IOWA CITY, Iowa — The No. 19/20th-ranked University of Iowa defense was dominant and senior Nate Stanley threw three touchdown passes, sending the Hawkeyes to a 30-0 shutout victory over Rutgers and their first Big Ten Conference win of the season on Saturday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa’s defense put the clamps down on a Rutgers offense that gained 554 yards in its season-opening victory over Massachusetts. The Scarlet Knights didn’t hit the 100-yard mark until late in the third quarter and finished with just 125 yards for the game — the fifth-lowest total in the Kirk Ferentz era.
The Hawkeyes surrendered 47 yards in the first quarter and nothing else in the first half. Iowa had 236-47 advantage in yardage in the first half and a 438-125 advantage for the game. The Hawkeyes forced three turnovers, allowed just five first downs, and held Rutgers to 2-of-14 on third down.
Rutgers finished with just 41 yards passing — the second-fewest in the Ferentz era (12 vs. Georgia Tech, 2010). Two Scartlet Knight quarterbacks combined to go 9-for-26 with two interceptions.
Senior linebacker Kristian Welch led the team with eight tackles, including four solo stops. Senior Michael Ojemudia and redshirt sophomore Djimon Colbert had interceptions and redshirt freshman Noah Shannon had a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Junior A.J. Epenesa finished with three tackles, including a sack, and four quarterback hurries.
Stanley completed 16-of-28 attempts for 236 yards and three touchdowns. The senior completed passes to eight different players with junior Ihmir Smith-Marsette leading the way with four catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ SAYS…
“I am pleased with the win today. It was a decisive performance by our football team and a great way to start Big Ten play. All three segments played well and we did well on special teams for the most part. Offensively we did a good job, and defensively, it’s silly to think they didn’t play a great game. It was a great start.
“Nate looked in control out there, throwing three touchdown passes, but equally as important, it looks like he’s in control and I am feeling good about the way he’s playing. Ivory Kelly-Martin made a real spark play for us on that long drive that we had in the second quarter and it was good to see some young guys out there. Goodson did a good job and Tyrone Tracy had a touchdown and made a good finish on that play. That was great.
“Defensively, the guys did a good job you up front. A.J. (Epenesa) gave us some good pressure and worked hard and getting two picks like that was great, and we got a turnover at the end of the game. The two picks really influenced and impacted the football game.
“We overcame bad field position. It was a tough game field-position-wise. I give a lot of credit to Michael Sleep-Dalton; he had a great game. I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a college game where two punters played as well as both those guys, or probably any game, ever. Both of them performed well, and it was interesting on that front and great to see Michael play like he did.
“Then moving on, we’re going to celebrate this win. It was hard-earned. The guys did a good job, preparing all week long and showed up and competed hard today against a team that I think has improved, so we’re happy about that.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Hawkeyes took the opening kickoff and needed just five plays to grab the early 7-0 lead. On second-and-4 from its own 42, Stanley connected with Smith-Marsettte for a 58-yard touchdown pass.
- Iowa dominated the second quarter, outgaining the Scarlet Knights, 140-0, to take a 20-0 lead into the half. Rutgers had zero first downs and ran only nine offensive plays in the quarter.
- Backed up to their own 3 yard-line, the Hawkeyes rattled off an 11-play, 97-yard drive to take a 14-0 lead. It was the longest drive of the season.
- Stanley gained 7 yards on a sneak on the first play before hooking up with Smith-Marsette for a 25-yard gain. Stanley converted a fourth-and-1 with a sneak from the 44 and had a 25-yard screen pass to Ivory Kelly-Martin, moving Iowa to the 7. On the next play, Stanley floated a touchdown pass into the corner of the end zone to Tyrone Tracy, Jr., for a 7-yard touchdown — the first of his career — to make the score 14-0.
- Redshirt freshman Nico Ragaini’s 16-yard punt return jumpstarted the next scoring drive, giving Iowa starting field position in Rutgers territory. Iowa moved six plays to the 28 before junior Keith Duncan connected on a 46-yard field goal — the longest of his career — making the score 17-0.
- Iowa forced the game’s first turnover on Rutgers’ next possession. Epenesa applied pressure and Colbert intercepted McLane Carter and returned it 6 yards to the 30. Four Sargent rushes of 10, 9, 6, and 2 yards moved Iowa to the 3, but with the half winding down, Duncan connected on a 19-yard field goal to make the score 20-0 at the break.
- Iowa stretched its lead to 27-0 with a quick-strike, two-play, 56-yard drive with 2:50 left in the third quarter. Stanley hit Tracy, Jr., for 33 yards on first down before connecting with Smith-Marsette for a 23-yard touchdown on the next play. It was Smith-Marsette’s second touchdown reception of the game, tying a career high.
- On the first play of the fourth quarter, senior Michael Ojemudia’s intercepted Artur Sitkowski at the Iowa 32, setting up Iowa’s final scoring drive. Iowa used a 16-yard rush from Sargent and a 31-yard burst from Young to get deep into Rutgers territory. Duncan connected on a 43-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes a 30-0 lead.
- Stanley threw three touchdowns (58, 7, 23) to raise his career total to 58 and pass Ricky Stanzi (56) for third in program history. Only Chuck Long (74) and Drew Tate (61) have more career passing touchdowns than Stanley.
- Stanley has thrown at least one touchdown in seven straight games, the longest streak of his career. He threw three touchdowns today and has 16 career multi-touchdown games. He has 10 career games with at least three passing touchdowns. Only Chuck Long has more in program history (11).
- Stanley passed for 236 yards today, raising his career total to 5,839 and passing James Vandenberg (5,786) for seventh on Iowa’s all-time list.
- Smith-Marsette recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game. He had a career-high 113 yards receiving, and tied career highs in receptions (4) and receiving touchdowns (2).
- Tracy, Jr., scored his first career touchdown, a 7-yard reception from Stanley.
- Kelly-Martin tied a career-long with a 25-yard reception to set up Iowa’s second touchdown.
- Colbert recorded his first career interception (6-yard return). The turnover set up a 19-yard field goal before halftime.
- Ojemudia recorded an interception, his second of the season and fifth of his career.
- Iowa recorded its first shutout since blanking Illinois, 63-0, on Nov. 17, 2018.
- Rutgers gained zero total yards on nine offensive plays in the second quarter.
- Iowa outgained Rutgers 236-47 in total yards in the first half.
- Iowa is off to a 2-0 start for the sixth straight year, its longest annual stretch of 2-0 starts since 1900-1905.
- The Hawkeyes have scored in every quarter this season.
The Hawkeyes play at Iowa State on Sept. 14 in the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. (CT) at Jack Trice Stadium. The game is televised on FS1.