The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

No. 22 Iowa football dominates Rutgers, 22-0, in game dictated by defense and passing prowess

Earning their first shutout of the season, the Hawkeyes limited Big Ten leading rusher Kyle Monangai to 39 yards on the ground while putting up 402 yards on offense.
Grace Smith
Iowa wide receiver Kaleb Brown runs into the end zone for a touchdown during a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Brown received the ball three times for 27 yards and a touchdown. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 22-0.

The Iowa football team defeated Rutgers, 22-0, at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, not only marking the first time the Hawkeye defense has shut out an opponent this season but also a day to remember for Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill and the passing game.

Tossing for 223 yards in the contest, Hill commanded an offense that scored 19 second-half points while the defense let up just 127 total yards, the fewest it has allowed to a Big Ten opponent since 2019. And just like last week, Iowa had the lone win out of the top-four four teams in the Big Ten West, as Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin lost their respective matchups. 

“Our guys played through some bumps during the course of the first half, [they] left some opportunities out there,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said of his squad during his postgame press conference. “They just kept playing, staying focused … and played their best second half of football since we got started here [at the beginning of the season].”

Against a top-35 rushing defense in the Scarlet Knights, the Hawkeyes’ ground game excelled in the opening drive, as starting running back Leshon Williams scampered for a nine-yard gain, followed by a 24-yarder on the first two plays from scrimmage. 

Then, after three straight Jaziun Patterson rushes for nine total yards, Hawkeye QB Deacon Hill plunged through the line of scrimmage on a sneak for a first down.

Entering Saturday with questionable tags applied to starting center Logan Jones and left guard Rusty Feth, the Iowa offensive line helped create holes for 179 net rushing yards.  Hawkeye starting left tackle Mason Richman said that uncertainty with health is common for football, but nothing the team can’t adjust to.

“We don’t even know sometimes what some guys are going through,” he said. “For us, it’s just about staying together, staying poised … It’s a revolving door, but everyone’s got to be ready to go.”

The Hawkeyes gained just one more yard following the play, as Hill’s two passing attempts sailed just out of the hands of his targets. 

Drew Stevens, the hero of Iowa’s triumph over Northwestern last week, tried a 47-yarder into the south end zone, but his kick sailed wide right. 

Taking over just shy of midfield, Rutgers gained momentum with two quick first downs, averaging 6.6 yards per play on its opening five snaps. The drive then stalled with the help of the Black and Gold faithful, as the Scarlet Knights committed two straight false starts, turning a third-and-2 into a third-and-12. 

The Scarlet Knights, who entered the game as tied for 11th in the nation in fewest penalties on the year, finished the day with seven flags, costing them 40 yards of field position.

“That completely changes the play calls, the chances of [Rutgers] converting and getting that first down,” Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins said of the penalties. “I love playing at Kinnick, and that’s one of those things you get playing at home.”

Following a Rutgers’ punt that pinned Iowa at its own 15-yard line, Iowa earned just one first down on a Kaleb Brown jet sweep, but after the conversion, amassed four yards on the next three plays. Lining up in an empty formation on third down, Hill’s toss went through the hands of Patterson, forcing Iowa’s second punt of the day. 

Tory Taylor’s 46-yard offering was muffed by Scarlet Knight returner Christian Dremel, the ball bounding nine yards backward before being recovered by Rutgers. Even after its third pre-snap penalty of the game, Rutgers still converted on third-and-six with a 29-yard completion to receiver Ian Strong. Cornerback Jermari Harris missed the initial tackle, allowing Strong to gain 20 yards after the catch. 

The Hawkeye “D” stood strong after the big gain, conceding two yards on the next three plays. 

Those three plays: a sneak from quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and handoffs to running back Kyle Monangai. The duo combined for 1,314 yards on the ground heading into Saturday, each leading the conference in rushing yards at their respective positions. Against Iowa, the pair ran for a combined 37 net yards.

Against a dual-threat QB like Wimsatt, Higgins said committing to just the blitz or pass coverage was never going to work, and instead the Hawkeye defenders had to keep their eyes and feet in the proper positions at all times. As for containing Monangai, the linebacker said it felt good to administer hits on such a physical back.

“It hurt to hit him, so hopefully he’s going to be a little bit sorer than I am,” Higgins said of Monangai. “We tried to make him move his feet and some cuts in the backfield.”

After both teams traded punts, Iowa started at the 49-yard line, its best field position of the game at that point. The Hawkeyes drove the ball 37 yards on 10 plays, getting stuffed on two straight runs to bring out Stevens for his second attempt, this time from 32 yards. 

Stevens made good on his second chance, and the Hawkeyes took the lead on a scoring drive where their longest play was a 10-yard holding penalty on the Scarlet Knights. 

Holding Rutgers to 18 yards on its ensuing possession, Hill shined in the passing game until the Hawkeyes got in the red zone. The Wisconsin transfer completed 5-of-7 passes for 62 yards before his throw to Seth Anderson was intercepted near the right pylon by Scarlet Knight cornerback Max Melton. 

