AMES – This isn’t the first time Keith Duncan has found himself in the spotlight.
But, the Iowa kicker who was named Monday as the Big Ten special teams player of the week isn’t the same Keith Duncan who sent a sea of fans spilling onto the Kinnick Stadium turf after he plowed a game-winning 33-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to beat second-ranked Michigan 14-13 in 2016.
He’s still 5-foot-10 and weighs in at 180 pounds, but the kicker whose four field goals beat Iowa State on Saturday night is a different player than the wide-eyed true freshman who took down the Wolverines.
Tested by time and strengthened by faith, Duncan said he found himself “kicking free’’ as he constructed his career-best collection of field goals in the 18-17 win on the rain-slickened turf at Jack Trice Stadium.
His final kick from 39 yards with 4 minutes, 51 seconds remaining provided the Hawkeyes with their margin of victory and followed successful attempts from 25, 40 and 42 yards to position Iowa for its fifth straight victory over the Cyclones.
“I’ve been around long enough to know what this rivalry is about,’’ the Weddington, North Carolina, native said. “It means so much to the Iowa guys, the people around the state, you want this game for them.’’
Duncan has converted on all eight of his field goal attempts this season, returning to a lineup he left at the end of his freshman season following the emergence of Miguel Recinos.
After redshirting in 2017 and not seeing any game action last fall, Duncan is back.
Half of his eight field goals have been from distances of 40 or more yards and he is also perfect in eight PAT kicks while helping the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes to a 3-0 start.
Duncan, who connected on 9-of-11 field goal attempts as true freshman, has returned to action with a different outlook.
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“I go into games with a different mentality now. There has been physical growth and mental growth, but the real difference has been in my spiritual growth. I go into games now kicking free and that is a great feeling,’’ Duncan said following Saturday’s game.
“What just happened is a combination of all that, but the spiritual growth has changed how I approach it all.’’
Duncan said there was a time when the weather conditions he dealt with Saturday and the two delays the Hawkeyes sat through would have impacted his work.
That time has passed.
“The conditions weren’t ideal. I adjusted, I went out and I competed,’’ he said. “I controlled what I could control, having faith in the abilities in the people around me. Jackson (Subbert, the Hawkeyes’ deep snapper) and Colten (Rastetter, Iowa’s holder) did a phenomenal job all night. We executed just the way it is supposed to work.’’
JOHNSON HONORED: Iowa cornerback D.J. Johnson was named Monday by the Big Ten as the conference’s co-freshman of the week.
Making his first career start in place of injured Matt Hankins, Johnson finished with a career-high eight tackles in the Hawkeyes’ 18-17 win over Iowa State. The redshirt freshman from Indianapolis was credited two pass break-ups in the victory, including one on the Cyclones’ final drive of the game.
Johnson shared the recognition with Northwestern running back Drake Anderson, who rushed for 141 yards in a win over UNLV.