Sept. 5, 2009
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by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team traditionally has had a run-heavy offensive scheme, but on Saturday inside a sold-out Kinnick Stadium, it was the passing game that helped edge in-state rival Northern Iowa, 17-16.
UNI was able to successfully shut down the Hawkeyes in the first half, allowing three points. Iowa went with an air attack in the second half and saw a potential glimpse of one of the best wide receiving-corps in the Kirk Ferentz era.
“It was the first time out for us,” said wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who caught one pass for 22 yards. “There are obviously going to be some setbacks and mistakes are going to be made. We kind of felt our way throughout those. We played with attitude at the end and throughout the game for the most part, but we will go back and review the film and find what corrections need to be made.”
Starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 16 of 21 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown to tight end Tony Moeaki in the second half that proved to be the game-winner. Stanzi finished with career-highs in pass completions and attempts going 22 of 34 for 242 yards and a touchdown.
The Big Ten Network will replay its broadcast of Iowa-Northern Iowa Sunday at 6 p.m.
“We had one great half of our offense, but we need to improve, because we cannot just expect to play one good half and win,” Stanzi said. “When we did need to step up, the offense did a great job. The defense was solid the whole game and we just need to put more points on the board to help them out.”
Moeaki, who has had injury problems in the past, showed why he has consistently been named to the John Mackey Award watch list as one of the premier tight ends in the country. He finished with a career-high 10 receptions and led the team with 83 receiving yards. Stanzi drilled a 6-yard pass to a covered Moeaki in the corner of the end zone during the fourth quarter for a 17-13 Hawkeye advantage.
“It felt really great (to be back on the field), but the win felt better,” Moeaki said. “I’m pretty excited about the win. Since the bowl game, we have been working every day on our own throughout the season and (offensive coordinator Ken) O’Keefe has been calling the plays and we were just doing what we were told to do.”
Moeaki was heavily guarded the entire game, often with two defenders. Stanzi was able to thread the needle over and again as the tight end had nothing easy come his way and made several tough catches throughout the contest.
“It was great having him (Moeaki) out there because he brings a lot of versatility, not only on the passing team, but he is a heck of a blocker,” Stanzi said. “It’s nice to run behind him when I get the chance.”
“He is going to be a huge asset to this team,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “He is performing at a very high level throughout the entire summer and camp. We’re looking forward to his production this year.”
Former quarterback-turned-wide receiver Marvin McNutt made his first career start as a Hawkeye. He quickly saw the ball back in his hands when Stanzi hit him for a 9-yard gain on the first play of Iowa’s opening drive. He caught two more passes during the drive to help setup a 39-yard Daniel Murray field goal and grab a 3-0 lead.
“It was a pretty awesome feeling (of playing),” McNutt said. “This is the first time since high school that I received a good amount of playing time. It felt good to be out there and be part of the game. It feels pretty natural now (on transition to receiver) and I have been working on it every day.”
Senior wide out Trey Stross gave the Hawkeyes some much-needed momentum late in the third quarter. With one- on-one coverage, Stanzi floated the ball to a diving Stross. In midair it looked as if he was going to drop it as the ball started slipping out of his hands, but Stross was able to recover and get his arms underneath for a 29-yard completion that eventually setup the Stanzi-Moeaki final score.
Iowa knows it is in good hands with their wide receivers and will look to use the passing game to attack another intrastate rival when it takes on Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Sept. 12. Kickoff is 11:05 a.m.