A Brilliant, Sunny Day

Sept. 24, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was one of those days; one of those brilliant, sunny days.

Weather aside, it was a game where the University of Iowa needed inches and got yards. When the Hawkeyes wanted a completion and got a touchdown. Yes, on a day when the two-minute offense received cheers with 60 minutes to play, Iowa rolled to its third consecutive home victory, 45-17, over the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.

The Hawkeyes drove 74 yards on nine plays on their opening drive and added points on six of their final 10 possessions to improve to 3-1 overall with a bye week and a trip to Penn State (Oct. 8) on the horizon.

“We were trying to build off our momentum from last week and we came out of the gates fast,” said UI quarterback James Vandenberg. “We knew this was a really good football team and they were going to give us a lot of confusing looks.”

After throwing for 399 yards a week ago, Vandenberg lit the Warhawks up for 270 yards on 21 completions and three touchdowns.

ULM dipped to 1-3. Perhaps peculiar is that most of the confusion on this day appeared to be presented by the Hawkeyes, not to them. One week after rallying for 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 31-27 win over Pittsburgh, Iowa came out quickly and amassed 453 yards, with 294 coming by halftime.

It was one of those days: when an announced crowd of 69,529 turned into a sellout moments later; when the Hawkeye punt return team needed a chip block and received a de-cleater; when the team hyped as having a so many unique looks on offense and defense was scrambling for an answer to a Hawkeye team on a mission.

“It was a pretty good block,” said UI defensive back Jordan Bernstine, who provided the hit that sprung punt returner Micah Hyde for more yardage in the second period. “That’s what I’m supposed to do in that situation.”

“Our coaches came up with different schemes and we worked up some new things on coverages and blitzes,” UI free safety Tanner Miller said. “We had a good up-tempo week of practice and communication was good today and that helped us quite a bit.”

This was a time when Vandenberg needed three seconds of protection and got six; when 5-foot-9 ULM cornerback Tim Taylor needed to be 7-1 to cover Marvin McNutt, Jr., Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley; when a take-a-knee opportunity at the end of the first half turned into a 14-yard gain and another sprint toward the ULM end zone.

“We had a good tempo going last week and we wanted to pick up from there,” Martin-Manley said. “It worked last week, so why not keep it going? We opened it up and got off to a good start.”

Another pleasant surprise for the Hawkeyes was the play of senior defensive lineman Thomas Nardo. He finished with 12 tackles (two for a loss) and the UI defense held ULM to 5 of 14 on third down.

“I’m trying to help the team and work my hardest,” Nardo said. “I had fun out there and I think we all had fun. Our defense is starting to come together as a group.”

ULM may not be a household name or perennial football power, but it is a team that traded blows with heavyweights Florida State and Texas Christian in weeks one and three of the season. Today, the Warhawks had a glass jaw, and they were floored early and often by an Iowa team that grew up even more on a beautiful fall day in Iowa City.

“We got into a flow early and our offensive line got it going and opened holes,” said UI running back Marcus Coker, who ran for 113 yards and two scores. “We came out with that fire we finished with last week.”

Yes, it was one of those days.