Wadley ready to celebrate again, in a subdued tone
IOWA CITY — Akrum Wadley’s high-stepping days are history.
As the Iowa football team prepares for Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. Big Ten opener against fourth-ranked Penn State, the Hawkeye senior says he is working on a new game plan for the next time he carries the football into the Kinnick Stadium end zone.
“I’m going to walk over and hand the official the football,’’ Wadley said.
He wishes he would have done that Saturday, when a couple of high steps near the end of what would have been a 74-yard scoring play drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and negated what would have been Iowa’s first touchdown of the day.
Wadley said Tuesday he wasn’t trying to taunt anybody, just simply trying to finish off a big play the same way he has on multiple occasions since high school.
“I was shocked when I found out there was a flag. I didn’t even see it,’’ Wadley said. “I have been doing that for my whole career. I’ve always been doing that.’’
Late in the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ 31-14 win over North Texas, Iowa found itself in a third-and-9 situation at its own 26-yard line when quarterback Nate Stanley hit Wadley with a pass in the right flat.
Wadley turned upfield and quickly found himself running alone, giving him room to take a couple of high steps once he was inside the 10-yard line on his way to the end zone.
The flag flew, the touchdown was called back and the penalty left Wadley with a 68-yard reception and Iowa with the football at the 21.
Wadley didn’t learn about the penalty until he returned to the sideline after the play where coach Kirk Ferentz traded the usually handshakes for an earful of advice.
“Coach stopped me. He’s usually shaking everybody’s hands and he didn’t shake mine,’’ Wadley said. “I was just shocked. They just took the touchdown back? I’ve been doing that for years. I didn’t know they could do that.’’
Wadley didn’t return to the field for the rest of that series or the next one, calling the whole situation unfortunate.
“You work hard all season and you just want to have fun out there,’’ Wadley said. “It is what it is. Rules are rules.’’
Wadley found it a little curious that his high stepping drew a penalty while North Texas players weren’t penalized for waving fingers in a quieting motion toward the Iowa crowd after the Mean Green’s first touchdown.
“Call it both ways,’’ Wadley said.
Ferentz counted that among the lessons learned in Saturday’s game, not only for Wadley but for the entire team.
The Iowa coach found himself taking a look at the rule book for a little clarity.
“It’s pretty clearly stated, but obviously it’s not clearly enforced,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s the issue because I think we’ve seen acts similar to that and I don’t by any means think he was taunting anyone or trying to show anybody up.’’
Ferentz now uses the moment as a teaching opportunity.
“It is in the rule book that it could be called, so we all learn a lesson, all of us,’’ Ferentz said. “I think we’ve learned it’s probably not going to be enforced real consistently, too, so why leave the door open for something to be called against you? We all have to be a little smarter in that regard.’’
Wadley said he won’t let it happen again.
“Not a chance,’’ he said. “I can still hear coach Brian (Ferentz) in my ear. I was in class, I could hear him. That’s all they’ve been talking about all week, high stepping.’’
Wadley welcomes the opportunity to prove that he has curbed his enthusiasm this week.
After returning to the North Texas game, he exited with an ankle injury after eight carries, something he said happened “when a big guy fell on it.’’
The injury was slight and Wadley said he will be more than ready for the first night game of the season and the challenge presented by the defending Big Ten champions.
“I’m ready, feeling good,’’ Wadley said. “I’ll be good to go.’’
With backup James Butler sidelined through mid-October with an elbow injury, Ferentz said Wadley will share the workload with Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin.
“Our plan will be to utilize all three and the good news is that the other two did a good job Saturday,’’ Ferentz said. “It was a good chance to for them to get their feet wet and do some good things. They’ve got to plan on playing, they are in there now, and we’re going to be better if we can use all three guys.’’