Hawkeyes Roll Syracuse 35-0 in home-opener

Sept. 8, 2007

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IOWA CITY — How `bout them Hawkeyes?

Iowa used a suffocating defense, methodical offense and stellar special teams to thoroughly dismantle Syracuse, 35-0, in front of the 25th consecutive sellout (70,585) tonight at historic Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes improved to 2-0 on the season, Syracuse is 0-2.

“We’re very pleased to get the win tonight,” Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re a work in progress as a football team right now, but the one thing we have done two weeks in a row, we’ve really showed up and played hard and played with intensity, so I’m very pleased about that. We need to keep trying to get better during the week, but everything starts with effort and I think our guys are playing hard and they’re playing with toughness.”

The Hawkeyes were winners during the 100th game for Ferentz as the UI head coach. It was a memorable game as the five first downs and 103 total yards were the fewest allowed during the Ferentz Era at Iowa.

There were no stressful defensive stands. No overtime heroics. No double-overtime touchdown runs. They weren’t needed like last season during a 20-13 nail-biter in the Carrier Dome. Thanks to a total team performance, this game was etched in Iowa’s victory column early on. The first half concluded with the Hawkeyes limiting Syracuse to 1 yard on 21 plays and no first downs. Iowa, on the other hand, moved the ball seemingly at will, accumulating 241 total yards, 13 first downs and 91 return yards.

For the game, Iowa dominated in first downs (22 to 5) and total yards (408 to 103). The Hawkeyes also threw for 290 yards and controlled 35-minutes, 48-seconds of the game clock. Individually for Iowa, quarterback Jake Christensen completed 22 of 32 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns. The primary targets were tight end Tony Moeaki (8 catches, 112 yards, three touchdowns) and wide receiver Andy Brodell (7 catches for 54 yards). Syracuse couldn’t mount any legitimate offensive consistency thanks to the potent black and gold defense. Bryan Mattison was the Iowa leader with six tackles and three quarterback sacks.

“Our defense played very well for the second straight week,” Ferentz said. “We’re counting on those guys to help set the tempo and I think they’re doing a nice job there. Offensively, we looked like a different team tonight. We caught the ball and threw it better and havinge Tony step up and do some things he did tonight was great to see.”

The opening drive by Iowa began as a methodical, workman thing of beauty with running back Albert Young carrying and catching the bulk of the load. It ended after nine plays when Christensen was sacked by Tony Jenkins and Jameel McClain. Ryan Donahue followed with an 8-yard punt giving the Orange prime starting field position at the UI 40. There was nothing to fear for Iowa as the stingy Hawkeye defense limited Syracuse to one yard on its first three plays.

Young, Christensen and Moeaki made sure that Iowa finished what it started on its second series. After back-to-back rushing attempts, Young was on the receiving end of a Christensen screen pass and picked up five yards and the first down. The Orange defense handed the Hawkeyes even better field position with a personal foul late hit out of bounds by Nick Chestnut, putting the ball on the UI 40. Three plays later, Christensen hit Moeaki streaking down the middle of the field. Moeaki broke two tackles and scored from 52 yards out. The 6-play, 88-yard drive took just 2-minutes, 50-seconds.

Not to be outdone, the Hawkeye defense — more specifically linebacker Mike Humpal — contributed a big play by intercepting an Andrew Robinson pass at the Orange 49 and returning it 13 yards to the 36. Two plays later, Christensen connected with Young, who rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown. Austin Signor’s second PAT kick gave Iowa a 14-0 lead and the rout was on.

Receiving and return specialist Brodell kept the momentum in Iowa’s favor. After the Hawkeye defense pushed Syracuse back 13 yards on three plays, Brodell returned the ensuing punt 20 yards that gave Iowa starting position at the Orange 43. Twelve plays later, Damian Sims carried the Syracuse interior defense with him for a 1-yard touchdown. Signor’s PAT made it 21-0 and the Hawkeyes kept right on rolling. Sims led all rushers with 62 yards on 12 carries and a TD.

Brodell struck again on his next punt return attempt. Syracuse punter Rob Long booted a nifty 56-yarder that took Brodell to the UI 30. From there he dodged one would-be tackler, broke away from a shoestring tackle attempt, eventually hurdled Long and ended up with a 49-yard return that placed the ball at the Syracuse 21. Christensen proved elusive in the pocket on 2nd-and-goal from the 5. Brodell was open in the left corner of the end zone, but Christensen was busy juking and spinning away from two defenders and when he removed himself from the danger zone completed one of the easiest touchdown passes you could imagine. Moeaki was waiting all alone in the right side of the end zone making it 28-0.

“Andy has done a nice job punt returning,” Ferentz said. “We saw him flash that ability last year. In two weeks’ time they’ve really done a nice job out there. They seem to have a lot of pride. And as we’ve seen both weeks, it can give you a heck of a spark as a football team.”

Syracuse free safety Joe Fields gave his team a glimmer of life with 7:40 left in the second quarter when he intercepted a Christensen pass at the Syracuse 39 and returned it 35 yards to the Hawkeye 26. Patrick Shadle’s 37-yard field goal attempt was deflected by Kenny Iwebema and the Iowa defense kept Syracuse off the board. By the time Syracuse cracked the positive yard mark, the Hawkeyes already had nearly 200 yards of total offense and 28 points.

“We’ve had to work hard both games and today by half things were going our way pretty well,” Ferentz said. “I thought our guys came back with the same intensity in the second half.”

The Orange put together their most consistent drive of the game on its second series of the third period, moving 41 yards on 10 plays, but Iwebema’s extended paw thwarted another field goal attempt by Shadle, this one from 38 yards. Syracuse was sent reeling back on third down when Iowa free safety Devan Moylan sacked Robinson for 6 yards. Offensively for the Hawkeyes, Christensen’s arm and the wheels of Sims kept the pressure on Syracuse in the third period. And just when the end zone nears, so does another successful pass pattern to Moeaki, who corralled his third TD reception of the game with 43 seconds left in the third period, giving Iowa a 35-0 cushion. The scoring drive covered 79 yards in nine plays and chewed up 5:06 of the clock. The five-touchdown advantage brought Iowa’s No. 2 defense into the game. During the third period, Christensen completed all six pass attempts for 74 yards and a touchdown. Sims rushed four times for 38 yards.

With the outcome secure, the fourth period was merely an audition for the Hawkeye backups to move up the depth chart.

Rookie Success — Colin Sandeman showed a burst of speed on his first collegiate reception, hauling in a quick slant from Christensen in the second quarter and taking it 22 yards. The first punt return of his career was even more impressive. He fielded an Orange punt and returned it 35 yards to the Syracuse 39.

Stingy Hawkeye Defense —Syracuse earned its first first down of the game with 9:34 remaining in the third period.

The Sack Man — Mattison established a career high with three sacks of Syracuse quarterback Andrew Robinson.He finished with 3 1/2 tackles for a loss of 13 yards. Humpal also had six tackles in the game.

“It helps when the score tips your way a little bit,” Ferentz said. “It makes it a little bit easier to crank it up up front.”

And the backup QB is — Redshirt freshman Ricky Stanzi was the first Iowa backup quarterback into the game this season. On his third play as a Hawkeye, he rushed 13 yards to the Orange 26. For the game he was 0-for-4 passing with an interception. Arvell Nelson, another redshirt freshman, entered the contest with 5:15 remaining. Nelson completed his lone pass attempt for 12 yards (to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos). He did not have a rushing attempt.

Complete Ferentz postgame press conference quotes
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