Fans provide spark for Iowa football in season-opening win over No. 17 Indiana

A near-capacity crowd at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City watched the Hawkeyes down the Hoosiers in dominant fashion, 34-6.


Jerod Ringwald

The Iowa student section leads a chant during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Iowa football welcomed its first near-capacity crowd to Kinnick Stadium since Nov. 23, 2019, on Saturday. The Hawkeyes took on No. 18 Indiana at 2:30 p.m. and picked up a blowout 34-6 win.

In total, 68,166 people walked through the gates at Kinnick to watch the Hawkeyes take on the Hoosiers, and the energy those patrons brought with them transcended the stands and found its way onto the field.

“Just great to be back in Kinnick and great to have fans,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said postgame. “We were all feeling it [on the field]. Just even coming in today, night-and-day difference from last year . . . To see people just out moving around and enjoying life a little bit and having them in the stadium was fantastic.”

Last season, the Hawkeyes played all eight of their games in fanless stadiums, as the Big Ten Conference forced all its football teams to compete without fans in stands to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

During its matchup with Indiana Saturday, Iowa did not require fans to wear masks or provide proof of vaccination to enter Kinnick Stadium.

Fans celebrate during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6. It has been 651 days since fans were allowed into Kinnick. (Ayrton Breckenridge)

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said Hawkeye Athletics did consider a number of COVID-19 mitigation strategies, but ultimately did not implement vaccine or mask mandates in order to comply with Iowa state law.

We’ve certainly had numerous discussions about mitigation,” Barta said. “What is the best path forward? How do we do this the best we can? But in the state of Iowa, we’re a state institution, and it would be against the law for us to have mandated vaccinations and mandated showing a card and those types of things.”

“So, we are where we are,” Barta added. “As I mentioned before, I would love everybody who walks into the door today, everybody who walks into the stadium, to get vaccinated.”

Many fans that engaged in Saturday’s game day festivities were unmasked. Current CDC guidance suggests that unvaccinated individuals should wear masks in crowded outdoor spaces. The CDC also recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in packed outdoor areas if they or one of their family members are immunocompromised.

The lack of mitigation efforts at Kinnick Stadium Saturday raised concerns among some Hawkeye fans and Iowa City community members.

Masked or unmasked, fans at Kinnick Stadium were dazzled with a number of game-changing plays Saturday. Running back Tyler Goodson scored a 56-yard touchdown on a run to the outside less than two minutes into the contest. Defensive back Riley Moss registered two pick sixes on the afternoon — the first of which came less than a minute after Goodson’s touchdown.

“I think those two plays, going back-to-back, it was a great energy boost for the team, and not just the team, but for the crowd and for the energy in the stadium,” junior running back Tyler Goodson said. “I think they just gave us momentum for the whole game. We put our foot on the gas and kept going . . . So, we just kept going and that gave us some good momentum.”

While Moss did come up with two pick sixes Saturday, he didn’t play completely relaxed against the Hoosiers — even early on when he recorded his first interception.

“It felt like my first game in Kinnick again because it was loud and rowdy, and it was absolutely amazing,” Moss said. “One thing I’ll never forget in my life is running out of the tunnel, especially today. I mean, [today’s crowd was a] top-three loudest crowd in Kinnick Stadium.”

Iowa will hit the road next week to take on Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames at 3:30 p.m. Action between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes will air nationally on ABC.