IOWA CITY — Nobody every really says exactly what they mean in these postgames. So Parker Hesse’s tone said a lot.
The junior defensive lineman still had the game eyes going when he stepped to the lectern after the Hawkeyes’ 31-14 victory over North Texas before 65,668 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
His eyes were as wide as plates. His tone was just inside of a bark. Hesse was very matter of fact with zero inflection that said the Hawkeyes are 3-0 and go into the Big Ten season with an undefeated non-conference record for the fifth time in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 19 seasons.
Iowa allowed the Mean Green (1-2) to score a TD and take a 14-10 lead with 11 seconds left before halftime. Two personal foul penalties fueled the drive and North Texas’ No. 2 quarterback, Quinn Shanbour, zipped a TD pass to wide-open Jalen Guyton for the lead.
Second-string QB and a Conference USA team not only taking a halftime lead, but taking what Iowa gave it and looking good doing it.
The Hawkeyes picked up on this.
“At halftime it was more of an attitude change,” Hesse said. “We had to look ourselves in the mirror and just decide are we going to ride the wave? Are we going to be up and down all year? Or are we going to play Iowa football?”
Let the record show, Hesse was the first person to bring up No. 5 Penn State (3-0), Iowa’s Big Ten opener at Kinnick next Saturday night on ABC.
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Last year, it was 41-14 at Penn State with the Nittany Lions running up the second-most total offense against an Iowa team in the Ferentz era.
“I’m going to revisit last year’s game,” Hesse said. “That’s one that still stings. It’s something we’re going to look to and try to avenge.”
This was a weird game. The officiating crew was from the Big Ten and Mid-American Conference and Missouri Valley Conference consortium and it was out of pace, calling 19 penalties and sitting through maybe five reviews. Remember, no one says what they really mean in the postgame.
“The obvious thing today was just the plays that got reviewed,” Ferentz said. “I was told before the game that we had more cameras. I have no idea what the normal number would be, and I don’t know if there is a correlation between more cameras, more reviews, it’s just — I’m not making judgments, should they or shouldn’t they, but it kills momentum.”
Calls are made during games and players move on. The two that helped the Mean Green’s drive at the end of the half — a low hit by freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa and a late hit by corner Manny Rugamba — came at inopportune times.
Let’s allow Hesse to cover this topic and leave it at that.
“You have to remain poised,” Hesse said. “A.J.’s call, he’s just rushing hard. You can’t control that. A lot of that stuff is out of our control. We can’t let that get to us. We can’t pile anything more on it.
“That’s just the way football works. The other team prepares, they’re going to come ready to play. Sometimes, the ball bounces wrong and calls go whatever, you’ve got to keep your poise and keep doing what you’re doing.”
That may or may not be a bad idea for the Hawkeyes’ offense.
Iowa’s first drive was a touchdown, for a second anyway. Wide receiver Nick Easley had the ball knocked out just before he crossed the goal line. The ball went out of the end zone for a touchback and it really was all down hill from there.
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Iowa’s next drive was a 74-yard TD on a wheel route to running back Akrum Wadley. For a second. Wadley was called for unsportsmanlike conduct because he high-stepped into the end zone. Wadley ended up tweaking an ankle and didn’t play in the second half.
Ferentz’s words to Wadley after that were a mild scold.
“I just told him he’s too good of a player to do that,” Ferentz said. “Close, not close, but why give anybody an opportunity to have to make that decision? He’s too good of a player for that.”
Iowa’s lone first-half TD was a tipped pass from quarterback Nate Stanley to tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The second half was a Hawkeye headlock. Iowa ran 43 plays and passed just eight times. Freshman running backs Toren Young (19 carries for 78 yards) and Ivory Kelly-Martin (11 carries, 74 yards and two second-half TDs) were the pistons in a rush attack that drove 76-, 87- and 43-yard TD drives that took nearly a collective 20 minutes off the clock.
Iowa’s 59 rushes were its most since 60 at Iowa State in 2013.
North Texas ran just 18 plays in the second half, with three drives ending in punts and the last one ending with corner Josh Jackson’s first interception of the season.
“That first half still is going to bug us a lot,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “We’ve yet to play a full game, a full 60 (minutes). That’s one thing I think we need to work on.”
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