• Travis Thornburgh

Game Recap: Rutgers

Initial Takeaways:

- Nate Stanley is now 3rd All-Time in Career Passing Touchdowns, trailing only Drew Tate and Chuck Long.

- Iowa defeated Rutgers by 30 points and it really didn't feel that close watching in the stadium.

- Mehki Sargent was impressive in run blocking throughout the game. On multiple occasions, I noticed he cut down blitzers who were on free runs to Nate Stanley.

- A.J. Epenesa is getting al the hype, but there is a ton of talent on this defensive line.

- Rutgers very rarely generated pressure on Nate Stanley. Even when the receivers were covered, Nate Stanley had an eternity to stand in the pocket and survey.

- Nate Stanley has been nearly perfect throwing fades to the corner of the endzone this year. That should be the go to play in the red zone moving forward.

Views From the Corner of Kinnick

I missed the mark in my preview of this one. I thought Rutgers was going to be better early this season, but they just don't seem to be there yet. Despite it being a one score game most of the 1st quarter, the game really never felt close. Iowa had an answer and a counter punch to everything Rutgers wanted to do, and without an outstanding performance from the Rutgers punter the game would have gotten ugly early.

In general, there wasn't much to complain about in this one. The first half started with a bang as Nate Stanley hit Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a 58-yard touchdown pass. Iowa and Rutgers then got into a field position battle, with Iowa's next four drives beginning inside their own 11 yard line and only one of the next three drives yielding an Iowa 1st down. On the fourth possession, Nate Stanley found Ihmir Smith-Marsette over the middle again to get out of the shadow of the goal post and the offense and seemingly kickstart the offense. That drive ended with a touchdown on a beautiful fade from Nate Stanley to Tyrone Tracy. To close out the half, Iowa forced Rutgers into a 3 and out for a net -9 yards and an interception on their next two possessions, with both resulting in Iowa field goals.

The second half was more of the same. Rutgers fizzled out on the opening drive of the second half, but their punter pinned Iowa deep in its own end by downing a punt at the Iowa 1. Iowa would then advance the ball to its own 33 and flip the field, only to have Rutgers drive to its own 50 and pin Iowa on its own 2 yard line again. Iowa would then flip the field once more, pinning Rutgers inside its own 10. The defense came up with a stop and an interception on the next two Scarlet Knight possessions, which the offense converted into a touchdown and field goal. At that point, the scoring was over and the backups entered for Iowa early in the 4th quarter.

Generally speaking, Iowa had an impressive showing. I can't remember many times when Iowa won a game by 30 or more and I found myself thinking that it really didn't seem that close. The defensive line generated a ton of pressure all day long and had the Rutgers quarterbacks uneasy from the start. A number of the incompletions thrown by the Scarlet Knights were less about what the defensive backs were doing and more about the defensive line. The offense looked solid, with the passing game being a bigger part of the attack than I expected and the running backs being less successful. Nate Stanley looks confident and looks like he has a great understanding of the offense and what Brian Ferentz is trying to do.

The offense could prove to be very potent as the season moves forward, especially if the offensive line can gel and consistently punch holes in defensive lines like they have the first two weeks. One needed area of improvement is consistency running the football early in games. Iowa often struggles to run the ball early, with that part of the offense emerging late in games. However, this offense would seem to be as deep as any Iowa team that I can remember at both running back and wide receiver, with at least five receivers consistently contributing (Smith-Marsette, Smith, Tracy, Rigaini, Martin) and up to four running backs seeing action this year (Sargent, T. Young, Kelly-Martin, and Goodson).

Much like last week, Nate Stanley showed growth over a year ago in hitting Ihmir Smith-Marsette in stride for the opening touchdown of the game and throwing an absolutely perfect fade to Tyrone Tracy for his second. Stanley is showing more consistency in throwing deep balls this year, and should continue to improve as his senior campaign wears on. He also continued to show his willingness to spread the ball around, connecting with 8 different receivers, including three of his running backs. If the offensive line continues to block the way they have the first two weeks of the season and continue to give Stanley extremely clean pockets, Nate could be poised for a monster year. In addition, with his 3 touchdown passes Nate Stanley moved into sole possession of 3rd all-time at Iowa for career touchdown passes.

Iowa's defense continued to prove that they are a solid unit, and with some small adjustments as the season goes on, could prove to be problematic for their Big Ten foes. Although the sack numbers through the first two games of the year may not show it, Iowa has generated a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Both Rutgers quarterbacks looked uncomfortable when they dropped back to pass and on multiple occasions mistimed throws because they felt the Iowa defense coming. The defensive backs showed improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 and had fewer breakdowns in coverage than against Miami. Overall, it was an excellent performance for the defense, as Rutgers failed to register a score, accumulated only 47 yards through the air, and 78 yards on the ground.

Special teams had a much bigger impact in this game than I anticipated it would, and Michael Sleep-Dalton didn't disappoint. He had 290 yards on 6 punts, a 48.3 yard average, and he downed 2 punts inside the Rutgers 10 yard line. Keith Duncan appears to be the top placekicker moving forward, as he handled all the kicking duties, nailing field goals from 19, 43, and 46 and improving to a perfect 4 out of 4 on the year.

This game was an example of thorough domination that really wasn't represented by the score. Iowa dominated on both offense and defense, with Rutgers special teams keeping the game closer than it should have been. It serves as another solid building block as the team moves into preparation for Iowa State. The defensive line continued to prove that the hype is well deserved, the offense is rounding into form, and the special teams seems to be the best it has been in a while. The future looks bright heading in Cy-Hawk Week.

Travis's Player of the Game: Ihmir Smith-Marsette - 4 Receptions, 113 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Honorable Mention: Rutgers punter Adam Korsak - 10 Punts, 476 Punt Yards, 7 Punts Downed Inside the 20

Up Next: The Iowa State Cyclones 1-0 (0-0) at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames

As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!

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About Travis

A lifelong Hawkeye fan and a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa in Civil Engineering, Travis now calls Des Moines, Iowa home and continues to passionately follow University of Iowa athletics

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