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

Iowa football offense ‘breaks the rock,’ compiles 402 yards in 22-0 win over Rutgers

Quarterback Deacon Hill threw for 223 passing yards, but a multitude of Hawkeyes contributed to the success.
Cody Blissett
Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill hands off the ball to Iowa running back Kaleb Johnson during a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Johnson carried the ball 10 times for 54 yards. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 22-0.

The Iowa football weight room and locker room each hold stones that bear the saying “Break the Rock” — a motto the Iowa offense adhered to in its 22-0 win over Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.

As Hawkeye offensive lineman Mason Richman explained it in the postgame press conference, to “break the rock” means, when tired, to look to the stonecutter who does not stop swinging his hammer at the rock to look for cracks or to take a rest — he keeps swinging.

“That’s what this team is all about,” Richman said. “We don’t look up, looking for rewards or anything. We’re nose to the grindstone. We’re swinging that hammer, and we’re not resting until that rock breaks.

“When it breaks, we know it’s not that one swing that we did, but it’s all of the ones that came before,” he added. “You guys say all [of our] points came from this play … No, it came from everything before it. Everything attributes to all the points we scored today.”

And it took a lot of swings at the stone for the rock to break, but it indeed broke.

By halftime, the Hawkeyes led the Scarlet Knights at just 3-0, the offense compiling 184 total yards but unable to find the end zone — and the half culminated in a 62-yard drive into the red zone that was entirely erased by an interception thrown by Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill.

“Regardless of how [the second quarter] ended … I think it built momentum,” Hill said. “I was like, ‘Alright, guys, let’s just keep doing this. We know we can do it. We just did it. Let’s just keep it rolling.’”

And the Iowa coaching staff’s trust in Hill remained as the second half began, Hill taking a deep shot to wide receiver Kaleb Brown on Iowa’s first drive of the half.

Although it was incomplete, it set the stage for a connection with a wide-open true freshman tight end Zach Ortwerth for a 54-yard gain, which in turn served as momentum into the fourth quarter where the Iowa offense truly turned the jets on.

Just one minute into the fourth, Hill found wide receiver Nico Ragaini for a 17-yard gain into the red zone once more, bringing his passing yards on the evening to 203 — the first 200-yard passing game for a Hawkeye quarterback this season.

Then came a touchdown for the Hawkeyes on a rush from running back Jaziun Patterson.

And another from Brown, who caught his first reception of his Iowa career last week against Northwestern — and this week caught the first touchdown of his college career on a short pass from Hill on third-and-10.

But that score would have been unlikely had Brown not been aided by a strong line of blocking around him, even as starting center Logan Jones and guard Rusty Feth were limited due to injury.

“Everybody has got problems in November; everybody has got guys hurt and guys sore … You can worry about what your problems are, or you can just figure, ‘We’ve got to try to push through,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The [linemen] that were out there did a good job, and they found a way to get that thing done.”

Upon returning to the sideline after the score, the emotions of Brown’s breakthrough finally flooded over him.

“Being on the field was just a laser focus; you’re not really focused on anything but the opportunity and the job,” Brown said, later noting the confidence he’s developed over the last two weeks. “Coming off of the field. It was crazy to think about. I worked here for so long, and for it to finally pull out, I would say [it was] really emotional.”

With under a minute left in the game, the ball back in Iowa’s hands, running back Kaleb Johnson exploded for a 27-yard rush back into the red zone, allowing Hill’s taking a knee to expire the clock and settle the win for the Black and Gold.

The Hawkeye offense eclipsed 402 yards of total offense in the contest, shattering its average of 225 yards per game before today’s matchup and aided by Hill’s 223 passing yards.

“You talk about resiliency — I think that’s the first word I would use with [Hill] because I’m guessing he’s probably been hearing a lot of negative stuff [about him],” Ferentz said. “Instead of worrying about that, he’s been focused on trying to get better, working hard with the coaches, and practicing better.”

In a season in which this Iowa offense has swung the hammer so many times, the rock has remained intact. Swing after swing tonight, it finally broke.

“Obviously, the beginning part of the year didn’t go how we wanted to with the offense, but … everyone on our team knows that it’s just going to take us getting in rhythm,” Ragaini said. “Today, I felt like we found some rhythm in our offense, and now we’ve just got to keep it going.”

But a new rock will sit in front of the Hawkeyes on Nov. 18 when the Fighting Illini come to Iowa City, and the offense will need to break that rock again to clinch the Big Ten West division and earn a shot at the biggest rock of them all that is the Big Ten Championship soon after.

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About the Contributors
Colin Votzmeyer
Colin Votzmeyer, Assistant Sports Editor
Colin Votzmeyer is a junior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and mass communication with minors in history and criminology, law, and justice. Prior to his role as assistant sports editor, he previously served as digital producer, news reporter covering crime, cops, and courts, and sports reporter covering track and field and women's basketball. He plans on attending law school after his graduation with hopes of pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.