Iowa football hurt by penalties against Northern Iowa

Looking forward into football’s Big Ten schedule, the amount of penalties against the Hawkeyes against Northern Iowa is dangerous for the progression of offense.

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Iowa football hurt by penalties against Northern Iowa

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Nick Easley (84) is taken to the turf as the ball bounces away during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14.

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Nick Easley (84) is taken to the turf as the ball bounces away during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14.

David Harmantas

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Nick Easley (84) is taken to the turf as the ball bounces away during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14.

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Nick Easley (84) is taken to the turf as the ball bounces away during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

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With the sun rising over the horizon on Iowa’s home-stretch finale against No. 18 Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes still have a lot of work to do before they takes the field on Saturday evening.

The confidence in the defense was strong going into the matchup against Northern Iowa, but it was a different story for the offense. Quarterback Nate Stanley had a shaky first two weeks in the passing game and building that up against the Panthers was a must before the Badgers come to town.

The biggest takeaway from Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa, looking forward to Wisconsin, was the number of penalties the Hawkeyes racked up. Luckily for the team, the offense was able to completely run over the Panther defense, but against a good Wisconsin team, that could be a different story.

“We had way too many penalties, too many turnovers, turned it over twice, a couple sacks,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “So plenty of things to clean up and just some little mental discipline things that cost us a little bit tonight and will continue to cost us as we move into conference play.”

On the final set of downs in Iowa’s first drive of the game, it lost 17 yards to force a punt. Stanley was sacked for a 7-yard loss on first down, followed by a third-down delay of game for a 22-yard deficit.

That first sack hurt Iowa as the beginning of the end of a drive.

RELATED: Passing game sharp in Hawkeyes’ nonconference finale

“It was disappointing tonight, [the offensive line] gave up 2 sacks. I thought their guy was going harder than our guy, I’ll be candid on that,” Ferentz said. “We get into conference play, it’s going to be another notch up here, so we got to get better.”

Iowa’s offense hurt itself again on the third drive of the game. A 3-yard rush for a first down was called back 15 yards on an illegal-block penalty. The offense took care of the problem, ending the drive in a second-quarter touchdown, but if it hadn’t, the game would have been a lot closer.

The first half ended with 5 Iowa penalties for 38 yards. Northern Iowa gave up only 15 yards on 1 penalty.

The Hawkeyes added 2 more penalties in the third quarter for 15 yards on an illegal block and a false start.

By the end of the game, Iowa had 10 penalties for 88 yards, something it definitely can’t have against Wisconsin.

Iowa’s offense had 545 total yards on 81 plays against Northern Iowa, which created a rhythm going into Wisconsin, but it shouldn’t stop there.

RELATED: Hensley: Don’t disregard the UNI game, passing attack looked sharp

“I think as an offense as a whole, we felt like we weren’t executing up to the level that we could have,” wide receiver Nick Easley said. “And there were still a lot of things that could have been cleaned up, whether it be penalties or just balls that we were really close on, but I feel like we really took a step in the right direction.”

Northern Iowa didn’t put up a fight until the fourth quarter, collecting only 115 yards of offense in the first three.

If Iowa can keep the offensive movement going and cut down on the penalties, it can put up a fight against Wisconsin. But if the penalties persist, too many chances will be given for the Badgers to run with.

“Guys are playing together,” linebacker Jack Hockaday said. “A few mistakes here and there, but that’s going to happen. We’re going to have to clean that up, and do a lot of studying, and just correct those mistakes. But we’re playing hard, and we’ve just got to keep looking to improve.”

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