Aug. 31, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz was happy by how the inexperienced Hawkeyes performed Saturday in a 31-23 season-opening victory against Northern Iowa.
Making their first collegiate starts were senior middle linebacker Quinton Alston, junior wide receiver Jacob Hillyer, junior defensive end Nate Meier, sophomore linebacker Reggie Spearman, sophomore cornerback Greg Mabin, freshman offensive left guard Sean Welsh, and freshman outside linebacker Bo Bower.
“That was one of the things I was most pleased about,” Ferentz said Sunday in an exclusive interview with hawkeyesports.com. “Coaches are probably more acutely aware of this than anyone else. You have a lot of players playing for their first time; either first time in Kinnick (Stadium) or first time in Division I football.
“I thought the execution overall was good. We played a clean football game for the most part — penalty-wise, turnover-wise. With as many new players involved as we had, that is really pleasing. It is safe to say some of our newer guys played a little better than we thought they would.”
A highlight for Ferentz was the way the Hawkeyes responded during the course of their season opener. They scored on the opening drives of the first and second halves and they answered 3-of-5 times following Northern Iowa scores. After the Panthers grabbed a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, Iowa executed a 17-play, 79-yard touchdown drive and never trailed again.
“That was one of the key points of the game,” Ferentz said. “We knew UNI had a veteran ball club and they have played very well in openers the last five years. We knew we were going to be up against it, and we were. One of the good things that happened yesterday: I thought our offense responded. If UNI would score, we would come back and answer that was good to see.”
On the offensive line, Ferentz was impressed with the performance of Welsh and he said junior Jordan Walsh “had his best game since he has been here, too.”
The Hawkeyes did not suffer any injuries against UNI, although freshman linebacker Josey Jewell is not expected to play Sept. 6 against Ball State. Jewell was injured during practice Aug. 27.
As for the Cardinals, they have won nine of their last 11 games and played in the GoDaddy Bowl last season. Ball State opened 2014 with a 30-10 win against Colgate.
“We’re going to be tested and have to be ready to play,” Ferentz said.