The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

September 26, 2013

Playmakers key Hawkeyes improvement

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa has stayed healthy so far this season and found some surprising playmakers, key developments in getting off to a good start.

The Hawkeyes (3-1) scored four touchdowns on returns in a 59-3 win last week over Western Michigan. This explosiveness is new — Iowa was a dreadful 113th in points scored per game in 2012.

The Hawkeyes have already scored TDs in five different ways this season, including punt, interception and fumble returns, and are now averaging 35.3 points through four games — including three straight wins.

"It didn't come out of nowhere," receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "It's a mindset that's going on. Every guy feels like he can be the guy to make the play. You can't wait on anyone else to make that play for you. If you've got 11 guys on the field that feel that way, somebody's going to make the play."

It seems somewhat ironic that a team with nearly 55 rushes a game would also be more explosive than ever heading into Saturday's Big Ten opener at Minnesota (4-0). Credit Martin-Manley and cornerback B.J. Lowery for helping spearhead a scoring resurgence.

Martin-Manley led the Hawkeyes with 52 receptions and shared the team lead with 571 yards receiving in 2012. But he had just two TD receptions, and it was fair to wonder if he was more of a possession guy than a No. 1 receiver.

Martin-Manley is now on pace for 80 catches, nearly three times more than anyone else on the Hawkeyes. His yards per catch are down to just 8.4, but that's partly because he has been a safety valve for first-year starting quarterback Jake Rudock. Martin-Manley showed how potent he can be last week with punt return TDs of 83 and 63 yards, becoming the first Big Ten player in 30 years and the first Iowa player ever to accomplish that feat.

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