The Monday Kickoff: Tracy Spins Into A New Role

John Bohnenkamp

Ihmir Smith-Marsette was more than willing to stand in the cold hallway under Ryan Field and answer questions about his teammate.

Tyrone Tracy had just two catches for 88 yards in Iowa’s 20-0 win at Northwestern on Saturday, but one was a 50-yarder for a touchdown in which Smith-Marsette played a crucial role.

His fellow wide receiver was glad to be one of the ones throwing the block that allowed Tracy enough room to get the score.

“We literally had the identical route,” Smith-Marsette said. “I saw he had the ball, I saw he had three people around him and he was getting twisted. The next thing you know, he’s looking at us to go get a block. So, me and (wide receiver) Nico (Ragaini), we did our best to spring him free for a touchdown.

“That just goes to show how hard he works. He’s not an easy guy to bring down.”

Smith-Marsette smiled.

“He’s not someone who’s easy to bring down,” he said. “He had the hot hand today, he showcased that run-after catch.

“That’s my boy. I’m proud of him. He had the hot hand today, and he was on fire.”

The Hawkeyes are going to need Tracy’s heat on the outside. Brandon Smith will miss the next 2-4 weeks, and Tracy is going to have to fill that ‘X’ receiver spot.

That first start at the position on Saturday wasn't a problem. Tracy has been everywhere in the offense.

“I play X, Z, and Y,” Tracy said. “So it’s not very hard for me to go to Brandon Smith’s position, just because I’ve been playing it the whole season.”

Tracy, a redshirt freshman, has 17 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns this season.

His touchdown reception on Saturday was a curl route. Tracy made his turn at the exact moment the pass arrived from quarterback Nate Stanley. Tracy then spun away from Northwestern’s Trae Williams and headed toward the left sideline. Smith-Marsette and Ragaini provided the protection the rest of the way.

“That route was basically a timing play. When I stopped, the ball was right there,” Tracy said. “They missed a couple of tackles. I hold myself to being electric, so when I get out there, I try to do the same (thing). So I (spun) out of it.

“(Smith-Marsette and Ragaini) did their thing, and that’s how I scored. Without them, I probably get tackled.”

“I didn’t see anybody over on the left side,” Stanley said. “I thought, ‘Oh, man, he’s got a chance to go.’ He did a great job of finishing that with a touchdown.”

Tracy played running back, wide receiver and defensive back at Decatur Central High School in Camby, Ind., earning the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year honor.

“Tyrone was a good athlete in high school,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “A tremendous young person, great family. That’s what attracted us to him.

“The question was, what’s he going to end up doing?”

Tracy played in four games last season, taking advantage of the NCAA redshirt rule. He had one catch for 22 yards in a win over Northern Iowa.

“He learned how to play football, in my mind,” Ferentz said. “He’s gotten better.”

“Each route, I try to do the little details well, and then focus on the fundamentals to make my route that much better,” Tracy said.

“He’s been good for us all year,” Stanley said. “Early in the year, he broke some tackles, but he hasn’t found the end zone on a lot of those plays. Today, he snuck out of a tackle and he found the end zone.

“I think he’s been doing it all year. He’s been very detailed in his route-running. He’s been consistent catching the ball for us, in games and in practice.”

Tracy had two other key plays on Saturday.

One was a 38-yard completion down the left sideline in the fourth quarter that led to Iowa’s final score of the game, a 28-yard field goal from Keith Duncan.

The other came in the third quarter — a block on a pass to tight end Shaun Beyer on a fourth-and-8 pass, giving Beyer enough room for an 11-yard game that set up Iowa’s final touchdown.

“I knew the ball wasn’t going to me,” Tracy said. “My route was probably just a decoy route. But I saw Shaun Beyer get the ball. I knew he didn’t have the first down, and I saw three different (Northwestern players) — one on three, that’s never a good situation. So I’m trying to make the team better in every single way I can. So I went in there, threw my body in there, and he got the first down.”

Tracy’s day just added to Smith-Marsette’s admiration.

“He’s the same person,” Tracy said. “He comes in, he works hard. Day in, day out, he takes notes. We talk about things, we watch films. I would say he’s been very consistent the last few weeks.

“Like I said, he had the hot hand today. He delivered.”

Iowa-Wisconsin, and the bye week

The Hawkeyes are off this week before heading to Wisconsin for the Nov. 9 game that will have a 3 p.m. start and be telecast on FOX.

This is going to be a light week for the Hawkeyes.

“We need a little time away,” Ferentz said.

By the numbers

• Iowa still ranks third in FBS play in scoring defense at 10.1 points per game.

• The Hawkeyes are sixth in total defense at 265.9 yards per game. Wisconsin leads the nation at 223.5 yards per game.

• Iowa is seventh in time of possession at 34:20 per game.

• The Hawkeyes are seventh in rushing defense at 87.8 yards per game.

• They are fifth nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (34.88) and sixth in penalty yards (279).

• Kicker Keith Duncan leads FBS play with 2.38 field goals per game. He is 13th in scoring with 75 points. 

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