Hawkeyes look dominant in season-opener

Aug. 31, 2008

by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The dawn of the 2008 University of Iowa football season has broken and it started with a bang as the Hawkeyes downed Maine, 46-3, Saturday in a sold-out Kinnick Stadium.

The Hawkeyes welcomed back Shonn Greene, who made a triumphant return by muscling his way for 33 yards on eight carries and a touchdown during the opening drive. Greene finished with 22 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown.

“That was great, it seems like forever since we have done that,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There is nothing worse than going three-and-out that first series — it really puts a damper on things. It was good to get off to a good start.”

After the opening score, Maine drove down the field before it felt the presence of junior linebacker A.J. Edds. Edds tipped the pass into the arms of teammate Bradley Fletcher for an interception.

“I was just trying to make a play,” Edds said. “I batted it up in the air and Fletcher was pretty heads up to make a play and come down with it. It was a good play for the defense. It kind of settled everybody down and put us into a little bit of a groove and we kept playing from there.”

The interception led to another score by the offense. The second drive featured a pass-happy offense. Junior quarterback Jake Christensen hit senior tight end Brandon Myers to put UI up 14-0. The next drive put the Hawkeyes on Maine’s 28 yard line for their best field possession of the day. A false start penalty and an interception marred the golden opportunity. The interception actually led to more points for the Hawkeyes. Edds once again flexed his brawn and sacked Maine quarterback Adam Farkes in the end zone for Iowa’s first safety since 2005. When Farkes realized his impending doom, he tried to sling the ball forward and was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone.

Edds faces the daunting task of leading the Iowa defense after Mike Klinkenborg and Mike Humpal graduated. He certainly put a charge into the defense and led the Hawkeyes with six tackles, two for a loss, a sack and tipped pass in the first half. Edds finished with seven tackles in the game.

“I saw the quarterback but I don’t think he could feel me coming,” Edds said. “He had his back to me and I was trying to get to him. The way it worked out the intentional grounding ended up being a safety. I was just trying to make a play and things turned out well.”

The kicking position is not yet set in a battle between freshman Trent Mossbrucker and sophomore Dan Murray. Each had a chance to shine and did just that as they both made long field goals. Mossbrucker kicked a 35-yarder and the following possession Murray drilled one from 44 yards to put Iowa up 22-0.

“We were just switching off,” Murray said. “Coach has confidence in both of us. Throughout the week we have been doing really well and going through camp we both did well. We switched off quarters. It worked out pretty well; I think we both had a lot of confidence. Overall I think my leg has been stronger and I think I have more confidence. I feel a little more poised with kickoffs and field goals. I have been able to hit the ball pretty well.”

“Boy, there was nothing good to say about our kicking game in the spring time,” Ferentz said. “But the rest of the time they were making strides and they’re competing hard. Both of them want to be the guy and I think that is good. I think it has a chance to be a healthy situation, which will be great.”

Iowa’s shutout bid ended when Maine’s kicker Brian Harvey hit one from 40 yards as time expired in the first half. The Hawkeyes went into the locker room leading, 22-3.

The Hawkeyes’ first possession of the second half featured another passing attack led by Christensen before being tripped up and Iowa settled for a 33-yard field goal by Mossbrucker. The Iowa offense continued to do a stellar job on sustaining time-consuming drives to keep the defense fresh and off the field. Sustaining long drives was an issue for the Hawkeyes last season, but the concern seemed to be resolved so far this year. The Hawkeyes had only one punt against Maine.

The fourth quarter started out as quickly as the first for Iowa. The Hawkeyes ended the third quarter on the goal line and immediately punched it in to kick off the fourth. Christensen handed the ball to sophomore running back Paki O’Meara for the 1-yard touchdown to put the game away.

One play later, a tipped ball resulted in junior linebacker Pat Angerer’s securing an interception. Angerer’s take-away led to a 1-play, 19-yard touchdown drive by freshman running back Jewel Hampton. Before you could blink, the Hawkeyes scored two touchdowns in a matter of 15 seconds. Iowa blew the game even more wide open when Hampton had another long touchdown run of 22 yards for the final points of the afternoon.

Iowa held Maine to 220 yards overall to the Hawkeyes 457. The only big worry was the rush defense, which gave up 137 yards on the ground.

“We played well, but at the same time we are not satisfied by any means,” Edds said. “The fact that they got down to field goal range and converted on a field goal at the end of the half…that is something we need to go back and clean up. We need to do some things and get it cleaned up before we play again. It was good to come out and get a solid win. We came out and gave our fans something to cheer about.”

“I am sure [the linebackers] some of that has to do with some of those runs,” Ferentz said. “There were way too many runs that we were knifing through there and that’s a front thing. I’m not saying it was the linebackers or the line but we clearly have to tighten things up front there. We had too many — the quarterback draw, the zone plays, guys were going in clean. We have some work to do.”

Ask most coaches and they will tell you a good offensive game leads to a good defensive output. The Hawkeyes did exactly that and was firing on all cylinders to get their first win of the 2008 season.

“Scores aren’t as important as how you play,” Ferentz said. “The attitude and the demeanor the team has. We had a couple of games in 2006 — second half of the season that were really disappointing, and certainly our last outing here. It is good to walk off the field feeling good about themselves and knowing that the fans went home hopefully feeling pretty good about them too, and that is important to us. We want to put a team on the field that the people can take pride in, and hopefully we’ll continue that the rest of the season. We are starting a new season and we wanted to get off to a good start.”

Iowa will remain home next Saturday to face Florida International with an 11:05 a.m. kickoff.