The Game Report from Iowa’s 33-7 victory over Northern Illinois in Saturday’s 2018 season opener at Kinnick Stadium.
Play of the game
Situation: It was the first quarter and 0-0. Iowa had the ball at Northern Illinois’ 39 and QB Nate Stanley had just thrown a pick.
Iowa’s defense had problems against the run early. Middle linebacker Amani Jones was replaced by senior Jack Hockaday.
There were questions at this point.
A 15-yard and a couple of 10-yard rushes pushed the Huskies inside Iowa territory. Iowa’s defense was amazing doing its thing in the first half, which was, you’ve heard it before, putting out fires the offense left behind.
What happened: The Hawkeyes defense kept up that “putting out the fire thing.”
The Huskies got some rhythm, but Iowa finally forced a fourth-and-2 at the Hawkeyes’ 49.
Linebacker Nick Niemann, replacing his brother, Ben, who made the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, cut through the line of scrimmage on the edge and cut down running back D.J. Brown for a 6-yard loss.
The result: Iowa took that and finally put points on the board with Miguel Recinos’ 33-yard field goal.
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In a critical time when the wheels could’ve fallen off for the Iowa LB corps, Niemann punched in with solid play all afternoon, finishing with four tackles, including that big one on fourth down.
There’s still a Niemann setting the edge for Iowa’s defense. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, I guess.
— Marc Morehouse
Mike Hlas: A-
Slow start, then it picked up in a big way. So the season opens with “Stairway to Heaven.”
Marc Morehouse: B+
The first half was a hootenanny, but in the end #KF144.
Jeff Johnson: B
Iowa should have been behind at halftime but wasn’t. The second half, however, was completely dominant.
By The Numbers
4: The times Iowa has opened a season with a shutout of a Mid-American Conference opponent in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 years as head coach.
7: True freshmen who saw playing time for the Hawkeyes. Solon’s Tyler Linderbaum played late as a defensive tackle, Julius Brents as a cornerback, Kaevon Merriweather as a safety, Henry Geil as a running back and Nico Ragaini as a wide receiver. Dillon Doyle of Iowa City West and Riley Moss of Ankeny Centennial played exclusively on special teams, Moss extensively.
13: Career touchdown catches for Iowa junior tight end Noah Fant. He had a 1-yarder in the third quarter here.
27: The number of current Iowa players who weren’t born when Kirk Ferentz won his first game as Iowa head coach in 1999.
53.8: Punter Colton Rastetter’s average on four kicks Saturday.
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144: Wins in Kirk Ferentz’s career as head coach at Iowa. That, of course, is a school record.
4-8, 6-6: Iowa’s season records in the years it previously beat Northern Illinois on Sept. 1 during Ferentz’s tenure.
— Iowa went against its listed depth chart by starting Levi Paulsen at right tackle and Dalton Ferguson at left tackle. All week, freshman Mark Kallenberger was listed as the starting left tackle and Ferguson the right tackle. The trio rotated throughout the game. Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs both were suspended for this game but are expected to return next week against Iowa State, as are defensive tackles Brady Reiff and Cedrick Lattimore.
— Iowa is 98-29-2 all-time in season-opening games, including 17-3 now under Ferentz. The last season-opening loss came in 2013 to Northern Illinois, 30-27.
Iowa seemed to come out of this one fairly unscathed.
Running back Ivory Kelly-Martin appeared to hurt an ankle in the second half and did not play after that.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson went to the locker room at one point in the third quarter but returned to the field and played.
Linebacker Kristian Welch missed a couple of series with cramps but returned to action.
Fullback Brady Ross incurred some sort of calf injury (perhaps a cramp) after his only carry of the game, in the second half.
It’s the annual Cy-Hawk war next Saturday with Iowa State. Opening kickoff at Kinnick Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m. (FOX).