Hawkeye football not overlooking Northern Iowa

Iowa can’t afford to overlook Northern Iowa on Saturday, and the Hawkeyes know this.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa running back Torren Young during Iowa's game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones 13-3.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

Arguably Iowa’s biggest game is right on the horizon. In just over one week, Big Ten play starts, meaning Wisconsin comes to Kinnick. That game could easily decide which program will win the Big Ten West.

Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes enter Kinnick on the heels of an emotional 13-3 defensive slugfest against Iowa State. Taking that grind game into consideration, while factoring the impending high-stakes game coming in another week, the Hawkeyes can’t afford to overlook Northern Iowa on Saturday.

“You’ve just got to flush [the previous game],” safety Jake Gervase said.

Not only does this game present Iowa with the opportunity to start the season 3-0, it provides another critical chance for the Black and Gold to set its offense right, which is crucial heading into conference play.

The Hawkeye offense could use a breakout game for confidence, if nothing else; last week against Iowa State, Iowa started out inside the opponent’s 30-yard line twice and came away with only 3 points.

“The way a play happens during a game is not the exact way that you draw it up,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “Just the little things — being able to adjust on the fly is something that, I personally, need to get a lot better at.”

Against the Cyclones, Stanley and Company scored one touchdown, but that came when the Hawkeyes needed it the most, leading, 6-3, in the fourth quarter.

Iowa’s 13-play, 83-yard drive took up 6:30 — more time than the Hawkeye offense had the ball for the entire first quarter — and proved that the Black and Gold can, in fact, sustain drives. It’s just about connecting on consistency.

“We just got to get clicking,” receiver Nate Easley said. “There are some things there that we’re really close on, that we just haven’t hit on. Just kind of getting into a rhythm, getting going. I know we have the guys to do it, I know we have a good plan in place. I think we’ll be all right.”

At this point last season, Iowa’s offense put up 68 points. This season, the total comes to 46.

But just as Easley and other Hawkeyes stressed at Tuesday’s availability, the Hawkeyes are 2-0, and that’s all they can ask for right now.

For Iowa to continue its bid for an undefeated nonconference run, the Hawkeyes will have their hands full with Northern Iowa, a team that has traditionally played Iowa close, especially recently.

In 2014, the last time the teams squared off, the Hawkeyes squeezed out a 31-23 win in the season-opener. Then Panther (now current Arizona Cardinal) David Johnson tore apart the Hawkeye defense, snagging 5 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown (including a 70-yard catch-and-run for 6).

And of course, the 2009 back-to-back blocks to win the game will forever be engrained in Hawkeye history as one of the most bizarre (and entertaining) finishes to a game.

“As long as I’ve been here, [Northern Iowa has] been a strong, tough program and does very, very well in a very tough conference that they play in,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said at his Tuesday press conference.

Last season, the Panthers finished 8-5, winning the Missouri Valley and losing to South Dakota State in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.

Offensively, Marcus Weymiller leads the charge on the ground — he racked up 829 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. Fellow tailback Trevor Allen provides the second of the one-two punch — he rushed for 432 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2017.

The Iowa defense noted similarities between its Week 1 opponent, Northern Illinois, and Northern Iowa, especially in the pre-snap action.

“They’re going to do a lot of shifting, a lot of motions, moving guys around to different spots — just trying to get you off your keys,” Gervase said.

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