Drew Stevens Named Big Ten Freshman of the Week

By RossWB on October 31, 2022 at 2:49 pm
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© Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

As Saturday's game against Northwestern progressed, it seemed like one Iowa player really had a chance to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Not on offense -- that generally requires a singular explosion of offensive production that Iowa's offense simply can't provide (even against Northwestern). Not on defense, either -- Iowa's defenders were very good against Northwestern, but it was very much a share-the-wealth game on defense, with no one player standing out too much above the rest. But special teams... that was an area where an Iowa player was excelling -- albeit not the expected special teams stalwart!

Tory Taylor has already claimed one Special Teams Player of the Week honor this season, but he was not in consideration for another honor this week. For one, he punted just once in the game. (That was Iowa's fewest punts in a game since 2019, when the Hawkeyes punted just once in a 48-3 win over Middle Tennessee State.) For another, his one punt wasn't very good, a shanked kick that traveled just 12 yards. 

No, Iowa's special teams hero on Saturday wasn't our favorite Aussie heartthrob -- it was freshman placekicker Drew Stevens. Stevens went 4/4 on field goals in the game and 3/3 on extra points, producing the most prolific game for a Hawkeye placekicker since Caleb Shudak also had four field goals and three extra points in a 33-23 victory over Illinois last year. Three of Stevens' four field goals came from close range (29, 24, and 25 yards), courtesy of Iowa's oft-stalled red zone offense. But his other field (the third of the game) was an impressive display of power and accuracy -- a 54-yard missile that split the uprights. 

That was the longest made field goal by an Iowa placekicker since Marshall Koehn's legendary 57-yard game-winner to topple Pitt in 2015. It was, frankly, Kaeding-esque -- which is high praise indeed. 

Granted, Stevens didn't actually win Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week this week -- that honor went to Michigan's Jake Moody, who pipped Stevens to the honor by making 5/5 field goals, including a 54-yard boot of his own. Stevens was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week, though, which is a pretty decent consolation prize. (He's also Iowa's first Freshman of the Week honoree since D.J. Johnson back in 2019.) 

Stevens' emergence over the past six games has been one of the nicest developments for this Iowa team. He entered the season embroiled in a tight placekicking battle with sophomore Aaron Blom. Blom got first crack at the job, but went just 1/3 in the first two games of the season, including a miss on a potential game-tying field goal against Iowa State (though, in fairness, that kick was also in some pretty miserable weather conditions). Stevens got his chance starting in Week 3, and he hasn't looked back. He's made 11/12 field goals since then (and 12/12 extra points), which ranks him tied for 29th in the nation in made field goals (despite missing those first two games of the season). In addition to good accuracy (91%), Stevens has shown a pretty strong leg as well -- he's 4/5 on kicks of 40+ yards, including 2/2 on 50+ yard kicks this season. 

Having a reliable and highly effective kicker has been a huge part of Iowa's success in recent years. Iowa's recent lineage at placekicker -- Caleb Shudak, Keith Duncan, Miguel Recinos, Marshall Koehn -- has been very good and Stevens seems poised to continue that trend. As we know, Iowa tends to play a lot of close games and having a kicker who can consistently convert field goal opportunities is important -- avoiding a #CollegeKickers moment is often the difference between a close win and a close loss. 

Congratulations to Stevens on his well-deserved moment of recognition. Here's to more honors in the weeks (and seasons) to come. 

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