PISCATAWAY, New Jersey – The University of Iowa football team used two defensive touchdowns to pave the way to a, 27-10, victory against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium on Saturday night.
The Hawkeyes forced three turnovers and got defensive touchdowns from sophomore Cooper DeJean and senior Kaevon Merriweather to set the tone in the 17-point victory.
Senior Seth Benson finished with nine tackles (three solo). Senior Jack Campbell tallied eight tackles (two solo). DeJean had seven tackles (five solo) and a pass breakup to go with his interception. In his first career start junior Sebastian Castro forced a fumble and had a pass breakup. Merriweather had both a fumble recovery and an interception in the contest, and freshman Aaron Graves had 1.5 sacks.
Senior Spencer Petras was 11-for-17 on the day with 148-yards. Senior Sam LaPorta had a team-high four receptions for 77 yards. Sophomore Leshon Williams carried the ball 11 times for 64-yards and a touchdown, while freshman Kaleb Johnson had 58-yards on 15 attempts.
Freshman Drew Stevens was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts to improve to 4-for-4 on the season.
QUOTING COACH FERENTZ
“Certainly the best way to start Big Ten play, really happy for our coaches and players. They did a great job in a hostile environment, coming in here we knew it would be, so the guys did a good job concentrating through that and kept their composure. Bottom line is I think we really had good team play out there. I think we saw improvement in all three phases, at least from my vantage point.
I was told the color analyst said something about the Iowa defense being a ‘sight to behold’. I would not argue that point tonight, a lot of really good efforts out there, certainly some great playmaking by our guys. Also told it’s the fewest amount of points allowed since 1956 which is 66 years, that’s pretty impressive. So clearly the guys are really playing at a high level right now, doing a good job. The two defensive touchdowns, it did feel a little like the Indiana game, and I guess that was the last time we did that too. Lot to be pleased about there.
Offensively, I think we made progress. Saw some things that were better out there today, it’s kind of a weird game in some ways. You lose a couple possessions, but nobody is going to complain about that. I thought we did some things better, and most importantly I think the line has grown a little bit. Still not as cohesive as we need to be still some things going on, and Rutgers did some things to make it rough on us with their movements, and blitzes. It will be good for our guys to weather that weather a road trip and make some progress. I thought the backs ran well, ran hard, Kaleb ran out of bounds the one time, but otherwise some really good things.
Special teams continued to do a nice job. I thought we played as well as we have played tonight in that regard. Good to see the kickoff coverage, Jay Higgins looked like he was doing pretty well out there, the whole group did a little better than last week. Can’t say enough about Tory, two good punters in the game. Tory I think by my count one on the ten and then the other three were inside the ten. That is a huge plus anytime you can do that, and try to give them a long field and hopefully get it back in return.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
– On the opening drive of the game the Scarlet Knights drove down the field and after back-to-back penalties on fourth down Rutgers ended a 12 play 66-yard drive settling for a 28-yard field goal by Jude McAtamney.
– On third and eight from the Rutgers 18-yard line sophomore Cooper DeJean picked off a pass for the third-straight week returning it for 46-yards and the Hawkeye score.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) September 25, 2022
– With five minutes remaining in the first half the Hawkeyes started at their own six-yard line and drove down the field with a 12-play 87-yard drive highlighted by a Spencer Petras 42-yard pass to Sam LaPorta. Drew Stevens connected on a 25-yard field goal to put the Hawkeyes up by 14.
– Iowa opened the second half with a nine play 75-yard drive over 4:45 that featured 40-yards of rushing by Leshon Williams including a 2-yard touchdown rush.
– The Scarlet Knights drove down to the Iowa seven-yard line but turned the ball over on downs as the Hawkeye defense stood tall with 13:46 remaining in the game.
– Rutgers took over on the 37-yard line and went on a five-play 63-yard drive that lasted 1:02 and ended with an Aaron Cruickshank touchdown reception.
– Iowa scored the final points of the game as they took over at the 25-yard line and went on a nine play 42-yard drive over 5:07 that ended with Drew Stevens connecting from 51-yards out on a kick that hit the left upright but went in.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) September 25, 2022
- DB Cooper DeJean intercepted a pass for a third straight game and returned it 45 yards for his first career touchdown. The 45-yard touchdown return is the 30th longest in school history and it is the 50th pick six in school history.
- Iowa has had at least one interception return for a touchdown in each of the last 15 seasons and 20 of the last 22.
- The last Hawkeye to have an interception in three straight games was Jermari Harris in 2021 (at Nebraska, vs. Michigan, vs. Kentucky).
- DB Kaevon Merriweather returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. It is the eighth fumble return for a touchdown in school history and the fifth longest in the record books. CASH Sebastian Castro forced the fumble – the second forced fumble of his career.
- Merriweather also had a third quarter interception – the second of his career – and he returned it 33 yards into Rutgers territory.
- LB Jack Campbell had eight tackles. Campbell now has 208 tackles, which puts him in 68th in program history.
- CASH Sebastian Castro made his first career start. Castro finished with four tackles, one forced fumble and one pass break up in the game.
- RB Leshon Williams had a 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to cap a nine play, 75-yard scoring drive – the team’s longest of the season. Williams had 40 yards rushing on the scoring drive.
- TE Sam LaPorta had a career long 42-yard reception on Iowa’s final drive of the first half. He finished with a team-high four catches for 77 yards.
- K Drew Stevens converted a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter and a career-long 51 yarder in the fourth quarter. The 51-yarder is tied for the 11th longest in school history. Stevens is now 4-for-4 on field goal attempts this season.
- Iowa’s defense has allowed 23 points in the first four games of the season, the fewest points allowed in the last 66 years. The Hawkeyes gave up 20 points in the first four games in 1956.
- Iowa’s defense scored two touchdowns against Rutgers via a Cooper DeJean pick six in the first quarter and a Kaevon Merriweather scoop and score in the second quarter. It is the first time since the 2021 season opener against Indiana that Iowa’s defense has scored two touchdowns in the same game (Riley Moss, two INTs for TDs).
- With the two defensive touchdowns, the Hawkeye defense has now scored 16 points this season via two touchdowns and two safeties.
- Iowa didn’t commit a turnover for a second straight game. The Hawkeyes were +3 in the turnover battle, converting the Rutgers miscues into 14 points. For the season, the Hawkeyes are +2 in turnover margin and they have a 21-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
- The Hawkeyes have two games with multiple interceptions and have all five picks have come in the last three games.
- Iowa led 7-3 at the end of the first quarters. Rutgers field goal was the first points allowed in the first quarter this season by the Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes are outscoring their opponents, 31-3, in the opening quarter and 12-0 in the third quarter.
- Iowa won the toss and elected to defer. The Hawkeyes have played 292 games under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has opened the game on offense 216 times (138-78). The Hawkeyes have opened the game on defense 76 times (43-33).
The Hawkeyes return to action Oct. 1, hosting No. 4 Michigan at 11 a.m. (CT) on Duke Slater Field at Kinnick Stadium. The game will be televised on FOX.