Grading Iowa football’s Big Ten-opening victory over Rutgers

Daily Iowan Sports Editor Chloe Peterson provides a three-phase breakdown of the Hawkeyes’ Week 4 performance against the Scarlet Knights.

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Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean intercepts a pass during a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights 27-10. DeJean’s interception was taken back for 45 yards.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor


Iowa football officially started the 2022 Big Ten season 1-0 with a 27-10 victory over Rutgers at SHI Stadium in Piscataway on Saturday night. The Hawkeyes are now 3-1 on the season.

Defense led the way for Iowa’s conference-opening victory, while the offense stuttered.  Following the victory, Daily Iowan Sports Editor Chloe Peterson graded the Hawkeyes in all three phases.

Offense — C-

The Hawkeye offense was once again bailed out by the defense. 

While the initial box score makes it look like the Hawkeyes were finally consistently effective on offense, they can only put their name to one touchdown.

Iowa’s offense was largely ineffective, actually, especially in the first half.

The Hawkeye offense finally found the end zone in the third quarter, when Leshon Williams capitalized on a 2-yard run to cap off a 75-yard drive. To give Iowa some credit, that drive was its longest of the season.

Quarterback Spencer Petras did have 148 yards on 11-of-17 passing, including a 42-yard pass to tight end Sam LaPorta. Iowa also gained 129 yards on the ground, and Williams led the pack with 68 rushing yards.

The Hawkeyes’ wide receivers were largely left out of the offensive scheme on Saturday. Arland Bruce was the only receiver to record yards on Saturday, gaining five on one target. Nico Ragaini and Brody Brecht were both targeted once with zero yards.

Despite the 277-yard performance, the Hawkeyes are still dead last in the 131-team FBS in total offense. Iowa is averaging 217.7 yards per game, while 130th New Mexico State averages 233.5.

Defense — A +

Iowa’s defense was net positive points-wise on Saturday night — it scored four more points than it gave up. That’s a true anomaly in college football, so Iowa’s defense deserves its second straight A+.

On the night, the Hawkeye defense found the end zone more than Iowa’s offense.

First, defensive back Cooper DeJean intercepted Rutgers quarterback Evan Simon and returned it 45 yards for a pick six. It was DeJean’s third interception of the season and his first career collegiate touchdown.

Later in the first half, cash Sebastian Castro forced a fumble. Safety Kaevon Merriweather picked the ball up and returned it to the end zone for Iowa’s second defensive touchdown of the day.

The defensive scoring stopped in the second half. Iowa’s defense still found a way to be effective, however, as Merriweather picked off Simon again and returned the ball 33 yards (whether Iowa’s offense capitalized on that interception is a different story).

The last time Iowa’s defense scored two touchdowns was when cornerback Riley Moss had two pick-sixes against Indiana on Sept. 4, 2021.

Sure, the defense gave up 10 points. The game-opening field goal from Rutgers wasn’t ideal, and neither was the blown coverage on Rutgers tight end Johnny Langan that eventually led to the Scarlet Knights’ lone touchdown. 

But Iowa’s defense outperformed Iowa’s offense in its own phase on Saturday. This grade is pretty self-explanatory.

Special teams — A-

There’s not much to say about the special teams unit’s performance.

True freshman Drew Stevens continues to show why he deserves the starting job. He went 2-for-2 on field goals on Saturday — including a 51-yarder that bounced off the left upright and in. He also went 3-for-3 on PATs.

Tory Taylor was good in the Iowa-Rutgers battle of the punters. He punted five times for an average of 42.6 yards per boot, and put four punts inside the 20-yard line. Aron Cruickshank, Rutgers’ punt returner, only attempted to return one — he lost yards on that play. 

Taylor did have a punt partially blocked, however, but that resulted in yet another Rutgers’ punt.

Kaleb Johnson, in his first full game as the Hawkeyes’ kick returner, had 77 yards.

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