IOWA CITY, Iowa — Calling Jake Gervase’s trio of interceptions in the spring game a breakout performance isn’t accurate. His entire spring was.
Gervase stood out for seemingly all of March and April before wrapping up the spring by taking home unofficial MVP honors on Friday.
“With every phase of the program you hope guys are improving, and he got off to a good start this spring,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think he’s just kind of been on a track that way.”
Gervase publicly announced his arrival on Friday. In a game where the offense struggled, no one made more big plays than Gervase.
The first Gervase interception came on the third series. The second went 59 yards for a touchdown. He finished off his hat trick in the second half with his third interception.
“It looked like he had the script,” Ferentz said. “He looked like he got good jumps on those balls, read them well, and made some good plays certainly. If this was hockey, he’d be the No. 1 star of the game, no question about that.”
Gervase intercepted quarterback Tyler Wiegers to close out the first half. He headed downfield toward his left before slicing across the field, where nothing but open field accompanied him on his touchdown.
“It was an instinct thing,” Gervase said. “I was taught to get to the bottom of the numbers. I just saw about 10 black jerseys run to the sideline, saw an opening and made a cut and ended up getting in the end zone.”
Iowa needed someone to step up to replace starting free safety Brandon Snyder, following the torn left ACL he sustained in early April. Gervase rose up, cementing himself as the favorite to take Snyder’s spot entering the preseason camp.
“It was sad to see Brandon Snyder go down,” cornerback Manny Rugamba said, “but Jake comes in and he takes that leadership role. He understands the defense well, and he was ready for this moment.”
Coaches and teammates praised Gervase after he stepped into the spotlight during the spring game. The junior tried to deflect the attention elsewhere, passing on credit to his coaches and teammates for his big night.
The interceptions were just the start. He also broke up a pass and stuffed a running play on third and 1 for a loss.
“It is always fun making plays in the run game from the free safety position,” Gervase said. “But again, that’s just (defensive coordinator Phil) Parker. I was just doing my job … and I was just right there trying to make the play.”
He did it again and again in front of an estimated 16,500 fans. His performance impressed the Hawkeyes faithful, but Gervase reacted as if he had a disappointing night. He didn’t want his breakout spring to alter his approach that caused it.
“For me it doesn’t change anything,” Gervase said. “I’m going to try to keep improving. Going to have big summer workouts coming up and got to be ready for that and fall camps in August.”