By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team scored 24 unanswered points to claim a 24-3 season-opening victory over Wyoming on Saturday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium. It is the Hawkeyes’ fourth straight season-opening victory.
Iowa’s defense limited the Cowboys to three points — the fewest for the program since 2015 — and held Wyoming to 233 total yards on 70 plays. Iowa surrendered 59 rushing yards and kept NFL Draft top prospect Josh Allen in check. The quarterback finished 23-of-40 for 174 yards with two second-half interceptions.
Offensively, Iowa finished with 263 yards of total offense, but committed four turnovers. The unit was balanced, finishing with 138 rushing yards and 125 through the air. Sophomore Nate Stanley finished 8-of-15 for 125 yards with three touchdowns.
The Hawkeyes were clinging to a 7-3 second quarter lead with less than one-minute left in the first half. Iowa used a 30-second timeout with 38 seconds remaining before freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa sacked Wyoming’s Josh Allen for a 3-yard loss to force a fourth down.
Cowboy punter Tim Zaleski botched the kick, resulting in a -5 yard punt, giving Iowa possession at the Cowboy 32 with 27 seconds remaining. Following an offsides penalty on first down, Stanley hit tight end Noah Fant for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Hawkeyes a 14-3 lead at the break.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
On the second possession of the second half, the Hawkeyes put together their longest scoring drive of the game, needing just four plays to go 76 yards. Stanley hit Nick Easley for an 11-yard gain on third-and-5 and a 15-yard personal foul moved Iowa into Wyoming territory.
On the next play, Stanley connected with Easley again for a 45-yard touchdown reception, extending the Iowa advantage to 21-3.
A wily veteran and a Hawkeye newcomer shined on the ground and through the air for Iowa’s offense. Senior Akrum Wadley posted the 10th career 100-yard game, finishing with 116 yards on 24 attempts. Easley, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, was Iowa’s top receiver, making four catches for 77 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown reception — the first of his career.
Iowa’s starting linebacker trio showed why they were a preseason strength for the Hawkeye defense. The trio of seniors Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann, and Bo Bower combined for 38 tackles against Wyoming. Jewell had a game-high 14 stops, including seven solo tackles and two sacks, while Niemann had a career-high 13 tackles and Bower finished with 11. The group combined for 3.5 tackles for loss.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Cowboys grabbed the early 3-0 lead, capitalizing on an Iowa turnover, which led to a Cooper Rothe 49-yard field goal on the first possession of the second quarter. Iowa answered with a run-heavy drive, covering 65 yards on 11 plays with eight coming on the ground. Stanley connected with Noah Fant for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to give the Hawkeyes the lead.
- Following Wyoming’s botched punt late in the first half, Fant caught a 27-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left to give Iowa a 14-3 lead. Stanley fired his third touchdown pass on Iowa’s second drive of the second half, connecting with Easley for a 45-yard strike.
- The Hawkeyes’ final points of the game came in the fourth quarter when junior Miquel Recinos drilled a 44-yard field goal. It capped a seven-play, 13-yard drive and it made the score 24-3.
- Stanley is the 14th quarterback to start a game under Kirk Ferentz. Those 14 quarterbacks are 9-5 in their first career starts.
- Stanley threw three touchdowns in his first career start. The last quarterback to throw three touchdowns in his first career start was Ricky Stanzi (3, vs. Florida Atlantic in 2008). Since, 1999, the only other quarterback to throw three or more touchdowns in his first career start under Ferentz was Jon Beutjer (4, at Indiana in 2000).
- Fant caught a career-high two touchdown passes (2, 27).
- Iowa intercepted Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen two times. Junior Josh Jackson and sophomore Brady Reiff both recorded their first career interceptions.
- Iowa used nine first-time starters, six on offense (quarterback Nate Stanley, running back James Butler, left tackle Alaric Jackson, left guard Ross Reynolds, and tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant) and three on defense (defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore, safety Jake Gervase, and defensive back Michael Ojemudia).
- Iowa lost three fumbles against Wyoming. The Hawkeyes lost two fumbles in all of 2016, tying Nevada for the NCAA lead.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“There were some bumps in the road today and a lot of that is traced back to younger, more inexperienced players. The guys played through it. The body language was great. The way everybody responded to each other was great, and I thought we played a lot of good team situational football during the course of the game against a team that posed a lot of problems for us on both sides of the football. Throw out their offense, the quarterback, that’s a pretty obvious discussion there, and then defensively they came with a pretty wide open game plan as well. I was pleased with our team’s effort and the way they stuck together.”
On Nate Stanley
“I was pleased with him. He went through some rough times out there. I mentioned the whole team responded to the bumps, but I thought he did too. He didn’t get rattled. I’m sure he was internally, but he stayed strong and steady out there. Some of those throws that he made were pretty impressive and the catches as well. But for Nate to make those kinds of throws, I thought that, especially coming off a couple bumps, that says a lot about his makeup.”
To read the complete transcript, click HERE.
The Hawkeyes return to action Sept. 9 for their first road game of the season, traveling to Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series matchup at Iowa State. Game time is set for 11 a.m. (CT) from Jack Trice Stadium.