Nate Stanley threw for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns while the Iowa defense allowed just 125 yards of total offense in a 30-0 cruise at Kinnick Stadium. The No. 20 Hawkeyes improve to 2-0 (1-0) in advance of the trip to Ames next weekend.
Iowa started the game in style, with Stanley lofting an easy bomb that caught Ihmir Smith-Marsette in stride for a 58-yard touchdown on the opening drive:
Upon going down 7-0 early, Rutgers implemented Operation Field Position, using its ultimate weapon: punter Adam Korsak. KORSAKBOT 5000 punted 10 times for 476 yards, and his first four punts went thusly:
- 48 yards, -3-yard return, ball at the Iowa 3
- 47 yards, downed, ball at the Iowa 11
- 41 yards, fair catch, ball at the Iowa 8
- 32 yards, fair catch, ball at the Iowa 3 (after a holding penalty)
That is a field position nightmare that helped keep the score close—for a while—and it took a 97-yard touchdown drive off the last punt to drag the game out of that rut.
The punting exhibition was only getting started. The Mighty Korsak, who is now our Heisman front-runner—we're only half-kidding—opened the second half with a nice 69-yard punt that was downed at the Iowa 1. After Iowa punted its way out of the hole, Korsak kicked them right back in 300-style with a 48-yarder to the 2.
Iowa would have the last laugh in PUNT WARS, however, as Michael Sleep-Dalton downed his last two punts at the Rutgers 9- and 1-yard lines, respectively, and actually finished with a superior 48.3 yards per punt. Rutgers wasn't even going to score from a short field, but pinning the woeful Scarlet Knight offense inside its own 10 was a fitting way to preserve the shutout in the late stages of the game.
And goodness, was Iowa's defense ever great today. Rutgers QB McLane Carter* was 5-for-15 for 22 yards and an interception before Rutgers head coach Chris Ash took mercy on him, and replacement Artur Sitkowski was scarcely better at 4-for-11 for 19 yards and a horrific pick of his own. The 41 combined passing yards are the second-lowest allowed by a Kirk Ferentz team, and the only worse performance was by an option team—Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl. Rutgers tried to pass, a lot, and simply could not do it.
*Amazingly, that is the correct order of his name.**
**Also, if you're wondering why Rutgers has such a Texasly named QB, Carter was a transfer from Texas Tech.
A.J. Epenesa lived in the Rutgers backfield in the first half before the Scarlet Knights began double-teaming him out of pure desperation*, and although the Hawkeyes only recorded one sack, both QBs took several big hits over the course of the game and had a supremely miserable visit to Kinnick Stadium.
*Another fun little parallel to the 2010 Orange Bowl!
Meanwhile, there was plenty to love about Iowa's performance. Stanley's placement on the other two touchdown throws might have been even better than the first:
The tailback hydra of Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young and Tyler Goodson each rushed for over 50 yards on a combined 5.3 yards per carry, and Ivory Kelly-Martin got into the act with a 25-yard gain on a slick screen pass. The offensive line wasn't perfect, but its run blocking was downright violent and Nate Stanley stayed upright until a sack in the 4th quarter with the game firmly out of reach. Iowa's QBs found eight receivers for receptions this week after 10 in the season opener; the passing offense looks as robust as it's been in years. We'd like to see fewer throws short of the sticks on 3rd downs, but this is Iowa football; you might as well wish for butterflies in the winter.
Meanwhile, Iowa's defense answered what few questions might have remained after Week 1's showing. As noted earlier, Epenesa had a sack and four (!) QB pressures, and the defensive line as a whole looked mean, physical and deep. Djimon Colbert and Kristian Welch combined for 13 tackles, most coming downhill for minimal gains. And after Yung Gabbo's surprising Week 1, the Iowa secondary refused to let the Rutgers receivers get free on the rare occasions when the QBs could afford to stand in the pocket.
Now yes, it's important to note that Rutgers — aside from PUNT GOD KORSAK — is not a quality opponent. There are more 30-point losses awaiting it in the Big Ten this season. Specifically, the Carter/Sitkowski duo is the worst QB situation in the Big Ten, by far, until further notice. Here, try to figure out why Sitkowski threw this ball:
But Iowa has played plenty of bad teams and bad quarterbacks before, especially early in the season, and rarely has the defensive dominance been this complete. Iowa looks as poised and ready as nearly any Kirk Ferentz team two weeks into the season, and that's a great sign heading into the first real test of the season next week.
A butt-kicking is a butt-kicking; we should always enjoy it when Iowa's on the right side of one. Go Iowa Awesome.