attempts against the New York Giants. 

Maliek Collins, Dallas Cowboys: Played in 51 defense snaps, but did not record a tackle against the New York Giants. 

Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens: It was a quiet day for Koch, who punted one time for 56 yards in Baltimore's 59-10 win over Miami. 

Nate Gerry, Philadelphia Eagles: Appeared on two defense plays and 24 special teams snaps for the Eagles. 

Prince Amukamara, Chicago Bears: Started at corner for the Bears, making three tackles and defending two passes against Green Bay. 

Ameer Abdullah, Minnesota Vikings: Carried two times for eight yards in Minnesota's win over Atlanta. Abdullah appeared on four offensive plays and 14 special teams plays. 

Ndamukong Suh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Had four tackles, including one for loss in Tampa Bay's loss to the 49ers.

Devine Ozigbo, Jacksonville Jaguars: Ozigbo was a healthy scratch by the Jaguars against the Kansas City Chiefs and did not play.
Luke Gifford, Dallas Cowboys: Was not active against the New York Giants. 
Cethan Carter, Cincinnati Bengals: Made one special teams tackle for the Bengals against the Seahawks. 

Nick Gates, New York Giants: Played in three offensive snaps and five special teams snaps against Dallas.

Suspended List: 
Richie Incognito, Oakland Raiders
Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

James White, Rex Burkhead unsung heroes of Week 1

3 hours ago

While the Patriots defense, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett stole all the headlines, Rex Burkhead and James White also deserve recognition.

Unquestionably, the three biggest stars of the New England Patriots‘ Sunday night thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers were Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Bill Belichick’s defense as a whole.
Dorsett and Gordon together combined for all three of New England’s touchdowns; they also accounted for nearly a third of Tom Brady’s completions, and nearly half of the Patriots’ total yards through the air. The New England defense held the Pittsburgh offense to just 32 total rushing yards on the ground, and just three measly points on the scoreboard.
It’s no surprise then that these were the dominant storylines coming out of the game. But lost in all this justifiable excitement – not to mention all the Antonio Brown hoopla – was the terrific performance of a pair of Patriots running backs.
Especially with Sony Michel struggling to get much of anything going on the ground, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels turned to James White and Rex Burkhead to power the New England rushing attack. With both players as much a threat to catch the ball as they are to run with it, the Steelers defense was unable to stack the box when either was in the game… the way they routinely did for Michel.
The result was yards, yards, and more yards.
Burkhead actually finished the game as New England’s leading rusher, averaging a robust 5.5 yards per attempt en route to 44 yards on just eight carries. White had an even higher average at 6.5 yards per clip, finishing with 26 yards on his four carries. Together, they accounted for nearly 70% of the Patriots’ ground game on a night when Michel averaged less than one yard per tote.
Again, part of that production comes from defenses having to account for their abilities as receivers.
Sure enough, both White and Burkhead did plenty of damage through the air as well against Pittsburgh, finishing as the team’s fourth and fifth-leading receivers on the night, respectively. White had five receptions on seven targets for 56 yards. Burkhead caught five of his eight targets for 41 yards.
The Patriots have a long and prolific history employing pass-catching running backs who can do it all for Tom Brady and the team. Whether it’s been Shane Vereen, Dion Lewis, or Kevin Faulk, New England loves the mismatch that these Swiss Army knife-types create against opposing defenses.
James White has enjoyed a higher profile over the years thanks in no small part to his phenomenal, MVP-worthy performance against the Atlanta Falcons in the Patriots’ historic Super Bowl 51 comeback. Still, he’s routinely undervalued and criminally underestimated by anyone outside of PPR fantasy football players.
Rex Burkhead, on the other hand, is probably a relative unknown to anyone outside of the six New England states or Ohio (where he once played for the Cincinnati Bengals). Even though he’s struggled a bit with injuries during his NFL career, when he’s healthy, he represents one of the more dynamic two-way offensive players in the league today.

Both players are still young as well. Burkhead is just 29 years old and White is only 27; together, they represent a bright future in New England as reliable safety valves for Brady, who also know how to move the sticks when they have to as pure running backs. Both men deserve more recognition for their solid contributions on Sunday night.

T.J. Hockenson's record debut gives Lions a glimpse of what's to come

Michael Rothstein
ESPN Staff Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Detroit Lions tight ends Jesse James and Logan Thomas were talking before Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals and they had an inkling of what might happen. They’d studied the tape. They’d been around the league, and everything they had watched throughout the preseason and the spring told them both the same thing.

They thought Lions rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson was going to have a big day.

“All of OTAs, all camp, [Hockenson] came in with his head down and just practiced and practiced and it was at that point we all, both of us knew,” Thomas said. “The rest of the team was put on notice that he was going to have a chance to be really, really good in this league.”

