Defense flexes its muscles, offense wakes up against UNI

After two weeks of a slow passing game, the Hawkeyes came out of the tunnel and found the end zone quickly


David Harmantas

A Northern Iowa player loses his helmet as the Iowa defense swarms in the first half of a football game against the University of Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. At halftime, the Hawkeyes led the Panthers 21-0. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa’s offense needed to show up against Northern Iowa. It did. Big time.

The Hawkeyes walked off the Kinnick turf Sept. 15 with a 38-14 win under its belt heading into their biggest home game of the season.

With the defense playing as well as it did against Northern Illinois and Iowa State, all quarterback Nate Stanley and Company had to do was put together drives, complete passes, and find a way to overcome penalties.

The first drive of the game included a possible injury to Noah Fant that had hearts stopping around Kinnick, but that didn’t seem to slow down the junior tight end.

On Iowa’s next drive, a 43-yard pass from Stanley to Fant set up a Hawkeye first-down at the Panther 8-yard line. Two plays later, with 5 yards to go, Stanley found him again at the inside corner of the end zone.

“Nate put up a good ball, and it was a walk into the end zone, so great call, and we were able to execute,” Fant said. “Obviously, it’s fun celebrating in the end zone with my teammates.”

Finding Fant didn’t stop there.

Facing a fourth and 2 at the Northern Iowa 10, another 3-yard pass to Fant marked an Iowa fourth-down conversion. The running game took over from there.

Running-back Mekhi Sargent, in the absence of Ivory Kelly-Martin (injury), ran the Hawkeyes up to the 2-yard line before taking it in himself on the next play.

In one quarter and 51 seconds, the Hawkeyes recorded 2 touchdowns, more than they had in any first half this season.

Two fourth-down conversions later — including a flip over the offensive line by fullback Brady Ross – and another run into the end zone by Sargent, Iowa’s offense was officially in full swing.

And there’s nothing Northern Iowa could do about the offense or defense. Through the half, the Panthers only had 20 yards of total offense.

In the first half alone, the officials tagged the Hawkeyes for 38 yards on five penalties, but jumping out to a fast start in the passing game made up for it.

“I think this is something we can build on,” tight end Nick Easley said. “We just came out and started fast and that’s really a testament to everyone in that huddle, just making the conscious decision that we’re going to start passing and we’re going to play well tonight.”

To begin the offence’s second half, Iowa tacked on a field goal, making the score 24-0. But the Hawkeyes weren’t even close to being done.

Halfway through the third quarter, the passing game found the end zone again (31-0), this time to Easley for his 10th catch of the game. He ended the evening with 103 yards.

Northern Iowa chugged its way downfield, eating up almost four minutes on the clock for the Panthers’ game-high 47-yard drive. But a missed field-goal attempt ended the Panthers’ chance to finally get on the board (at least that time).

Iowa’s offense didn’t miss a beat, making quick work of its next drive. Three plays, 72 yards, and a little over a minute later, running back Toren Young squeezed into a corner of the end zone after a 15-yard run, putting the Hawkeyes up by 38 points.

During a Sept. 11 press conference, head coach Kirk Ferentz spoke about tight games in the history of Hawkeye and Panther matchups. With a 38-0 Iowa lead at the end of the third quarter, the 2018 meeting marked a major exception.

Through three quarters, Northern Iowa collected only 115 total yards, with an AWOL rushing attack subtracting from the 119 yards through the air. And the Hawkeye defense played like it

Iowa’s defense faltered a bit — or the Purple and Gold offense woke up or the Hawkeyes checked out some new faces — in the fourth quarter.

Finally, with 11:12 to go, the 0 next to the Northern Iowa logo switched to a 7 after 14 plays, 75 yards, and its longest possession of the game (5:47).

“We’re out striving to be the best. Giving up points, giving up big plays and penalties isn’t what’s going to do that,” Hawk linebacker Jack Hockaday said. “So yeah, we were angry, and we’re going to have to clean it up for next week, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

With the backups in for both teams, Iowa stopped scoring, but Northern Iowa did not. The clock hit zero with a final score of 38-14.

The Hawkeyes racked up the penalties during the entire game, giving up 88 yards on 10 flags, with a lot of laundry falling on the offensive side, but Stanley’s 309 yards on 23 completions helped to make up for it.

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