“Obviously, not the way we wanted it to end,” Hill said of the drive. “I think that would’ve built momentum, but it was still, like, ‘Alright guys, let’s just keep doing this … We just did it so let’s just keep it rolling.'”

In the opening thirty minutes of football, Iowa gained 184 total yards of offense, gained more net passing yards than receiving yards, and held Rutgers to five first downs, but still found itself with just a 3-0 lead at the break. 

After both teams traded punts to open the second half, Hill turned heads again with a 54-yard dime on play action to first-year tight end Zach Ortwerth for Iowa’s longest play of the day.

According to Hill, the Rutgers defense was playing in the defensive coverage the Hawkeyes anticipated and found Orthwerth on a “shaft route,” much to the tight end’s surprise.

“Obviously, it’s his first catch, and I can see his face pretty well,” Hill said of Ortwerth. “And I saw his eyes get wide, [saying], ‘the ball’s coming.'”

Yet the offense wouldn’t go a single yard further and Drew Stevens nailed a 47-yarder to extend the Hawkeyes’ advantage. 

After missing his first attempt, Stevens was on the money the rest of the way, contributing 10 points with his right leg.

On the third down play prior to the field goal, Hill appeared to hit the thumb of his throwing hand on the helmet of a Rutgers defensive lineman. The quarterback walked off the field gripping his right thumb but never missed a snap. 

After Rutgers’ second-straight three-and-out, Iowa took over at its 46-yard line and gained three first downs as Hill crossed the 200-yard mark for the first time in his collegiate career with a 17-yard toss to Ragaini. According to Richman, the quarterback possesses a relentless passion that doesn’t waver as the game changes. 

“Going into halftime, not all of the coaches were pleased with him on that last play, but he’s been working, he’s kept his head down,” Richman said of Hill. “I’m really proud of him. He’s the same guy every day … He screamed before we would go out there on the field, and as we get off, he’s screaming too. He’s a really exciting, really fun guy to block for.”

On second-and-four, Patterson squeezed his way into the end zone. 

Opting to go for a two-point conversion, Hill hit Brown on a crossing route to make the score 14-0, but upon further review, Brown was found to have his knee down with the ball prior to the goal line, nullifying the conversion. 

Rutgers’ next drive totaled negative 10 yards, as Wimsatt mishandled a snap for a loss of 13 yards. The Hawkeyes took full advantage of their good field position, driving 44 yards on 12 plays but soon sputtering out when Hill mishandled a snap of his own for a loss of nine yards. 

Stevens kicked his third field goal of the day, this time from 23 yards. 

Rutgers’ next drive lasted just one play, as Wimsatt’s pass flew above his intended receiver, landing the arms of Hawkeye safety Quinn Schulte for the defender’s first pick of the season. He returned the pigskin 39 yards to the nine-yard line.

Iowa linebacker Nick Jackson called Schulte a “coach on the field” and said the former walk-on will usually know the opposing playbook better than his teammates. Calling Schulte’s play an “awesome” moment, Jackson said he “ran his butt off” down the field looking to make a block, but unfortunately came up empty.

“Hopefully next time I can make a block for him … but Quinn’s one of my best friends and I’m really appreciative of everything he’s done.”

Iowa then took three plays to find the end zone. Hill hit Brown again in the flat, and the Ohio State transfer juked a defender before making his way to the left pylon for a score to give Iowa a 22-0 lead. 

Brown said he couldn’t remember when his last touchdown was, as his last trip to the end zone was at some point during his high school years. After his “laser focus” on the football field subsided after the game’s conclusion, Brown said he realized his touchdown was a long time coming.

“I knew I could beat [the Rutgers defender] with speed, so when I did that, it felt great,” he said.

Then, with less than two minutes remaining, Iowa had under bettor everywhere holding their breaths, as the Hawkeyes converted a fourth down to bring them to the five-yard line and threatened to score once again.

Yet to a collective sigh of belief from those gamblers, Hill took a knee on the next snap as time expired, as Iowa sealed the victory and its first game of more than 20 points since Sept. 30 against Michigan State.

“I know some fans are going to be real upset about that last kneel, and that might be on [ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor] Scott Van Pelt’s ‘Bad Beats,'” Richman joked.

Iowa now has the chance to clinch the Big Ten West title with a victory over Illinois at Kinnick Stadium next Saturday. Yet for Richman and his Hawkeye teammates, the implications of the upcoming contest don’t occupy too much headspace.

“I don’t think we’re worried about position quite honestly, I think we’re worried about ourselves,” the lineman said. “We’re worried about getting better. You know, November isn’t spelled, ‘Big Ten West,’ or ‘Indianapolis,’ or anything like that. It’s spelled, ‘N-O-V-E-M-B-E-R.'”

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.