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Hawkeyes get it together against Wyoming, 24-3

Hawk Talk
Akrum Wadley

The opening game at Kinnick Stadium is always special.
This is the 36th straight year I’ve gone to Hawkeye home openers, and it all started in 1981.
The only one I missed was the opening game in 2011, when the Hawks hosted Tennessee Tech. That was the game when lighting and thunderstorms delayed the game for over an hour. They had everyone (over 60,000) leave the stadium and when the game started again there were a little over 20,000 that came back.
Iowa won 34-7 as James Vandenberg threw two touchdowns to Marvin McNutt and Shaun Prater intercepted a pass and returned it 89 yards for a score.
I was in Kalamazoo, Mich., at my nephew Kasey Lund’s wedding.
I watched the game on TV with my brother Arne.
My two nieces, Robyn and Kym, promised not to get married on seven Saturdays in the fall, Iowa home football games… both kept their promise and were married in March and August.

Going to the first game of the season is always fun and full of anticipation.
I park in the ramp on the north side of the stadium with the clock on top.
If I come by myself, I usually don’t tailgate and go into the game early.
I walk across the street, get checked in and go into Kinnick.
I go down the 65 or so steps to get onto the field.
At the Kids Day scrimmage, I noticed how green the new turf looked and the new Hawkeye logo at midfield really looked sharp.
I always notice how quiet it is with fewer than 20 people in the stadium, mostly security.
When I come back out, usually 30 minutes before the game starts, Kinnick is half full and my adrenaline is rising.
It was perfect football weather, as far as I was concerned.
A little cool, overcast and not much wind.
Now for the game.
Iowa probably didn’t get a lot of style points, especially in the first quarter, but I’ll take a 24-3 win any time in a home opener.
Nate Stanley had some good and bad moments in his first start.
The one-two punch of Akrum Wadley and James Butler worked well.
Nick Easley, Noah Fant and Matt VandeBerg made some nice catches.
Special teams came through, but the defense looked in midseason-form and carried the Hawks, so that is where I’ll start.

Hawkeye defense

When your top three linebackers combine for 38 tackles, you know the defense is clicking.
The Hawks shut down the running game, holding Wyoming to 59 yards in 30 carries (2.0 per carry).
Josh Allen, one of the top rated quarterbacks in the nation, went 23-40 for 174 yards, no touchdowns and two picks. He was also sacked three times and the Cowboys were only 5-18 on third down conversions.
It all starts in the middle with preseason All-American Josey Jewell.
Josey was all over the field, totaling 14 tackles, and two-and-a-half tackles for a total loss of 25 yards.
Josey helped set up the second touchdown for Iowa as he chased Josh Allen back for a 19-yard sack when the Cowboys got the ball on the Iowa 43 after a Nate Stanley fumble.
Wyoming was forced to punt, their punter missed the ball and Iowa took over on the Cowboy 32.
After a 5-yard penalty by Wyoming, the ball was on the Wyoming 27 with 27 seconds left in the half.
Nate, who was 0-4 in the first quarter with an interception, threw a perfect strike to Noah Fant for the score, giving Iowa a 14-3 lead at half.
Josey gave credit to the defensive line for giving the linebackers opportunities to make plays.
“I think that all goes to the d-line,” said Josey, who also had a pass breakup. “They allowed us to be able to run, they put all their gaps inside and then you could pursue the ball as fast as you wanted to. We communicated pretty well for the first game.”
Josey was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
How about Josh Jackson, who made his second start at cornerback?
Josh saved a touchdown by tipping the ball away in the end zone in the third quarter.
He also set up Iowa’s final score, a field goal, by jumping a sideline pass and returning it 41 yards to the Cowboy 39.
“When he came in, everybody was in awe just to see his athleticism,” said Josey. “How he can jump, how he can run and his hands. Really excited to see how he and the rest of the corners can play the rest of the season.”
The defensive line was solid and A.J. Epenesa got his first sack and a tackle for a loss.
Miles Taylor, Jake Gervase and Michael Ojemudia made some big hits.
Jake and Michael were making their first starts.
Iowa totaled three sacks for 27 yards.
Brady Reiff ended Wyoming’s last drive with his first interception.

Hawkeye offense

Stanley started slow, but his three touchdown passes were a thing of beauty.
The first one, with five minutes left in the half, was a nice pass on fourth and two faking it into the line and finding Noah Fant in the right corner of the end zone.
Nate made another good touch pass to Noah right before half, throwing the 27-yard strike with 27 seconds left.
The third was a nice pass over the defensive back that found Nick Easley, who caught it on the 5 and powered it in for the score in the third quarter.
The last Iowa quarterback to throw three touchdown passes in his first start was Ricky Stanzi in 2008 against Florida Atlantic.
The interception Nate threw was hopefully a learning experience and he also fumbled twice.
I liked the way Akrum Wadley ground out 116 yards in 24 carries.
That’s the 10th time Akrum has rushed for over 100 yards.
His longest run was only 23 yards but he ran inside the tackles and only lost three yards all afternoon.
My favorite play was when Iowa had a third and 21 on the 50 in the third quarter.
Akrum took off on the left side with three blockers in front of him, juked to the right and picked up 23 yards and a Hawkeye first down.
Miguel Recinos finished the drive with a 44-yard field goal.
James Butler also ran hard and will be a solid backup to Akrum as he totaled 47 yards in 10 carries.
James isn’t that big, but runs well inside.
Iowa had to shuffle its offensive line up with James Daniels out at center and Boone Myers didn’t start at tackle.
Alaric Jackson made his first start at left tackle, Keegan Render his first start at center and Ross Reynolds his first start at left guard.
Boone did come in later and played guard for most of the game.
It was good to see Matt VandeBerg make a couple of catches and return punts.

Special teams

The return game looks solid with Akrum returning one kickoff for 30 yards.
Don’t be surprised if he takes one back before the season is over.
Matt VandeBerg handled three punts with a long of 23 yards.
Miguel looked sharp, making all three extra points and the 44-yard field goal.
I really liked the fact that he had five kickoffs and three touchbacks.
The two kickoffs that were returned didn’t make it back to the 20.
Colten Rastetter needs to raise his punting average, which was 38.2 yards on four punts.
“We had a lot of guys playing their first significant football,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz. “The big thing is that everybody just kept playing. We played good team football. The defense helped get us out of some of the jams that we created and some really good responses in all three phases, so I’m just really pleased.”
As Smokey Robinson would say, “I second that emotion.”

Next up, Iowa travels to Ames to take on the ‘Clones.
The Hawks need to tighten things up in order to win their third straight against Iowa State.