By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team cruised to its third straight victory, piling up 545 yards in a 38-14 victory over Northern Iowa on Saturday night inside a sold out Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes nearly posted a season-high in total offense in the first half in building a 21-0 lead. Iowa had 316 yards in the first 30 minutes (season-high was 352 against Northern Illinois) — rushing for 101 yards on 29 attempts and junior Nate Stanley threw for 215 yards.
Iowa finished the contest with a 545-228 advantage in total offense for the game. The Panthers had 20 yards on 20 plays in the first half and did not run a play in Iowa territory in the first half. UNI’s first play in Iowa territory was at the 5:53 mark of the third quarter.
The Hawkeyes’ defense held UNI to six rushing yards, the second-lowest total in the Kirk Ferentz era (-13 vs Kent State on Sept. 4, 2004).
Stanley finished 23-of-28 for 309 yards and two touchdowns with 10 of his receptions going to senior Nick Easley. The wide receiver had a career-high 10 catches for 103 yards and one touchdown. Easley’s 10 catches are the most by a Hawkeye since Keenan Davis had 10 catches for 129 yards against Pittsburgh in 2011.
Sophomores Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent combined for 154 yards and three touchdowns to lead an Iowa rushing attack that churned out 207 yards. Young led the team with 82 yards and one touchdown; Sargent had 72 yards and two scores.
The Hawkeyes used their longest scoring drive of the season — a 10-play, 92-yarder — on their second possession to grab a 7-0 lead. Junior Noah Fant had a 43-yard reception to the 8 before finding the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown pass two plays later. The catch made him Iowa’s all-time touchdown leader by a tight end.
The Hawkeyes went 68 yards on their next possession — a drive where Fant made catches of 19 and 29 yards on consecutive plays to the UNI 18. Iowa converted a fourth-and-2 from the 10 when Fant made a sliding catch for 3-yards to the 7. Sargent found the end zone three plays later, making the score 14-0.
Fant had all five of his catches for 99 yards in the first quarter.
Iowa’s third touchdown drive came via a 14-play, 67-yard drive midway through the second quarter. The drive was run-heavy and the Hawkeyes converted two fourth downs to make the score 21-0. Brady Ross went up the gut for a 3-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from midfield and Stanley snuck for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the UNI 10.
Two plays later, Sargent went untouched from 10-yards out for his second touchdown of the game.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“We’re happy and pleased to get the win. It was our goal coming into tonight and happy about that.
“Our guys did a good job overall, I saw a lot of positives out there. We came in that first half ready to go and set a good tempo offensively. The defense continued to play well, that was a positive. You look at the month of September, and I’ve said this pretty routinely, it’s all about growth and development for our football team in September. I think we’re seeing that, and certainly pleased and saw it during the week. We had a better week of practice this week, particularly on the offensive side. That’s a positive.
“We still have a lot of ground to cover and tonight had way too many penalties, too many turnovers, turned it over twice, and gave up a couple sacks. There are plenty of things to clean up and just some little mental discipline things that cost us a little bit tonight and will continue to cost us as we move into conference play. We have plenty to work on and basically we talked to our team before this season about a four-game block, a four-week block here in September.
“We have to close it out, we have seven days to stay focused and try to keep improving and then we’ll see where we’re at when next week’s over.”
STANLEY’S STRONG NIGHT
The Nate Stanley that everyone expected in 2018 was in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night. The junior quarterback enjoyed the best passing completion game of his career, completing 23-of-28 attempts (82.1 percent) for 309 yards and two touchdowns. The yardage is the second highest single-game total of his career, trailing only the 333 yards at Iowa State in 2017.
Stanley became the 13th player in program history to pass for at least 3,000 yards. His 3,082 career passing yards ranks 13th all-time. He passed Paul Burmeister, Jake Christensen, and Larry Lawrence against UNI. Stanley threw for two touchdowns — the 28th and 29th of his career — the 11th-most all-time and one behind Brad Banks (30).
THE TURNOVER GAME
Iowa’s defense forced two turnovers — a second-quarter interception from Michael Ojemudia — the first of his career — and a third-quarter forced fumble by Jake Gervase that set up Iowa’s fourth touchdown.
Junior Kristian Welch led the Hawkeyes with eight tackles (four solo). Sophomore Matt Hankins and senior Jack Hockaday had six tackles apiece.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
Iowa dominated the first half to the tune of 316-20 advantage in total offense. Iowa put an exclamation point on the victory with a 17-point third quarter.
Miguel Recinos’ 42-yard field goal made the score 24-0, senior Nick Easley caught a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-0, and sophomore Toren Young had a 15-yard touchdown run, extending the advantage to 38-0.
SCORELESS STREAK HALTS
Northern Iowa scored twice in the fourth quarter, ending a streak of 111 minutes without a touchdown by the Hawkeyes’ defense.
The Panthers avoided the shutout, using a 14-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 4-yard touchdown reception by Briley Moore. UNI found the end zone a second time with 5:25 remaining when Eli Dunne connected with Elias Nissen for a 5-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.
- Iowa is 3-0 for the eighth time under Kirk Ferentz (2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2017, 2018).
- Iowa held Northern Iowa to six rushing yards, the second lowest total in the Ferentz era (-13 vs Kent State on Sept. 4, 2004).
- Senior kicker Miguel Recinos scored eight points today (5-5 PAT, 1-1 FG) to become the 40th player in program history to score 100 or more career points. He has 104 career points, 35th all-time.
ON THE HORIZON
Iowa returns to action Sept. 22, hosting No. 6 Wisconsin at 7:30 p.m. (CT) in its Big Ten opener. The Badgers lost 24-21 to BYU on Saturday.