Duncan Sets Big Ten Field Goal Record

John Bohnenkamp

Keith Duncan set a Big Ten record for field goals in a single season, and was booed doing it.

Well, he wasn’t booed. It was more the decision for Iowa to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Illinois 6-yard line in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game at Kinnick Stadium.

Duncan’s 24-yard field goal was good, one of his four on the day, one of his 27 this season, in Iowa’s 19-10 victory.

That field goal was the one that set the conference record, and it put Iowa up 16-7.

“I’m like, ‘We’re putting points on the board, why are you guys so upset?’” Duncan said, laughing. “I mean, it’s a two-possession game, we should be cheering.”

Touchdowns, of course, are what the fans want, but it’s not the way things have gone this season. Iowa, 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten, is where it’s at largely because of the way Duncan has kicked.

This was his third game this season with four field goals. He did it in an 18-17 win at Iowa State, a 26-20 win over Purdue, and now this game. All three games were wins.

“He’s picked us up all year,” quarterback Nate Stanley said.

The Duncan field goal that led to such unhappiness came when it looked like the Hawkeyes were going to go for it on fourth down. After some hesitation on coach Kirk Ferentz's part, the offense was running off the field and the field-goal unit was rushing to get into position.

“For a minute I was thinking emotionally and then I started thinking logically, so we got (Duncan) out there, and if we took a penalty there, so what, it was pretty close, a chip shot,” Ferentz said. “But it was the smart thing to do. It just took me a while to come to that conclusion, I guess.”

Duncan’s career has had a twisting journey. He was the kicker in 2016 as a freshman, hitting the game-winner on a Saturday night against a top-5 Michigan team. The next two seasons, he was not the kicker — the physics of the position had Miguel Recinos as the starter.

Recinos is gone, and Duncan won the job this season over Caleb Shudak, who handles kickoffs.

“I'm not saying (Duncan) had a bad attitude, OK, but when somebody beats you out, they win the job in competition, an older guy, a lot of times you just see guys just kind of ... I call it a second-team cocoon, even where it's a pretty safe zone, because ‘I don't really have to play on Saturday so I can kind of like do this, do that,’” Ferentz said. “I think sometimes guys don't compete or practice, prepare the way they need to. And he went through a little bit of that, right after it was over.

“But then he went back to work, and he and Caleb have just been ... I swear to God, it's a coin toss with those two guys. It's a real credit to both of them. That to me is the story is just the attitude. I didn't know he could break the record today. I had no idea. But to me it's more about his attitude, the work ethic he's displayed, and he's a great teammate. Every day you see him, he's got a smile on his face. He's a positive guy.”

Duncan said he’s just an “average ability-wise kicker,” but his success this season has been all about preparation. He’s 27-of-32 in field goals this season, 22-of-22 in extra points.

He knows fans would rather have him kicking extra points than field goals. But Iowa’s offensive struggles are what they are, so, as Duncan said, “The goal is to get points.”

“They may not be happy,” Duncan said. “But a win’s a win, and we’re happy about that.”