A Mean Green comeback for Hawkeye football

It wasn’t a perfect showing, but Iowa football earned its third win on the season, moving to 3-0, after defeating North Texas, 31-14.

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A Mean Green comeback for Hawkeye football

Iowa's Matt VandeBerg and Noah Fant celebrate a touchdown during the game between Iowa and North Texas at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. The Hawkeyes went on to defeat the Mean Green 31-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa's Matt VandeBerg and Noah Fant celebrate a touchdown during the game between Iowa and North Texas at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. The Hawkeyes went on to defeat the Mean Green 31-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ben S

Iowa's Matt VandeBerg and Noah Fant celebrate a touchdown during the game between Iowa and North Texas at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. The Hawkeyes went on to defeat the Mean Green 31-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ben S

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ben S

Iowa's Matt VandeBerg and Noah Fant celebrate a touchdown during the game between Iowa and North Texas at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. The Hawkeyes went on to defeat the Mean Green 31-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

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No one promised it would be pretty.

Iowa cranked out a 31-14 victory over North Texas on Sept. 16, but the game was much tighter than the score showed.

Offensive miscues, defensive inconsistencies, injuries, more play reviews than a Broadway opening, and a plethora of penalty flags highlighted Iowa’s final nonconference game of the season.

“We have to roll with the punches,” tight end Noah Fant said.

After digging itself out of a 14-10 halftime hole, Iowa came back in the second half, shutting out North Texas and scoring 21 points — 14 in the fourth quarter.

The win comes at a cost, however.

Running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler went down with injuries and did not return.

Wadley’s injury “didn’t look serious,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz.

“We just didn’t feel real confident in the second half [with Wadley returning],” Ferentz said. “James, we’ll have to see. I don’t think it’s anything overly [concerning]. I’ll probably know more Tuesday.”

Iowa turned to redshirt freshman Toren Young and true freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin for run support. The duo racked up 152 yards and 2 touchdowns, both from Kelly-Martin.

The two young backs’ emergence proved to be bright spots in a game filled with missed opportunities.

Quarterback Nate Stanley threw a pair of scoring strikes, both to tight ends (T.J. Hockenson and Fant), but aside from those throws, the passing game struggled.

The Hawkeyes had plenty of chances to score but just could not capitalize — especially in the first half.

On Iowa’s opening drive, Stanley fired a pass in the flat to receiver Nick Easley, who appeared to score, but upon review, Easley had fumbled the ball before crossing the goal line, resulting in a touchback and the possession shifting to North Texas.

“I’m trying to remember the last time we started out like this, where we came out right down the field and we did something stupid — no touchdown,” Ferentz said.

On Iowa’s ensuing drive, Stanley found Wadley on a wheel route. The back sprinted up field for a 74-yard scamper and score, high-stepping his last 5 yards.

Referees threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, and because the foul occurred before Wadley scored, the penalty was enforced at the spot of the flag, erasing a would-be touchdown.

“He’s too good of a player,” Ferentz said. “Close, not close, but why give anybody an opportunity to even have to make that decision?”

Iowa had two more chances to score before halftime.

Stanley tossed a deep ball to receiver Matt VandeBerg, but the ball sailed just outside of the senior’s reach.

On another possession, Stanley looked for Fant on anther long pass, this time on fourth down, but with the same results on his attempt to VandeBerg — no points.

“I just got a little too excited with wide-open guys,” Stanley said. “We’re continuing to work on those in practice and keep developing that relationship with the tight ends and wide receivers.”

Players, coaches, and fans would agree that this game seemed disjointed at times because of four replay reviews — Ferentz said they killed momentum.

“Sometimes, the ball bounces wrong, calls go whatever, and you got to just keep your poise,” defensive end Parker Hesse said.

Even without a fluid-game feel, Iowa controlled the time of possession in the second half, holding the ball for 21:21 and limiting North Texas to only 2:37 in the fourth quarter.

Iowa totaled 435 yards of offense and limited North Texas, which came into the game averaging 580 yards, to 305.

Up next for the Hawkeyes looms Penn State. The Nittany Lions will travel to Kinnick for a 6:30 p.m. match on Sept. 23.

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