Sept. 17, 2005
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IOWA CITY — On a day that saw Drew Tate return from a concussion to throw two touchdown passes and running back Albert Young make two more for a 45-21 victory over Northern Iowa, the only thing most Iowa players could talk about Saturday was improvement.
“I think we played well at times, and other times we didn’t play so well,” Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There were some times where we looked pretty good, and there were others where we saw room for improvement.”
“I think we’re close, but we’re going to need some more improvement,” center Brian Ferentz said.
“We’re improving,” said linebacker Chad Greenway, breaking rank only in choice of tense. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to today, but we’re improving and that’s all you can ask for. You have to keep doing that and keep going on that scale. We looked better today than we did last week, and hopefully we can keep doing that.”
The Hawkeyes (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today; No. 22 AP) had commanding control of the offensive game from their first drive that took seven plays to end in a 10-yard Young score less than three minutes into the game.
Five of Iowa’s six drives in the first half ended in a score, helped largely by a running game that is quickly becoming the centerpiece of the Hawkeye attack.
“We had a good day running,” Young, a sophomore, said. “The backs were gelling with the offensive line, and every snap we’re getting better. Those holes were just enormous today. I had an easier job hitting them hard. That’s our objective and that’s what we’re going to go after.”
The stark contrast between week two and week three of the Hawkeye offense wasn’t lost on the coach. Iowa (2-1) had 347 yards of total offense, 174 passing, last week against Iowa State compared to 496 on Saturday against a Division I-AA opponent, with 265 yards gained through the air.
“Drew looked more comfortable to start with, and I thought we protected a little better,” Ferentz said. “It’s hard to be an effective passer if you can’t set your feet and throw it. And everyone else, I thought we looked a little more into it.”
Tate completed 15 of 18 for 247 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown reception to Clinton Solomon to start the third quarter. The junior Texan went into the half with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Solomon as well.
“I did a lot better,” Tate said. “I was really focused because they have this different package that they run – a nickel – so I was really focused on seeing that and making up plays for that.
“We did it and everyone was on the same page. The linemen were on the same page. It was a good day on offense.”
Tate’s posted 403 passing yards in the 2005 season, which puts him at 3,244 yards in his career. The 247-yard performance Saturday allowed him to surpass Brad Banks for career passing yardage and take sole possession of seventh place on the all-time list.
Solomon credited the running game – Iowa gained 231 yards on the ground – for opening up the pass game.
“(UNI) bit down real hard on the play action,” Solomon said. “The run game helps us out a lot.”
Northern Iowa Coach Mark Farley said the play action was critical as well.
“It was a combination of what their offense did and what our defense didn’t, or wasn’t able to do,” he said. “We couldn’t stop the run and that paved the way for their play action.”
Young led the Hawkeyes with 13 carries for 97 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns. Freshman Shonn Greene saw action again with 15 carries for 45 yards, and Damian Sims, who’d gone to play cornerback for two weeks, returned for two carries and 40 yards including a game-ending 39-yard touchdown.
” Albert Young’s really performed really well every opportunity he’s had. And I think we’re doing pretty well with the things we’ve been doing on the run game. It’s going to be real important for us. To have a chance, we’re going to have to be balanced on offense.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“The O-line was just making things easy for me,” Young said. “Just having a run game makes them bite down on certain plays and gives guys like Clinton or Ed (Hinkel), whoever it may be, a chance to get downfield.
“And it goes both ways,” Young added. “The passing game helps the run game and vice versa.”
Ferentz said Young’s performance has been the most consistent on the Iowa team.
“Albert Young’s really performed really well every opportunity he’s had,” the coach said. “And I think we’re doing pretty well with the things we’ve been doing on the run game. It’s going to be real important for us. To have a chance, we’re going to have to be balanced on offense.”
But about that improvement.
The Panthers (2-1), and quarterback Eric Sanders, showed the Hawkeye defense that they still have a ways to go. UNI gained 368 total offensive yards, 21 more than Iowa State gained against Iowa last week.
Sanders, a sophomore, went 19 of 29 on the day with one interception, and all three touchdowns for UNI, which exposed an open middle section down the field.
“We gave up more yardage than you’d like to do on the ground and in the air, but I don’t want to discredit UNI,” Ferentz said. “We had great respect for them offensively. They came in here with big numbers, and my guess is that that’s going to be a constant through the season.”
Jovon Johnson grabbed an 18-yard interception return for the Hawkeyes to go up 21-0 with 11:51 on the clock in the second, but Northern Iowa responded on its next drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Brian Cutright, the Panthers’ leading receiver with four catches for 61 yards.
“They really have a lot of weapons and a good scheme, and I thought their quarterback played an excellent game,” Ferentz said. “He’s quite the football player.”
Greenway said UNI is often overlooked because it’s a Division I-AA school.
“I think people see them as a I-AA and don’t see them for how much talent they have. They’re a well-coached and talented team in all aspects,” he said. “They played hard, and anytime you have guys playing as hard as they played, they’re going to be a good team.”
Johnson said the statistics the Panthers put up where unacceptable, especially going into Big Ten play at Ohio State next week.
“I wouldn’t accept that against anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s Northern Iowa or Michigan. That’s a great day for (Sanders) and a bad day for us.”
The good news, according to Ferentz, is that his team has six days before traveling to Columbus.
“We’re probably going to need each one of those,” the coach said. “We have our work cut out for us, and we’re starting out right at the top. (The Buckeyes are) certainly one of the favorites. They’re a veteran, savvy team, and it’s a tough place to play. We definitely know we have our work cut out for us.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com