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A look back on Iowa’s past two games: Indiana and Northwestern

celebration under the lights and stripes

By Sam Kienzle

Iowa toppled the Indiana Hoosiers by halftime at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, breaking with a 35-14 lead.  The man of the half-hour was surely Marvin McNutt, who had a career game.  Iowa’s defense allowed 414 yards to a Hoosier squad starting a new quarterback, Tre Roberson.  More on the Indiana game, but first…

Sending boastful and belligerent text messages to my Northwestern alumni/friend, shedding my tribal angst

celebration under the lights and stripes
The Hawkeyes celebrate a touchdown under the lights and stripes, Oct. 15th at Kinnick Stadium (Benjamin Roberts/Press-Citizen)

I know I’m late in delivering recap and reaction to this game.  It is undoubtedly an important game.  The three-game skid against the pseudo-Ivy League team in the league had soured us.  So, finally pinning the elusive wildcats 41-31 on October 15th, I fawned over the win like a golden goose egg.

Iowa was outgained in many statistical categories that night.  Iowa’s defense allowed 495 yards, 29 first downs, and 38 minutes of possession time.  None of that seemed to matter, though, because Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg made the most of his completions, connecting on 14 of 22 passes for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns with one interception. Vandenberg’s second quarter touchdown to Keenan Davis for 47 yards and his fourth quarter touchdown to Marvin McNutt for 35 yards both came on wide open passes, with Iowa’s receivers having a few steps on Northwestern’s woeful secondary all night.

Easy as those touchdowns may have come, it was actually the defense that got Iowa to a double digit lead, when free safety Tanner Miller snagged Dan Persa’s errant desperation pass and sprinted 98 yards for pay dirt.  Broderick Binns wrestled Persa’s legs to a standstill and a Hawkeye linebacker delivered a free tag, tempting Persa to make one of his textbook, Hawkeye-beating throws—only this time going to the hands of Iowa’s Miller.  With Davis’ second quarter touchdown and a Mike Meyer field goal, Iowa brought a 17-7 lead into halftime.

Down by 10, Northwestern tied the game in the third quarter with a Jeff Budzien field goal after a 4 yard touchdown run by Adonis Smith earlier in the third quarter made it 17-14.  The fourth quarter mostly belonged to the Hawkeyes and Marcus Coker, who scored on two 1-yard runs and chipped in 124 yards on 22 carries.

This win was as gratifying to the fans as it was to the players.  The Iowa players knew they had to beat Northwestern, not only for pride and validation, but for establishing a division pecking order.  This was Iowa’s only night game of the year, and the striped, heated crowd coupled with Iowa’s efficient offense were too much for this uncommonly poor Northwestern team.  The defense, despite its existence as a sieve, made some great plays.  The few that come to mind involve the glorious undermining of Dan Persa as a football player.  Tanner Miller’s pick for six set the tone for the game, and Broderick Binn’s cinematic sack on Persa forced a fumble that Iowa defensive lineman Steve Bigach recovered and Iowa would later turn into 3 points.

Marvin McNutt helps Iowa swat the Hoosiers, 45-24

Marvin McNutt dashes in for the record, untouched
Marvin McNutt sets the all-time touchdown receptions record (AP Photo/Brian Ray)

Marvin McNutt did to Indiana what he always does to Indiana: get away with whatever he wants.  McNutt tallied career highs for touchdowns (3) and receiving yards (184) in Saturday’s win at Kinnick Stadium.  His first touchdown of 80 yards broke Iowa’s all-time touchdown receptions record, previously owned by Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes.  McNutt now sits firmly alone on top with 24 career touchdowns after the win.  McNutt’s colleague, junior quarterback James Vandenberg, threw his fourth touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter to tight end Brad Herman.  Marcus Coker bounced and stumbled for 139 yards on 23 carries, netting two first-half touchdowns.  Iowa lead 35-14 at the half.

Indiana initiated Tre Roberson with the start at quarterback, the first time the program has ever started a true freshman at the position.  Roberson found the yards easy to come by against the porous Iowa defense, passing for 197 yards and rushing for 84.  The Hoosiers rushed for more than 200 yards against the Hawkeyes, making it the third straight week the Hawkeyes have allowed more than 150 rushing yards, and the second time in as many weeks the Hawkeyes have allowed more than 200 yards.

The Hoosiers held competitive early, tying the game at 14 with Stephen Houston’s 1-yard run.  For the rest of the game, however, the Hawkeyes would go onto outscore the Hoosiers 31-10, aided by Marvin McNutt’s second and third touchdown catches of the game, covering 24 and 29 yards in the second quarter.

The win moved Iowa to 5-2 and 2-1 in conference with a win from each division and a loss from Penn State in the Leaders Division.  Iowa’s offense did what it was supposed to do to against a team with one win and losses to Ball State and North Texas, among others.  The Hoosiers actually scored three more points than their season average, which is a considerable demerit on the Iowa defense’s record.  After playing a comically bad Minnesota team next week—and after playing three straight lowly foes—Iowa plays four straight teams with (current) winning records.  Three of the four are ranked, and all four have considerably better offenses and defenses than the likes of Minnesota and Louisiana Monroe.  The game at Minnesota is an opportunity to grow as much as possible before a back-loaded stretch the Hawkeyes haven’t yet seen this year.


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