The Monday Kickoff: Moss Grows With Experience

John Bohnenkamp

Riley Moss is a cornerback, and cornerbacks know how to sell it.

Moss, a sophomore, already had one interception in Iowa’s 26-20 win over Purdue on Saturday, but he wanted that second one.

So when he got his hands on a pass intended for Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins in the third quarter, Moss got up and celebrated as if he had the pick.

He didn’t, of course, and the official closest to the play immediately signaled an incompletion.

“If I’m being honest, I didn’t (get it),” Moss said when asked if the call was right. “I’m not going to lie to you guys. I wasn’t expecting it to come my way, but it was right there in my hands. You’ve got to move on to the next play.”

Nice try, though.

“Oh yeah, of course. I’m going to sell it, try to get it,” Moss said, laughing. “It was a (pass breakup), so I’m not mad. But it would have been nice to get.”

Moss, bothered by a hip injury to start the season, stepped in to help the Hawkeyes against a passing offense that lit up him, and others, for 333 yards in the Boilermakers’ win last season.

“I knew they were going to come after me,” Moss said. “But I just stuck with the game plan. I knew I was ready, so I did what I was told to do.

“I wouldn’t say ‘revenge game.’ It’s nice to get the win and stuff, and I’m glad to see I made progress from last year.”

Moss was going to be the nickel cornerback for this game. But when starting cornerback Matt Hankins was having trouble containing Purdue wide receiver David Bell — Bell would finish with 13 catches for 197 yards — Moss was moved into Hankins’ role.

“It was tough,” Moss said. “Going in, I was sitting on the bench, I was only the nickel (cornerback). I just had to stay mentally prepared the entire game, because you don’t know if you’re going to go in or not.

“I think it worked out well.”

Moss’ interception of a Jack Plummer pass on Purdue’s opening possession of the third quarter gave the Hawkeyes the ball at their 40-yard line. The ensuing drive ended with Tyler Goodson’s 1-yard touchdown dive, the first touchdown of the game for Iowa.

“It was awesome getting that pick,” Moss said. “I got to celebrate with my teammates. So, it was pretty awesome.”

Moss finished with two tackles, one of loss, in his most significant playing time in a season that was starting to look lost for him.

“It’s nice to see all of the hard work pay off, going to the training room early,” Moss said. “I’m just glad it paid off, and I can see the result.

“I just stayed patient, did what they told me. It worked. So I’m happy with that.”

Moss had a difficult education at times last season as a true freshman.

“Experience, you can't hand that to anybody,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But the biggest thing is it's a tribute to him, the way he's worked since last year, and he was really coming on in camp doing some good things. And then when we lost him to injury, that hurt us a little bit. Not only defensively, but also special teams-wise. So the credit goes to him, though, experience doesn't count if you don't make it work for you.”

“You’re kind of on an island out there sometimes,” Moss said. “It can be a touchdown, or anything like that. It’s high-stakes out there, but you have to brush it off and you do have to have a thick skin. If you let it get to you, it will probably happen again.”

The pass-happy Boilermakers provided another lesson, but Moss had a better response this time.

“You’ve just got to be ready,” he said. “You’ve got to act like they’re going to throw the ball your way every time. Otherwise they’re going to catch you off-guard, and it could be a touchdown. You’ve got to stick with the game plan, stick with what you’re taught to do, and it will work out.”

Hankins’ reaction

One of the first players who greeted Moss after the interception was Hankins, the player he had replaced.

“That’s how I was raised,” Hankins said. “That’s how the whole team is.”

“There are a lot of good things today and that was one of the best things I saw. I noticed that just like you did,” Ferentz said. “He's the first guy out there to congratulate him. I think it's just representative of the kind of guys we have on our football team. They're great young people, they care about each other. And Riley ended up having the hot hand, did a really good job there.

“Matt's a good football player and I'm just glad both of them are back with us. (Hankins) started last week and we'll be a better football team with both those guys playing.”

By the numbers

Where Iowa stands in the Football Bowl Subdivision statistics:

• Third in fewest penalty yards (229) and fewest penalty yards per game (32.71)

• Fourth in time of possession (34:27). Wisconsin leads at 38:02.

• Fifth in scoring defense (11.6 points per game)

• Eighth in rushing defense (91.1 yards per game)

• 10th in total defense (275 yards per game)

• Kicker Keith Duncan leads the nation in field goals per game (2.43) and is 14th in field-goal percentage (.895)

• Duncan is 10th in scoring average (9.6 points per game) and scoring (67 points)

• Quarterback Nate Stanley is 25th in passing yards (1,771) and 28th in passing yards per game (253).