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Hawkeyes survive Northern Iowa scare in season opener

[ 0 ] August 30, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany might be doing the Iowa football team a favor by not wanting to schedule games against FCS opponents anymore.

The Hawkeyes withstood another scare from Northern Iowa on Saturday, winning 31-23 before an announced crowd of 66,805 in the season opener at Kinnick Stadium.

Senior receiver Damond Powell caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jake Rudock with 6 minutes, 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter to help quell the upset bid. It was Powell’s only catch in the game.

Iowa running back Mark Weisman (45) scores a touchdown in the Hawkeyes' 31-23 home win Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

Iowa running back Mark Weisman (45) scores a touchdown in the Hawkeyes’ 31-23 home win Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. (Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

Sophomore cornerback Greg Mabin, who was making his first career start, also intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter to secure Iowa’s 16th victory in 17 games against Northern Iowa.

Saturday’s victory came almost five years after Iowa blocked back-to-back field-goal attempts in the final seconds to escape with a 17-16 win against the Panthers in the 2009 season opener.

If Delany gets his way, Saturday’s game also could be Iowa’s last against Northern Iowa. Delany is pushing for Big Ten teams to stop playing FCS opponents mostly because of financial and scheduling concerns.

Northern Iowa kept the game close despite committing 16 penalties to Iowa’s four. Junior quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen passed for 380 yards while star running back David Johnson finished with a career-high 203 receiving yards.

Northern Iowa narrowed the deficit to 24-23 when Michael Schmadeke made a 38-yard field goal with 12:42 left in the fourth quarter. The Panthers had to settle for a field goal after committing penalties on back-to-back plays.

The Panthers then forced Iowa to punt on its next possession and took over on offense at its own 42 after a 10-yard punt return by Chad Owens.

However, Northern Iowa’s drive stalled at mid-field, forcing the Panthers to punt.

Northern Iowa took the opening kick of the third quarter, but was forced to punt after picking up just one first down.

Junior receiver Tevaun Smith then turned Iowa’s first offensive possession of the third quarter into his own highlight tape. He gained 35 yards on a sweep play in which he dodged several tacklers while reversing field. He eventually stepped out of bounds at the Northern Iowa 12-yard line.

Smith then gave Iowa its first double-figure lead of the game by making a nifty one-handed touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone with 10:13 left in the third quarter. Junior Marshall Koehn converted the extra-point kick, expanding Iowa’s lead to 24-13.

The Panthers answered quickly, though, as quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen completed a 70-yard touchdown pass to running back David Johnson, trimming the lead to 24-20 with 9:31 remaining. Johnson slipped past Iowa middle linebacker Quinton Alston and was wide open when Kollmorgen threw a short pass to him over the middle. Johnson then out ran several Iowa defenders to the end zone.

Iowa drove into Panther territory on its next possession in the third quarter, but failed to get any points when Koehn missed a 37-yard field goal with 3:23 remaining in the quarter.

The third quarter ended with Northern Iowa driving in Iowa territory. Junior receiver Kevin Vereen caught a 31-yard pass from Kollmorgen to give the Panthers a first down at the Iowa 21.

Neither team could seize the momentum during the first half, which ended with Iowa nursing a 17-13 lead. Koehn made a 45-yard field goal with 1 second remaining in the second quarter to give Iowa a four-point cushion at halftime.

The Panthers had 206 yards in the first half, but they also self-destructed numerous times, committing nine penalties for 57 yards, including two key holding penalties that caused drives to stall.

Iowa didn’t have any penalties in the first half and also possessed the ball for almost six minutes longer than Northern Iowa did in the first two quarters.

Mark Weisman rambled 50 yards with the opening kickoff, giving Iowa a first down at the Panther 41-yard line. Rudock completed an 11-yard pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley on first down and Northern Iowa was called for pass interference two plays later, giving Iowa a first down at the Panther 13.

Sophomore LeShun Daniels then took the handoff on first down, found an opening around left end and scored Iowa’s first touchdown of the season from 13 yards out with 13:44 left in the first quarter.

Northern Iowa marched to the Iowa 9-yard line on its initial drive, but a holding penalty erased what would’ve been a 9-yard touchdown run by Kansas transfer Darrian Miller. The Panthers settled for a 36-yard field goal by Schmadeke with 11:38 remaining in the first quarter.

Iowa showcased its depth at running back on its second offensive possession as five different players had carries. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Parker had the longest run on the drive covering 21 yards to the Panther 39. The Hawkeyes drove to the Panther 19-yard line, but the drive fizzled when Rudock was stopped for no gain on 4th-and-1.

Both teams then had back-to-back drives that stalled.

However, the Panthers gained favorable field position after Dillon Kidd’s first punt as a Hawkeye traveled just 34 yards to the Northern Iowa 48. Kidd, a junior from Deerfield, Beach, Fla., made his Hawkeye debut on Saturday after transferring from junior college.

Northern Iowa took advantage of the field position by driving for its first touchdown of the game in just five plays. Kollmorgen capped the drive by throwing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Vereen with 12:16 left in the second quarter. Schmadeke converted the extra-point kick to give the Panthers a 10-7 lead.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as Iowa marched 79 yards on 17 plays for a touchdown on its next possession. The drive ended with Weisman plowing into the end zone from 1 yard with 5:03 remaining. Koehn made the extra-point kick, expanding Iowa’s lead to 14-10.

Northern Iowa trimmed the deficit to 14-13 when Schmadeke made a 37-yard field goal with 2:17 left before halftime. Johnson had the key play on the drive, a pass reception that covered 60 yards to the Iowa 15.

 

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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