IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa posted a dominating 33-7 season-opening victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium, a win that made head coach Kirk Ferentz the winningest coach in school history.
The victory was No. 144 for Ferentz, moving him past legendary Iowa head coach Hayden Fry. Ferentz is now fifth all-time in overall wins in the Big Ten, trailing only Woody Hayes (205), Amos Alonzo Stagg (199), Bo Schembechler (194), and Joe Paterno (162).
Iowa led 3-0 in a first half that saw the Hawkeyes overcome a blocked punt, interception, and turnover on downs. The only scoring came via a 33-yard field goal from senior Miguel Recinos early in the second quarter.
The second half was a different story.
The Hawkeyes dominated the final 30 minutes, finding the end zone four times and securing a safety to cement Ferentz’s place in Iowa history. The Hawkeyes out-gained the Huskies, 204-65, in the second half and 352-211 for the game. Iowa piled up 209 yards on the ground.
Sophomore Toren Young had a career-high 84 yards rushing and one touchdown on eight attempts — all coming in the second half, and sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin had 16 carries for 62 yards and one score.
Junior Nate Stanley finished 11-of-23 for 108 yards and one touchdown — a 1-yard completion to junior tight end Noah Fant for the game’s first touchdown. Junior T.J. Hockenson led Iowa’s passing attack with four catches for 64 yards.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“I am so happy about getting the win. Nothing ever comes easy. It was good way for to us start the season. We didn’t anticipate anything being easy today, and it certainly wasn’t.
“What carried our football team was we played hard and they played with good effort. They have been practicing well. We have had four weeks as of last night of preparation for this and the team’s worked hard consistently throughout preseason and consistently through the Northern Illinois preparation. That’s an encouraging thing and we came up with some critical plays in critical situations, mostly the defense in that first half, to keep us in the game.”
On breaking the record:
“First and foremost just I feel fortunate being in my 28th, 29th year here. Going back to 1981, I had no idea what I was walking into, I’ve said that many times. What I walked into there is really kind of similar to what we have had the last 19 years. The commonality has been great players to work with and a lot of them were back today, it was neat to see those guys. I couldn’t have worked with a better staff of people and personally I am happy that so many of them could be here from the ’83, the ’80 vintage group. That was nice.
“Then there have been so many other people involved. That jumped out at me in 1981. That’s what has been great about being here. As you fast forward you think about guys that were here on the original staff, Phil (Parker), Ken (O’Keefe) was here, he took a little hiatus. Chris Doyle, Reese (Morgan) got here year two. I’m old enough now that we have three players that were here or at least in the first couple years that are on our staff right now. That has been the commonality. It takes a lot of things to go right and it takes a lot of people, the administration, the leadership from our athletic directors — three athletic directors since 1970. It’s a big picture. It’s all about a collective effort and nothing happens in football unless that, nothing good happens typically unless that’s the case.
“I am happy about it and so it’s all good. It was a good day for us. I’ll maybe have a little extra ice cream tonight, you never know. We will really cut it loose.”
DEFENSE STANDS TALL
After giving up 146 yards in the first half, Iowa’s defense was more than stingy in the second 30 minutes. Northern Illinois had just one offensive yard through the first 22 1/2-minutes when the Hawkeyes took control.
Iowa’s defense allowed 65 yards in the second half and 211 for the game. The Huskies averaged just 3.4 yards per play and finished 3-of-12 on third down.
The Hawkeyes finished with five sacks from four different players and piled up eight tackles for loss. Junior Kristian Welch had a career- and game-high 11 tackles, including seven solo stops, and senior Parker Hesse had two sacks.
Junior Amani Hooker also had his third career interception in the first half with Northern Illinois driving for a go-ahead touchdown and Hooker had the tackle on Iowa’s fourth quarter safety.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
Iowa scored on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, turning a 3-0 lead into a 17-0 advantage.
After senior Kyle Groeneweg’s 11-yard punt return gave Iowa starting field position at its own 42, sophomore Toren Young’s second-down run — a 40-yarder on his first carry of the game — moved Iowa to the 12 and a NIU holding call on the play, gave the Hawkeyes a first-and-goal from the 4.
Three consecutive runs brought the ball to the 1, and Iowa went for it on fourth down. Stanley connected with junior Noah Fant off play action for a 1-yard touchdown pass, giving the Hawkeyes a 10-0 lead.
Following a NIU offensive series that saw the Huskies lose 19 yards on consecutive sacks from Parker Hesse and Kristian Welch, Iowa put together a five-play, 46-yard touchdown drive. Young had a 20-yard run and a Huskie personal foul brought the ball to the 10. Sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin found the end zone, scoring from 2 yards out to make the score 17-0.
THE REST OF THE SCORING
Iowa’s defense set up the Hawkeyes’ third touchdown when sophomore A.J. Epenesa sacked and forced a Marcus Childers fumble. Sophomore Chauncey Golston scooped up the fumble and returned it to the NIU 26. After an incompletion on first down, Iowa ran five straight times, culminating with a 6-yard touchdown run from Young, making the score 24-0.
A career-long 69-yard punt from Colten Rastetter that was downed at the 1 set up Iowa’s safety. NIU ran two plays on the drive without any success and an official review overturned the second attempt by Jordan Nettles to net Iowa’s first safety since the Purdue game last season.
Back-up quarterback Peyton Mansell led Iowa on a 35-yard scoring drive in his first career action. He connected with junior Nate Wieting for a 30-yard completion on his first play to the 5 before scoring from 1-yard out two plays later. The touchdown run made the score 33-0.
Northern Illinois avoided the shutout with an 11-play, 75-yard drive against Iowa’s second-string defense. Childers connected with Jauan Wesley for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:12 remaining.
Iowa used nine first-time starters, five on offense and four on defense.
Offense: FB Brady Ross, WR Ivory Kelly Martin, RG Cole Banwart, LT Dalton Ferguson, WR Brandon Smith
Defense: LB Nick Niemann, LB Amani Jones, LB Kristian Welch, DT Sam Brinks
Noah Fant’s 1-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was his 13th career touchdown reception, tying Quinn Early and Mike Flagg for 10th all-time in program history.
Iowa’s tight ends had eight of the teams 13 receptions and totaled 104 receiving yards and one touchdown. (Fant, 3-10-1, Hockensen, 4-64, Wieting, 1-30)
In in its last two regular season games, Iowa has outscored its opponents 72-7 in the second half (42-0 at Nebraska, 30-7 vs. Northern Illinois.
ON THE HORIZON
The Hawkeyes return to action Sept. 8, hosting Iowa State in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. The game, which is sold out, will kickoff at 4 p.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium.