IOWA CITY – Ivory Kelly-Martin is looking forward, not back.
Time has taught the Iowa running back that is the best way to deal with something he’d prefer not to deal with, early-season fumbles.
After losing a fumble during the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes’ opener against Indiana, avoiding one the following week because of an overturned call at Iowa State and putting the ball on the turf twice during last Saturday’s win over Kent State, the senior went back to work this week.
“That last game was a tough one for me. I have to move forward, keep working,” Kelly-Martin said. “The coaches have encouraged me to just move on. Fortunately, I’ve played a lot of good football in my days here. They know what I can do and I know what I can do.”
Kelly-Martin said he knows he can do better.
He earned season-opening starting assignments in 2018 in part because ball security was a strength of his game.
Coming back from an ACL tear suffered late last season, he returned to a reserve role behind Tyler Goodson because of the trust coaches had in his game, not only in his skill as a running back but in the accompanying expectations to hold onto the football.
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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said following Saturday’s 30-7 victory over Kent State and repeated Tuesday that coaches have faith and trust in Kelly-Martin, who has rushed for 91 yards on 22 carries during the Hawkeyes’ 3-0 start.
“Ivory knows what to do,” Ferentz said, adding, “He’s practiced well this week. When something like that happens, you can’t dwell on things. If it was something that needed correcting, you correct it.”
Ferentz said that wasn’t the case with either of Kelly-Martin’s fumbles against the Golden Flashes.
He said film revealed the first one was the result of a helmet jarring the ball out of Kelly-Martin’s grasp on a hit.
“And on the second one, we were just glad he was able to get up and walk away,” Ferentz said.
Sam LaPorta kept the ball in Hawkeye hands following the second fumble that came following a pass reception during Iowa’s 20-play touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Kelly-Martin didn’t carry the ball against following the second fumble, given some space in the second half to regroup a bit.
Redshirt freshman Gavin Williams carried four times in the final two quarters while working as Goodson’s back-up, contributing an effective performance that drew praise from Kelly-Martin.
“He came in and played well,” Kelly-Martin said. “He’s a lot like I am in how he plays. He’s going to do well here.”
Kelly-Martin expects the same of himself.
His work this week on the practice field has been pretty much business as usual.
That includes running through ball security drills with his teammates and working to hold onto the ball whenever a defender is trying to taking it away from him during practice.
“Ball security is something we work hard on,” Kelly-Martin said. “It’s something we all know is important and something we don’t take for granted.”
Kelly-Martin said he won’t take anything for granted the next chance he gets to have the ball in his hands during a game, either.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there and doing what I know I can do with the ball,” Kelly-Martin said. “I’m looking forward to the next chances I have to show my abilities.”
Running backs coach Ladell Betts has encouraged him to remain confident.
“While it didn’t look too good out there for me, I know there is still plenty more that I can give to this football team and I’m going to continue to do that,” Kelly-Martin said.
Experience has taught Kelly-Martin to look forward, not back.
After a tough set of opening games, he counts on that to help him forge ahead.
“The experiences I’ve had, good and bad, they get you through it from one day to the next,” Kelly-Martin said. “I can’t change what has happened, but I can keep working to do better the future. That’s the approach I’m taking now.”
Live and learn: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz took responsibility for Iowa’s failed fake punt attempt in last week’s game against Kent State.
While Tory Taylor completed a pass to Sam LaPorta on the play, it came up well short of the needed nine yards for a first down.
“Poor coaching decision. Dumb. It was dumb, a dumb sequence. It was a bad call on my part,” Ferentz said. “The only positive is now that it’s on film for our opponents to watch and I hope they do. Did I mention it was dumb?”
Moving forward: Ferentz said offensive guard Kyler Schott performed well in his first action of the season last weekend, filling a reserve role at offensive guard.
Schott said he still has conditioning work to do, but welcomed his return to competition. After breaking a bone in his foot in an accident on his family’s farm, he also welcomed one other benefit.
“No more baling hay, at least not for now,” Schott said.
Hurkett out: Redshirt freshman defensive end Ethan Hurkett, “will miss some time” after suffering a leg injury during the Kent State game. Hurkett had been seeing some time at the position as part of a rotation.