Grading Iowa football’s 27-0 win over Nevada

Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Austin Hanson provides a three-phase breakdown of the Hawkeyes’ Week 3 performance.


Gabby Drees

Iowa running back Kaleb Johnson runs the ball into the end zone during a football game between Iowa and Nevada at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. Johnson earned two touchdowns. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolf Pack, 27-0.

Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

Offense — C+

Iowa’s offense showed significant improvement in the Hawkeyes’ 27-0 win over the Nevada Wolf Pack Saturday night and Sunday morning at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes gained 337 yards and scored three touchdowns. Both totals are season-highs.

In its first two games of the season, Iowa mustered a combined 316 yards and one touchdown. Against South Dakota State and Iowa State, Iowa scored seven points per game. The Hawkeyes’ touchdown came from running back Leshon Williams in the 2022 Cy-Hawk game. Iowa scored seven points against South Dakota State via two safeties and a field goal.

With that context as the frame, some might say Iowa’s offense looked pretty darn good against Nevada. And the Hawkeyes certainly were explosive, as true freshman running back Kaleb Johnson scored 40-yard and 55-yard rushing touchdowns.

Iowa also registered its first passing TD of the 2022 season Saturday, as senior quarterback Spencer Petras connected with sophomore wide receiver Arland Bruce for a 21-yard touchdown. Senior Nico Ragaini also hauled in a 46-yard pass from Petras in the third quarter of Saturday’s contest.

Iowa’s bout with Nevada was Ragaini’s first of the year. He missed the Hawkeyes’ Week 1 and 2 games with a fractured right foot.

Iowa also got sophomore wideout Keagan Johnson back. He’s been dealing with an undisclosed injury all year, missing the Iowa-South Dakota State and Iowa-Iowa State games.

While the boost in offensive production is surely a welcome sign for Hawkeye fans, it’s likely not an indicator of future success. Nevada came into Saturday’s game with an overall defense that ranked 95th in the country and a pass defense that was rated 121st.

Against inferior competition like Incarnate Word, New Mexico State, and Texas State, Nevada surrendered 27 points per game. Incarnate Word hung 55 on Nevada during Week 2.

With that in mind, I think it’s reasonable to estimate the Hawkeyes left some bread on the table, offensively. I would assume the Hawkeyes believe they’re better than the Lobos, Bobcats, and Cardinals. But the hurtful truth is, their offense performed about the same as the Group of Five and FCS schools’ offenses did against the Wolf Pack.

Defense — A+

It’s hard for a defense to be perfect, but Iowa was as close as it could get to perfection Saturday at Kinnick. The Hawkeyes held the Wolf Pack scoreless.

On the day, Nevada gained just 151 yards on offense on 64 total plays — a 2.4 yards-per-attempt average. The Wolf Pack picked up 10 total first downs, and one of those conversions came via penalty.

Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean also intercepted one of Nevada quarterback Shane Illingworth’s passes with 4:36 remaining in the first quarter. DeJean picked Illingworth’s pass near the 40-yard line. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder even dragged his toes along the boundary like a wide receiver when he made the interception.

The only thing the Hawkeyes’ defense didn’t do Saturday was score. DeJean’s interception did, however, set up Iowa’s first passing touchdown of the year.

Special teams — A

Usually, I reserve A+ grades for performances I feel were completely perfect. And Iowa’s special teams units were nearly unblemished Saturday.

The only mistake I can point to is one Tory Taylor punt that rolled into the end zone for a touchback. In his defense, it was raining for almost all of Iowa’s Week 3 matchup with Nevada.

Counting the touchback, Taylor racked up seven punts Saturday, downing four inside the 20-yard line. Taylor’s longest punt of the day was a 62-yarder. He amassed 327 punting yards on the game.

Iowa also got a much-needed lift at kicker. True freshman Drew Stevens replaced sophomore Aaron Blom as the Hawkeyes’ starter.

Blom went 1-of-3 on his first few attempts of the season. In his first collegiate start Saturday, Stevens went 2-of-2 with his longest make coming from 43 yards out.

Stevens also went 3-of-3 on PATs. His performance is particularly impressive considering the wet and windy conditions he dealt with for the entire contest.