By JAMES ALLAN
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Junior Akrum Wadley’s 26-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run lifted the University of Iowa football team to a 14-7 road victory at Rutgers on Saturday afternoon at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The win is Iowa’s seven straight road triumph, moving the team’s record to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play heading into its Oct. 1 Homecoming matchup against Northwestern inside Kinnick Stadium.
“There is nothing easy about winning,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “Everybody understands anytime we compete it is going to be a challenge and it was today.
“This didn’t come easy, but the positive is we got our third win, our first Big Ten win, and our first road win. We have a lot of things to get better at and that has to be our focus as we move forward.”
Wadley’s go-ahead score came on the heels of a game-changing turnover from a Hawkeye defense that came up big throughout the day.
On third-and-16 from the Rutgers 24, sophomore Brandon Snyder stripped and recovered a fumble by Scarlett Knight wide receiver Andre Patton at the 21. Wadley took the handoff on the first play, bounced to the outside and tight-roped the sideline, breaking the tie and giving the Hawkeyes a 14-7 lead with 8:35 to play.
“I was debating if I should go for the interception or make the tackle,” said Snyder. “I ended up just making the tackle and my hand landed on the ball and I ripped at it. The ball came out and I jumped on it.”
Rutgers tried answering, moving 56 yards over 10 plays into the red zone, but on fourth-and-2 from the 19, Snyder came up big again, stopping Jawuan Harris for a 2-yard loss to giving Iowa the ball with 4:40 remaining.
Senior LeShun Daniels, Jr., rushed for two first downs to wilt away the clock with the second coming on a 12-yard gain on third-and-7 to ice the Hawkeye win.
The Scarlet Knights out-gained Iowa, 383-355, in the game, but Iowa’s defense bent, but didn’t break. The Hawkeyes stopped Rutgers twice in the red zone in the game and converted the go-ahead touchdown on the game’s lone turnover.
Iowa held the Scarlett Knights 27 points below its 34 points per game average.
Snyder led Iowa with a career-high 13 tackles, including eight solo stops and a tackle for loss. Junior Josey Jewell made 12 tackles (eight solos) to go along with 1/2 tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry. Iowa finished with four sacks in the game — two apiece from Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse.
“We were bend, but don’t break,” said Snyder. “We gave up too many big plays and they got in the red zone, which is not where you want to be, but once we got down there, we stepped up, guys made plays and we kept them out of the end zone. That’s what it comes down to.”
Offensively, the Hawkeyes did enough to win their third game of the season and post their ninth straight regular season Big Ten victory. Iowa rushed for 193 yards — 161 coming from Wadley (84 yards) and Daniels, Jr., (77) — while senior quarterback C.J. Beathard finished 12-of-23 for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Iowa grabbed the game’s early momentum with a 99-yard scoring drive on its final series of the first half. The drive was set up after the Hawkeyes stopped the Scarlett Knights despite a first-and-goal from the 3.
Beathard got Iowa out of the shadow of its goal post with a 13-yard bootleg on first down and two plays later he connected with George Kittle for a 20-yard gain to the Iowa 37. A 12-yard Beathard run got the Hawkeyes to midfield.
The big play came on second-and-10 from the 36 when Beathard hooked up with Kittle for a touchdown pass. After faking a slip screen, Beathard found his senior tight end for a touchdown pass off a wheel route, giving the Hawkeyes a 7-0 lead at the break.
For the second week in a row, Iowa had a touchdown called back on the first play of the second half. Daniels, Jr., had a 75-yard touchdown run wiped off the board because of a cut block, leaving the door open for upset-minded Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights used their best drive of the season — 13 plays, 88 yards — at the tail end of the third and into the fourth quarter to tie the game at seven. Rutgers rushed its way deep into Iowa territory before Chris Laviano connected with Patton on a third-and-long, back-shoulder throw from 14 yards out, tying the game at seven with 12:45 remaining.
Iowa went backwards to the tune of 16 yards on its next possession, giving the ball back to Rutgers before Snyder accounted for the game-changing turnover on the ensuing Scarlett Knights’ possession.
The second quarter was a battle of defensive wills — and missed opportunities — with both defenses making red zone stands.
Iowa sustained its first drive of the game, moving 70 yards over 13 plays. Sophomore Jerminic Smith made a leaping 24-yard reception on third-and-10 to move the Hawkeyes into Rutgers territory before Iowa rushed its way down to the 10.
Following three straight rushes, the Hawkeyes went for it on fourth-and-5 from the 10, but Beathard overshot Smith on a fade route to turn it over on downs. It was the first time in 13 chances Iowa didn’t score in the red zone this season.
The Scarlet Knights followed with a nine-play, 89-yard drive that was fueled on the play of their big-play threat Janarion Grant. Grant caught a swing pass and made three Hawkeye defenders miss in what turned into a 76-yard gain to the Iowa 3.
Iowa’s defense — spearheaded by Jewell — made the stand, stuffing Rutgers on two read options by option quarterback Tylin Odin and they stopped Laviano on a quarterback option keeper at the 1 on fourth-and-goal.
“The best thing we did today was the way we played at the end of both halves,” said Ferentz. “We came to life and responded to the situations and did a good job. That’s encouraging.
“We have more to give and we can coach better and play better. We have to because we have another tough game next weekend.”
The Hawkeyes return to Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, hosting Northwestern at 11 a.m. (CT). Tickets are available by contacting the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at 800-IA-HAWKS or via hawkeyesports.com.