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IOWA 38, UNI 14: SUFFOCATION

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IS IOWA’S OFFENSE BACK?

NCAA Football: Northern Iowa at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa football team put out its most complete offensive performance this season in a convincing 38-14 win over Northern Iowa.

The Hawkeyes had a shaky start to kick things off. Noah Fant left the field on the third play of the game with what looked like a hip injury. An overthrow to Nick Easley followed a Nate Stanley sack on first down to make it 3rd and 17. A delay of game penalty made it 3rd and 22. An 8 yard draw to Mehki Sargent brought out Colten Rastetter early.

The torches and pitchforks were getting ready. Luckily, Iowa has Phil Parker at the helm of its defense.

The salty Iowa D forced a three and out right away for the Panthers and Kyle Groenweg had himself a nifty 38-yard return that got called back for an unnecessary holding penalty on Amani Jones.

No matter. Back-to-back 12-yard plays by Nick Easley (catch over the middle) and Groeneweg (end-around) preceded a 43-yard catch to Noah Fant that set Iowa up in the red zone. A 4-yard run from Toren Young preceded a 5-yard touchdown catch by Fant and Iowa got itself on the board first.

Iowa’s defense forced another three and out (featuring AJ Epenesa in pass coverage) and a weird punt gave the Hawkeyes a short field to work with.

Two nice runs by Sargent were wiped out by that stupid illegal five-yard block thing by Levi Paulsen, and Iowa shot itself with a 1st-and-27. A 19-yard pass to Noah Fant made it second and manageable and then a 29-yard pass to Fant got Iowa knocking on the door.

Iowa went up-tempo in the red zone and it sort of worked. On fourth and two Stanley hit Noah Fant on the 11 yard line for a first down. It looked a little under-thrown but it was a perfect placement for Fant.

A nine-yard toss to the right for Sargent got Iowa to the two-yard line and then the IWCC transfer punched it in.

14-0 good guys.

It didn’t get much better for the UNI offense. Epenesa sacked UNI’s Colton Howell on first down, and a few plays later a bad snap made it second and 29 for the Panthers. Big stops by Epenesa and Hesse got the ball back in Iowa’s hands.

A healthy dose of Sargent, Young and Brady Ross (!!) kept things churning on the ground in the middle of the second quarter.

Eventually, Sargent would find pay dirt again. (But not before a 10 yard catch by Ross, who I’m going to call my second cousin from now on).

21-0.

Iowa and UNI traded possessions to end the half — Howell arm-punted to Michael Ojemudia and a big return set up Iowa in decent position with 15 seconds left. A 23-yard pass down the middle to Easley gave Iowa a great shot at a field, but Miguel Recinos’ kick was blocked as the half ended.

UNI ended the first half with a total of 20 yards — 22 passing and -2 on the ground. This was a great effort all around.

Iowa received the ball to start the second half, but had to settle for a field goal after a cute swing pass on third down to Easley. Brandon Smith and Easley had some nice catches that drive, and a successful 42-yard attempt from Recinos made their efforts worthwhile.

UNI changed quarterbacks the second half and switched to Eli Dunne. On the ensuing Panther drive, Jake Gervase forced a fumble from UNI’s Jaylin James and Amani Hooker jumped on it. Back-to-back-back runs by Sargent for 5, 15 and 11 yards set up a 14-yard touchdown pass to Easley. Perfect touch. And that put this one to bed folks.

UNI entered Iowa territory for the first time all game the ensuing drive, but left empty-handed after Austin Errthum missed a 45-yarder.

A swing pass to Sargent went for 48 yards and Easley followed that up with a jet sweep that notched 9. Toren Young tiptoed 15 yards for a score and I can feel Brian Ferentz’s smugness from my couch in Chicago.

38-0 Iowa.

The Panthers drove down the field against a mix of first and second-teamers on Iowa’s D. Jake Gervase was called on a really lame pass interference on the one-yard line to set up UNI’s first touchdown on the day; a four-yard pass to Briley Moore in the corner of the end zone.

38-7.

And now we had ourselves a Mansell Moment. On his first snap of the game Peyton Mansell scampered for 13 yards. A couple plays later he hit Tyrone Tracy with a BULLET down the middle for 22 yards. Henry Geil got himself some carries and then Mansell threw a pass right into the chest of UNI linebacker Duncan Ferch. His first turnover as a Hawkeye.

Iowa kept a handful of first-teamers in on defense, and Eli Dunne continued to pick on Ojemudia. A 40-yard pass to Jalen Rima put UNI on Iowa’s 5 and two plays later Elias Nissen hauled in a pretty touchdown over Jack Hockaday to make it 38-14.

Iowa’s second-team offense was forced to punt again; a holding call preceded a fumble by Mansell that was recovered by the Hawkeyes. UNI’s offense took the field one last time with just under 3 minutes to go. A three and out gave Iowa the ball back and both teams seemed content enough to run out the clock.

Three wins and zero losses. Next up: the Badgers. At night. In Kinnick.

Other musings:

  • Phil Parker, will you marry me?
  • This was the best we’ve seen Nate Stanley all year. He ended the day with a stat line of 23-38, 309 yards 2 touchdowns and a pick. He also had some decent runs. His pass to Easley was thing of beauty, and had pretty great zip and touch all game. His interception was poor decision-making — he should have just taken a sack when he missed a wide-open Groneweg while being rushed.
  • This was the best we’ve seen Sargent all year, too. I think part of it is on UNI’s defense, but this is the hardest he’s run, and flashed some potential to be a weapon in the passing game.
  • Again, I know this was UNI, but I’m really encouraged by how Stanley spread out the ball. Eight different players caught a pass, and three of them were receivers! One was a fullback!
  • Iowa had a paltry three sacks in comparison to its first two outings. Then again, bringing the pressure was never really necessary against this Panther team.
  • This was the first game where Iowa’s corners were really pressured, and it wasn’t that great! Eli Dunne ended with some pretty respectable stats for just one half of football: 18-28 for 2 scores and 200 yards. Matt Hankins has his job locked down pretty well, but Ojemudia has some guys breathing down his neck.