The Hawkeyes played far and away their best overall game of the season on Saturday. Iowa dominated all three phases of the game against Michigan State, but perhaps none stood out quite as much as the stellar special teams play.
Freshman punter Tory Taylor has stolen the hearts of Kirk Ferentz and Hawkeye fans alike through three weeks, but on Saturday we saw punt returner Charlie Jones break through as a potential star.
A walk-on transfer from Buffalo, Jones came to Iowa City as a redshirt sophomore and had to sit out the 2019 season. Through the first two weeks of 2020, we didn’t see much of him despite swirling rumblings that he was pushing for a starting job during fall practices.
In week three, we saw why as Jones earned more playing time in the absence of starter Ihmir Smith-Marsette. While Jones didn’t catch any passes as a receiver, he did finish with a pair of rushes for 38 yards. But where Jones really shined is in the return game.
The Deerfield, Illinois native racked up 105 return yards, including an electrifying 54-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half of the win over Michigan State.
“I knew this was a program where you can work your way up with hard work. That’s what it is: come out every day and work hard and when your opportunity comes, take advantage of it.”— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) November 8, 2020
Charlie Jones Thrives in a Risky Business : https://t.co/4eoEpQgTkE | #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/HphqCWVjz6
The return touchdown was Iowa’s first since Riley McCarron took one to the house against Illinois in 2018.
For his efforts, Jones has been named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week. That’s the first such honor for an Iowa player since Keith Duncan did it in the final week of the 2019 regular season.
On the season, Jones is now 5th nationally in punt return yards at 150 and 2nd in the nation in punt return touchdowns (1). All players in front of him in the standings have played at least 4 games. Look for the redshirt junior to continue building on those totals as the year progresses.
Congratulations Charlie Jones on a well deserved honor!