By Jeremiah Davis, Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Three plus three equals three. That’s math that works for the Iowa football team.
With a dominant 38-14 win against Northern Iowa on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium, that makes three games, three impressive defensive efforts and three emphatic wins to send the Hawkeyes (3-0) into Big Ten Conference play with an undefeated record for the second straight year.
“Our defense in general, especially the front seven . we’re developing some depth,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “We’re hardly a perfect team right now, but our guys have been focused.
“We’ve played hard three straight weeks now.”
The Hawkeyes held the Panthers (0-2) to 20 total yards and minus-2 yards rushing in the first half and finished the game allowing six yards rushing and 228 total yards to their neighbors from the north after the Panthers put together a pair of late-game scoring drives against Hawkeye backups. Sophomore defensive end A.J. Epenesa had a sack, cornerback Michael Ojemudia had an interception and defensive back Jake Gervase forced a fumble.
Nathan Stanley had a mostly-flawless game, throwing for 309 yards, two touchdown passes and an interception on 23-of-28 passing for Iowa. Nick Easley had 10 catches for 103 yards and one touchdown for the Hawkeyes. Mekhi Sargent had 15 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns while Toren Young had 14 carries 82 yards and one score.
UNI’s Colton Howell finished 3-of-10 passing for 22 yards and one interception. Eli Dunne was 18 of 28 for 200 yards passing and two touchdowns.
“I know they probably wanted to get their offense going,” said UNI coach Mark Farley. “They did a very nice job (passing), but it always come back to the running I was disappointed we gave up so many yards rushing. They’re very good, they’ve got a chance to have a great team.”
It was a record-setting night for one Hawkeye, too.
Noah Fant caught five passes for 99 yards and one touchdown, moving him atop the all-time list for tight end touchdowns at Iowa to help power the Hawkeyes. Fant’s touchdown puts him at 14 for his career, moving ahead of Mike Flagg (13), Tony Moeaki (11), Jim Gibbons (11), Scott Chandler (10), C.J. Fiedorowicz (10), and current San Francisco 49er George Kittle (10).
“I did not know that (was the record),” Fant said. “That’s a cool accolade to have but during the game we’re just focused on – I was hoping to get another one, honestly.”
Iowa: It was more of the same as far as the Hawkeyes’ defense was concerned. Iowa has allowed just 209 total yards and 42 yards rushing per game so far this season, 25 total yards rushing in the last two games, and UNI’s 14 points are the most allowed this season. The Hawkeyes have been dominant in multiple areas but led by their defensive front which has kept opposing quarterbacks on the run and running backs stifled.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers had a week off after losing at Montana, but coach Mark Farley’s team had no answer for Iowa’s defense until late in the game. As he has in the last several seasons, Farley is rotating quarterbacks again this year, and the Panthers saw mixed results again. There’s plenty of time for UNI to right the ship in Missouri Valley Football Conference play, but a clear No. 1 at QB would help get things guided in the right direction.
HAWKEYES WANTED THE SHUTOUT
Make no mistake, the Iowa defense wanted nothing more than to keep Northern Iowa out of the end zone in this game.
The Hawkeyes had given up 10 total to Northern Illinois and Iowa State, and through three quarters Saturday had pitched a shutout. But a quarterback change from Howell to Dunne saw UNI mount a pair of scoring drives that took the shutout away – and took Iowa’s average points allowed per game from 5 to 8.
“We’re out striving to be the best and giving up points and big plays and penalties isn’t what’s going to help us be the best,” said Iowa linebacker Jack Hockaday. “So yeah we were angry (to give up points). We’re going to have to clean it up for next week.”
HE SAID IT
“We set good tempo offensively,” Ferentz said. “We made some progress there. You look at the month of September, and I think I’ve said this pretty routinely, it’s all about growth and development for our football team, and I think we’re seeing that.”
Iowa hosts No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday. Wisconsin should drop a bit in the rankings, but it’ll still be an electric atmosphere for a night game in Kinnick.
Northern Iowa hosts Hampton on Saturday. The Panthers should be able to rebound and grab their first win of the season by returning to the UNI-Dome.
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