After scoring one touchdown in its first two games, the University of Iowa offense found its footing, piling up 429 yards, including 201 on the ground, in a 27-16 victory over FCS No. 6 Northern Iowa on Saturday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium.
"We scored some touchdowns and that was really big because we have had a hard time getting the ball in the end zone," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. "That was a real positive."
The victory improves the Hawkeyes' record to 2-1 on the season, while the Panthers fall to 1-2. Both losses have come against Big Ten Conference foes.
"Northern Iowa played extremely hard," said Ferentz. "They have a good team, so we knew this was going to be a tough ball game... and it was."
Iowa's third running back in, sophomore walk-on Mark Weisman, led the Iowa rushing attack, finishing with 113 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Sophomore Damon Bullock finished with 77 yards on 13 carries and freshman Greg Garmon had 13 yards before both leaving the game with injuries.
"That was not scripted, I can assure you," said Ferentz of Weisman's performance. "We thought he might play a little bit, but we did not foresee the circumstances. You can't say enough about him. He did a great job, and it's a credit to him."
Senior quarterback James Vandenberg completed 18-of-28 passing attempts for 228 yards, and sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley had a team-best five catches for 101 yards -- his first career 100-yard game.
For the third straight game, the Iowa defense buckled down in the second half. After giving up three scoring drives and 189 yards in the first half, Iowa surrendered just three points over the final 30 minutes. The Hawkeyes gave up 153 yards -- 97 prior to the final drive -- and three points over the second 30 minutes and 339 yards in the game.
Junior Anthony Hitchens led the Iowa defense with 10 tackles, giving him 29 stops over the past two games. Fellow junior James Morris had eight stops, including one for loss.
After taking a four-point lead into the half, the Hawkeyes used an efficient four-play, 70-yard scoring drive on their first series of the second half to take a 24-13 lead. On second and 7 from the Iowa 33, Vandenberg found Martin-Manley on a deep crossing route for a 51-yard gain to the UNI 2. Weisman then went untouched up the middle for the score -- his third touchdown of the game.
After forcing the game's first turnover -- a Tom Donatell interception midway through the third quarter -- the Hawkeyes couldn't make the Panthers pay. Iowa went three-and-out, and freshman Connor Kornbrath's punt traveled just 11 yards, giving UNI possession at its own 40 yard line.
The Panthers then made it a one score game with a 10-play, 52-yard scoring drive. Running back David Johnson was the UNI workhorse on the series, using six touches to gain 52 yards. His 12-yard reception gave the Panthers a first down at the 15. His final catch -- a 15-yarder on third down -- moved the ball to the 8, but short of the first down. UNI had to settle for Tyler Sievertsen's 25-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 24-16.
Iowa answered with a 13-play, 72-yard drive to add to its lead. After completing a 7-yard pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for a first down, the Hawkeyes turned to Weisman, who had four straight carries for 26 yards to move into UNI territory. On third and 4 from the UNI 40, Vandenberg hooked up with Keenan Davis for a 15-yard gain on the first play to the 25. Two plays later, Weisman took a handoff and bounced to the outside for a 16-yard gain to the 9.
Weisman gained two yards to the seven on first down before Iowa's second down attempt in Davis' direction fell incomplete. Vandenberg again went to his senior wide out on third down, a 6-yard gain to the UNI 1 before being knocked out of bounds. UI junior Mike Meyer made it a two score game with a 19-yard field goal, making the score 27-16.
After forcing a UNI punt, the Hawkeyes used a 14-play, 80-yard drive to eat up the clock, but they couldn't deliver the final knockout blow. Iowa converted two third downs -- the first an 8-yard completion to Jordan Cotton and the second an 11-yarder to Davis. Iowa then turned to Weisman, who used a carries to move the ball to the 5.
The Panthers tightened up their defense with their backs to the goal line. Weisman and junior Brad Rogers had back-to-back 2-yard gains to the 1 before Weisman was stopped for no gain on third down. Iowa went for it fourth down, but Weisman was stopped in his tracks, giving UNI possession with 2:51 remaining.
The offenses flexed their muscles in the first half, combining for 400 yards of total offense. Points were scored on the first six possessions, as Iowa took a 17-13 advantage into the locker room.
Northern Iowa got off to a quick start, advancing 83 yards over eight plays to grab a 7-0 lead. The Panthers used consecutive passes of 30 and 23 yards to move to the Iowa 23-yardline. On first and goal from the 9, UNI used three straight direct snaps to Johnson to find the end zone, the final coming on third and goal from the 1.
After starting its first drive at the 40 yard line following a UNI touchback and personal foul, Iowa imposed its will at the line of scrimmage. The Hawkeyes covered 60 yards over 10 plays, including nine rushes. On third and 4 from the 34, Bullock's patience paid off, as he found a hole en route to a 27-yard gain to the seven. Bullock's seventh and eighth carry moved the ball to the 1 before Weisman bulldozed his way into the end zone to knot the game at seven.
Northern Iowa regained the advantage on Sievertsen's 49-yard field goal on its second possession. The Panthers started the drive with a 23-yard pitch and catch to from Kollmorgen to Brett LeMaster. UNI gained two additional first downs before the Hawkeye defense got a stop on third and 8 to forcing the field goal.
Iowa followed with an 11 play, 65 yard drive to take a 14-10 lead. Vandenberg opened the drive with a 12-yard completion to Weisman on first down. After moving into UNI territory, Bullock used consecutive rushes of five and 11 yards to move Iowa to the 26, Vandenberg found Davis for a 13-yard gain to the 13 yard line.
The Hawkeyes dug themselves a hole with an illegal block penalty, making it first and 25 from the 28. On second down, Vandenberg hooked up with Martin-Manley on a bubble screen for a 16-yard gain to the 10 before finding Davis on a third down conversion to the 1. Weisman scored from 1-yard out to give Iowa its first lead.
The Hawkeye defense nearly forced the game's first turnover when Hitchens hammered Johnson and forced a fumble on a first down carry from the 42. The play, however, was overturned by instant replay, continuing UNI's drive. Kollmorgen found Anderson for a 15-yard reception on the next play, and a 13-yarder to Chad Owens moved the ball to the Iowa 7. The Hawkeyes firmed up deep in the red zone, forcing the Panthers to settle for Sievertsen's 22-yard field goal attempt, making the score 14-13.
Garmon gave Iowa strong field position with a 39-yard kickoff return to the Iowa 40 yard line. Following his first incomplete pass of the game, Vandenberg connected with Martin-Manley for a 26-yard gain to the UNI 34 before Garmon rushed three times for 18 yards to move into the red zone.
After a holding penalty made it first and 20, Iowa converted a third and 15 to extend the drive. Vandenberg found Weisman out of the back field for a 21-yard gain to the UNI 4. Iowa had to settle for a Meyer's 24-yard field goal, when Vandenberg fumbled on first down and his second and third down attempts were incomplete.
Iowa returns to action Sept. 22, hosting Central Michigan at 11 a.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium.
Courtesy: Iowa Media Relations
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