T.J. Hockenson set a rookie record for receiving yards for tight ends in a debut. AP Photo/Darryl Webb

On Sunday, the rest of the NFL saw exactly what the two Lions tight ends had been describing all along. In front of a crowd that included approximately 100 family members and friends who made the trip to Arizona from his hometown of Chariton, Iowa, Hockenson did something better than any rookie tight end to come before him.
In his first game, Detroit's first-round pick caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown -- the most receiving yards since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger for a rookie tight end in his debut. This all bodes well for Detroit in its future with the soft-spoken Hockenson, who deflected all excitement about his individual performance because it came in a 27-27 tie that saw the Lions blow an 18-point fourth-quarter lead.

“He’s a beast,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “He’s been working really hard. He got a taste of what the NFL is all about today and he’s a great player, great teammate and I’m excited to see what he does.”

It’s clear that if the Lions' offense is going to be successful in 2019, it will be with Hockenson playing a large role. He led Detroit in yards Sunday and -- surprisingly considering the Lions have two of the better deep-ball receivers in the league in Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay -- yards per reception (21.8). Hockenson is the kind of matchup problem the Lions were hoping for when they took him as the eighth overall pick this spring.

Few teams will have a player who can be a good matchup against his 6-foot-5, 247-pound frame. You just likely won’t hear about it from Hockenson, who appeared bothered and confused by the outcome of the game; he said he had never been part of a tie before.

There were also obvious areas he can grow and things that will come in time. A couple of plays, including a deep pass in the fourth quarter where it appeared Hockenson was sitting on the route and Matthew Stafford threw it deep, were miscommunications that will get worked on over time as the tight end and quarterback develop a rapport.

“We’re just trying to throw it up and see if we can make a play,” Hockenson said. “He’s scrambling back there and it’s something we need to get on the same page, and that’s what we need to do.”
Despite his big day, Hockenson was more down and critical than anything else. He said he was happy to have played, unhappy with the result.
But he did, at least, pull one veteran move even as a rookie. His first touchdown catch? He kept the ball.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Detroit Lions' T.J. Hockenson is no Eric Ebron, sets NFL record in debut

Chris Thomas, Detroit Free Press
Published 8:23 p.m. ET Sept. 8, 2019 | Updated 8:26 p.m. ET Sept. 8, 2019

The Detroit Lions collapsed on Sunday.
But at least they have a record-setting tight end. 
Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson had a debut to savor despite Sunday's 27-27 tie with the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona. The Lions blew a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter.
Hockenson caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown to cap the most prolific debut for a tight end since AAFC-NFL merger in 1950; he bested the 123-yard performance Monty Stickles had with San Francisco in 1960
It also was the first 100-yard performance by a Lions tight end since the final game of the 2011 season. 

Hockenson was drafted eighth overall in April's draft, becoming the third tight end taken by the Lions in the first round since 2009. 
The pick made the Lions' an easy punchline after the draft, considering the other tight ends — Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron — failed to endear fans during their tenures in Detroit (let's just say, there were a lot of dropped passes)

Ebron's exit was the most unceremonious. The Lions cut him in March 2018, then watched him become a Pro Bowler in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts. In April, when the Lions drafted Hockenson, Ebron tweeted laughing emojis at Dan Orlovsky after the ex-Lions quarterback praised the pick on Twitter. 

Hockenson was touted as every-down tight end, someone who could be as effective in the running game as the passing game. 
On Sunday, he appeared to be as advertised. 
He was targeted early and often by quarterback Matthew Stafford and figures to be an integral part of a Darrell Bevell offense known to emphasize tight ends.

Former Iowa Star TJ Hockenson Dominates His NFL Debut

September 8, 2019 @ 7:23pm » Tzvi Machlin SHARES  386

BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 13: T.J. Hockenson #38 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs for a touchdown against the Indiana Hossiers at Memorial Stadium on October 13, 2018 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The Detroit Lions are currently dominating the Arizona Cardinals, leading them 24-9 in the middle of the fourth quarter. While there is plenty of credit to go around, rookie tight end and former Iowa star TJ Hockenson has really shined.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 20 passes for over 300 yards today. But five of those receptions for 124 yards have come from the rookie Hockenson, as did a fourth-quarter touchdown that may have iced the game.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the 124 yards by Hockenson also made history.
Hockenson now holds the NFL record for the most receiving yards by a tight end his pro debut.

Coming out of Iowa, Hockenson was one of the best tight end prospects in several years. He had 49 receptions led the team in receiving yards with 760.
The Lions ended up picking Hockenson No. 8 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. It was the highest selection for any tight end since Vernon Davis went sixth overall in 2006.
He was also the highest Iowa selection since Brandon Scherff in 2015, and only the eighth Iowa player in history to go in the top ten.
Hockenson is quickly proving to be an excellent NFL ambassador for the school aptly nicknamed “Tight End U.”

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