Halftime reactions | Iowa football leads Rutgers, 17-3, at SHI Stadium in New Jersey

The Hawkeyes scored two defensive touchdowns in the first half. Defensive backs Cooper DeJean and Kaevon Merriweather recorded the TDs.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean runs the ball back for a pick-six during a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The Hawkeyes lead the Rutgers 17-3 at halftime.

Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Thanks to two defensive touchdowns, the Iowa football team leads Rutgers, 17-3, at SHI Stadium. Defensive back Cooper DeJean scored Iowa’s first TD of the day on a 45-yard pick six with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Strong safety Kaevon Merriweather scored the Hawkeyes’ second defensive touchdown of the day with 8:28 remaining in the opening half. Defensive back Sebastian Castro forced a fumble and Merriweather returned it 30 yards to the end zone.

The Hawkeyes’ third score came from kicker Drew Stevens, who converted on a 25-yard field goal attempt with 25 seconds left in the second quarter.

Iowa’s offense gained 155 yards in the first half. Quarterback Spencer Petras completed seven of his 10 pass attempts for 98 yards. True freshman running back Kaleb Johnson gained 53 yards on nine rushes. Petras, RB Leshon Williams, FB Monte Pottebaum, RB Gavin Williams are responsible for the other four yards Iowa gained on the ground — Leshon Williams and Pottebaum gained 15 yards, but Petras and Gavin Williams lost a combined 11 yards.

The Hawkeyes’ defense held the Scarlet Knights to 150 yards and one field goal in the first half, even with starting cornerback Terry Roberts on the sideline in street clothes and unavailable to play. The Hawkeyes did, however, get LB Jestin Jacobs back from a “soft tissue injury.” The junior missed Iowa’s last two games after he was hurt in the Hawkeyes’ 7-3 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Week 1.

Iowa’s best offense is its defense

Through 3.5 weeks of the 2022 season, it’s safe to say Iowa’s top scoring option isn’t quarterback Spencer Petras, tight end Sam LaPorta, or running back Gavin Williams. At this point, the Hawkeyes’ defense is more of a threat to score.

As things stand at halftime, Iowa’s defense has picked up 75 yards and scored two touchdowns. Defensive back Cooper DeJean scored once on a 45-yard pick six and strong safety Kaevon Merriweather scooped a fumble forced by DB Sebastian Castro and ran into the end zone from 30 yards out.

To Iowa’s credit, it did put together one scoring drive at the end of the half. Outside of Johnson’s few bursts in the first half, which have been revelations for the Hawkeyes, and Stevens’ field goal, the Hawkeyes have failed to generate anything significant on offense.

If the Hawkeyes win this game, it’ll likely be because their defense scores again or holds Rutgers to fewer than 17 points. I’ll call it now, Iowa’s offense isn’t going to score a touchdown.

I don’t suspect a quarterback change will be coming for Iowa in the third quarter either. Petras has completed 70 percent of his passes and backup Alex Padilla never loosened his arm or even took the Hawkeyes’ typical backup-QB red baseball cap off.