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Overtime: A Look Back at Iowa’s 31-14 Win Over North Texas

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By Jack Brandsgard (   09/17/17

What an odd game. It was a rollercoaster, but the Iowa Hawkeyes eventually toppled the North Texas Mean Green 31-14. If you just looked at the score, you’d think it was a solid win for the Hawkeyes. But there are many different aspects to parse out. Let’s begin with the first half that made Gary Dolphin proclaim he was heading to the bars during the intermission.

Iowa started promisingly by taking the opening kickoff and marching 76 yards right down the field. The drive culminated with Nick Easley fumbling after being crunched at the goal line. That resulted in a touchback, and it took just six plays for North Texas to drive 80 yards for a touchdown. Mean Green running back Jeffery Wilson left both Jake Gervase and Miles Taylor in the dust en route to the 41-yard touchdown that capped the drive. More on Iowa’s safeties later.

After being punched in the mouth by the Mean Green, the Hawkeyes were punched in the gut by the referees. Blaming refs is trite and lame, but the boos that rained down from Kinnick Stadium were warranted after Akrum Wadley was flagged for high-stepping into the endzone following a scintillating catch-and-run. Football is a game and the players deserve to celebrate when they succeed. The flag set the tone for an overly-officiated game.

Iowa rebounded from the call after TJ Hockenson went up like a power forward to haul in a batted ball to tie the game at seven. The Hawkeye defense bent the ensuing drive, but Josh Jackson prevented them from breaking when he came flying around the edge to block a field goal attempt. It was a huge momentum shifter and Iowa took a 10-7 lead after a Miguel Recinos field goal.

Just when I thought there had been enough insanity, the most mind-boggling play of the game happened. Iowa regained possession after forcing North Texas to go three-and-out. With about four minutes left in the half, Keegan Render got beat badly, allowing his man to sack Nate Stanley, who fumbled the ball into the air. It was already a bad play by Render, but the Indianola native compounded his mistake when he, amazingly, watched the ball bounce right by him and into the arms of North Texas defensive lineman TJ Tauaalo. The big fella rumbled the other way as James Butler pursued. Butler then made perhaps the play of the game by poking the ball loose and pouncing on it, securing the Hawkeyes another possession. Had Butler quit on the play, the Mean Green could have easily taken a 14-10 lead and zapped all the energy out of the gold-filled Kinnick Stadium.

Following an Iowa punt, North Texas benefitted from a questionable roughing the passer call on freshman AJ Epenesa. The Mean Green eventually punched in a go-ahead touchdown to leave the Hawkeye faithful shocked and take a 14-10 lead into halftime, capping one of the oddest 30 minutes of football I’ve seen in my 21 years of life.

I don’t know what Kirk Ferentz said to his team at halftime, but it must have been well-received. Each team had the ball four times in the second half. North Texas’ ended in three punts and an interception, Iowa’s ended in three touchdowns and a kneel down at the two yard line.

If there are any positives to take away from both Akrum Wadley and James Butler getting dinged up, it’s that Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin were spectacular in relief. The two freshmen combined for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

Nate Stanley was solid, too. He’d love to have a few deep balls back, but the requisite timing and accuracy will come with more experience.

Simply put, Iowa’s defense was bad in the first half and good in the second half. It starts with Josey Jewell, who hasn’t been himself the last two weeks. His linebacker-mates Ben Niemann and Bo Bower also haven’t been up to snuff, and I’m already having nightmares of those three trying to chase down Saquon Barkley in space next week.

When Barkley does break free, Jake Gervase and Miles Taylor will be tasked with bringing him down in space. Advantage Penn State. How many times do coaches need to see Miles Taylor come screaming down from his safety spot only to overrun and whiff the ball-carrier before making a change? I was glad to see Amani Hooker get some action, but Iowa needs to sure-up their tackling on the back end, especially with Barkley and company coming to town next week.

It was nice to see Iowa come out much stronger in the second half against North Texas, but it’ll take a complete effort to knock off Penn State under the lights.

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