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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team rallied from a 14-10 halftime deficit to post a 31-14 victory over North Texas on Saturday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium. The victory moves the Hawkeyes’ to 3-0 for the seventh time under head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa rode the legs of its third and fourth-string running backs in the second half, following injuries to starter Akrum Wadley (ankle) and back-up James Butler (elbow). The reserves — redshirt freshman Toren Young and true freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin — combined to rush for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the first action of their careers.
Young led Iowa’s attack, running for 78 yards on 19 attempts, while Kelly-Martin and Butler both had 74 yards. Kelly-Martin found the end zone twice for the first two touchdowns of his career.
Iowa’s rushing attack churned out 238 yards in the game, while sophomore Nate Stanley threw for 197 yards, completing 16-of-27 attempts with two touchdowns. The Wisconsin native has 10 touchdowns to one interception in three games.
The Hawkeyes dominated time of possession (40:45 to 19:15) and converted 11-of-18 third down and 4-of-5 fourth-down conversions. Iowa scored two of its touchdowns on fourth down. The 40:45 time of possession is the second-most during the 19-year Ferentz era.
After giving up 14 points and 212 first-half yards, Iowa’s defense held North Texas scoreless and limited the Mean Green to just 93 total yards over the final two quarters. North Texas finished with 305 yards in the game and went 0-for-6 on third-down conversions.
On fourth-and-5 from the North Texas 23, Iowa rolled the dice, trailing 14-10. Stanley found sophomore Noah Fant across the middle for a first down inside the 10 and the tight end carried North Texas’ Khairi Muhammad the final seven yards for a 23-yard touchdown reception. The catch closed out a 14 play, 76-yard scoring drive — a drive that gave Iowa the lead for good.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
The Hawkeyes wore down North Texas in the fourth quarter with a 16-play, 87-yard scoring drive to stretch the lead to 24-14. The drive consisted of 15 running plays — 11 Young rushes for 40 yards and four Kelly-Martin attempts for 37 yards — and it lasted eight minutes and 50 seconds — the team’s longest drive of the season. Kelly-Martin found the end zone for his first career touchdown on third and goal from the 2.
The freshmen duo of Ivory Kelly-Martin and Toren Young combined to rush for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the first action of their Hawkeye careers. Starter Akrum Wadley didn’t play in the second half and Butler went down early in the third quarter. Following his injury, Iowa rushed on 28 of its final 37 plays from scrimmage.
Kelly-Martin is the first Iowa true freshman with two-plus rushing touchdowns in a game since Marcus Coker in 2010 (vs. Missouri).
Junior defensive back Josh Jackson had himself a game, blocking a second-quarter field goal, intercepting a fourth-quarter pass (his second of the season), and finishing with three tackles and two pass break-ups. Jackson’s blocked field goal was the first of his career and the first by a Hawkeye since Josey Jewell blocked a 40-yard attempt at Penn State on Nov. 15, 2016.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Hawkeyes had two touchdowns taken off the board in the first quarter. Iowa drove 77 yards on the game’s opening drive before Nick Easley fumbled at the goal line before crossing the plain. North Texas got the ball when it caromed of out-of-bounds in the end zone for a touchback.
- After falling behind 7-0 following a Jeffery Wilson 41-yard touchdown run, Stanley connected with Wadley for a 74-yard touchdown pass. Wadley had to settle for a career-long 68-yard reception when the touchdown was erased following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Iowa needed seven more plays before T.J. Hockenson caught an 8-yard touchdown pass — the first of his career — off a deflected ball at the line of scrimmage to tie the game at seven.
- Following Jackson’s blocked field goal, Iowa took its first lead on an eight-play, 48-yard drive. Miguel Recinos connected on a 42-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes a 10-7 lead.
- North Texas took over at its own 34 with 46 seconds left in the first half before going 66 yards over six plays. Mean Green back-up quarterback Quinn Shanbour completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton, giving North Texas a 14-10 halftime lead.
- Stanley threw two touchdowns against North Texas, giving him 10 touchdowns over the last three games. It is the best three-game stretch in the Ferentz era and Iowa’s best three-game stretch since Chuck Hartlieb threw 11 touchdowns over a three-game stretch in 1987. Chuck Long threw 12 touchdowns over a three-game stretch in 1985.
- Wadley (eight carries, 24 yards) became the 15th player in program history to rush for 2,000 yards in a career. Wadley has 344 career carries for 2,021 yards (5.9). He left the game in the second quarter and did not return.
- Easley had a game-high five receptions. He has been Iowa’s leading receiver in each of the first three games.
- Kirk Ferentz’s 138 wins in all games coached as a member of the Big Ten Conference ranks sixth in league history. Ferentz entered the game tied for sixth (Henry Williams of Minnesota). He is five wins from tying Hayden Fry as the Hawkeyes’ all-time winningest football coach.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“I am happy to get the victory. Our players fought and played hard. Needless to say, North Texas did the same thing, they came in ready to go and had a good game plan on both sides of the football and those guys really competed.”
“At halftime the coaches did a good job of making some adjustments, and certainly we played better in the second half. This team has been resilient, they have pushed through things — the challenges that get in front of them, and certainly the second half we did a lot better, time of possession, third down conversions, fourth down conversions. During the course of the game some of those things were positives and part of the deal was we were hoping to keep their offense off the field and we did a good job of that in the second half as well.”
“We’re happy to be 3-0. It’s not easy to be 3-0, and then it’s exciting to start conference play here, too, so that starts up here tomorrow afternoon.”
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The Hawkeyes open Big Ten play under the lights Sept. 23 inside Kinnick Stadium, hosting No. 5 Penn State at 6:30 p.m. (CT).