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Game Balls: Utah State

Jay Higgins did his best in filling some big shoes

NCAA Football: Utah State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) coasted for the better part of a hot afternoon on their way to a 24-14 victory. They leave the day with plenty of questions but had quite a few answered too. Here were my top performers from today’s game.


Deshaun Lee was asked to fill in for Jermari Harris as a result of the gambling investigation and performed quite well. He had just one missed tackle which yielded an Aggie first down but was overall stout in his run & pass defense on the way to six tackles in fill-in duty.

Backup corner was a question mark coming into the season and the way he played today really shores up the depth there. Whether he pulls of the full Wally Pipp is to be determined but love to see an unexpected contributor step up.


Cade McNamara probably played a little longer than expected and certainly took more hits than many would like to see (that offensive line is still very shaky!) but he was a decided step up from the quarterback play we’ve seen in a good long while. 191 yards on 17/30 passing with a couple touchdowns, including Iowa’s first passing touchdown on a season’s opening drive since 1991.

Highlighting just how decrepit Iowa’s passing offense has been, this is just the third time since October 16th, 2021 the Hawkeyes have had two TDs through the air.

While there were a couple really questionable decisions, he had a sterling line in the turnover department which is always going to be important. There was a stretch of time where Iowa’s five straight incompletions were a function of receiver drops, including two potential TDs. Iowa’s improved here.

The question just remains about his health as he really seemed to be dragging by the time his day was done.


With Iowa seeing two linebackers depart to NFL paychecks and a third going to Oregon, Jay Higgins was the next man up alongside Virginia transfer Nick Jackson. And whoa boy, did Higgins play great. 15 tackles (11 solo) was a career high and he added one pass breakup.

There were some instances where he let guys get into him a bit instead of meeting them more at the point of attack but he was a steadying influence on a defense missing a lot of contributors from last season.

Also considered: Xavier Nwankpa (1 INT, 2 tackles); Luke Lachey (73 yards on 7 receptions); Kaleb Johnson (63 yards on 19 carries, 1 TD, 1 kickoff return for 54 yards)