Status Report: Four was Canzeri’s magic number vs. North Texas

Rick Brown
The Iowa Hawkeyes Jordan Canzeri dives for a touchdown as quarterback C.J. Boatyard celebrates in the background during their game against North Texas at home on Saturday, September 26, 2015. Iowa would go on to win 62-16.

After tying an Iowa record with four touchdowns in Saturday’s 62-16 victory over North Texas, Jordan Canzeri held up four fingers as he left the field. But those fingers didn’t represent those four touchdowns. The senior running back was making reference to the Hawkeyes’ 4-0 start.

“I was coming up the tunnel, and I thought people might think that was for a four-touchdown thing,” Canzeri said. “I’m definitely not cocky. It was for 4-0. This is how we wanted to start the season.”

Iowa heads to Wisconsin for next week’s Big Ten opener a confident, not cocky, bunch.

“This is just another building block to the kind of season that we want to have,” senior center Austin Blythe said.

Pass offense: Beathard pitches perfect first half

Quarterback C.J. Beathard completed all 15 of his pass attempts in the first half. That includes scoring strikes of 43 yards to George Kittle and 81 yards to Tevaun Smith on back-to-back plays in the second quarter.

“George and Tevaun did a great job getting open, and the line did a great job protecting me,” Beathard said. “I saw what I saw and tried to put it on the money.”

Beathard completed 18 of 21 passes for a career-high 278 yards. Smith had four of those catches for 115 yards. It was the senior’s first 100-yard game. Eight different players caught passes in the game. For the season, Beathard has completed 75 of 110 passes for 962 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.

Rush offense: Hitting the century mark again

In addition to his four touchdown runs, which give him eight for the season, Canzeri had 115 yards rushing on 22 carries. That’s his second 100-yard game of the season. He also rushed for 124 yards against Iowa State. The Hawkeyes have had a 100-yard rusher in three of four games so far. It happened just twice last season.

One player who has been talked about but slowed by injuries: converted wide receiver Derrick Mitchell, Jr. He got his first collegiate carries Saturday, finishing with 52 yards on seven attempts, including a 45-yard gallop in the fourth quarter.

Iowa’s offensive line took a hit when starting left tackle Boone Myers left the game with an unspecified injury in the first quarter. He didn’t return and was replaced by Cole Croston.

“Any time you play four physical games, bumps and bruises are going to happen, and I would expect that’s what happened to Boone,” Blythe said. “That could happen to any one of us. I think we have guys who can come in and do a good job, just like Cole did (Saturday).”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he expects Myers to be fine, adding that Croston did “a great job. We’ve had confidence in him all along.”

Pass defense: A busy (and productive) day

North Texas attempted 43 passes Saturday. Quarterback (and Iowa City native) Andrew McNulty attempted 36 of them. North Texas kept Iowa’s secondary and linebackers busy. That included safety Anthony Gair, who made his second career start in place of Miles Taylor, who has a soft tissue injury. Taylor did sneak into the game for several plays. Gair finished with a career-high seven tackles.

North Texas passed for 173 yards. Iowa linebackers Josey Jewell and Bo Bower covered 122 yards on their interception returns for touchdowns. Bower’s 88-yard pick-and-score was the seventh-longest interception return in school history.

One area to work on is covering running backs out of the backfield. In the first quarter, running back Jeffrey Wilson snuck out of the backfield, got past Jewell and was open for what would have been a 60-yard touchdown strike. McNulty just overthrew him.

Rush defense: Bend, don’t break

Iowa entered the game fifth nationally in rush defense at 51 yards a game. The Mean Green had 53 yards in the first half and 183 for the game, the most for an Iowa opponent this season. Entering play Saturday, no player had gained more than 38 yards against the Hawkeyes. Wilson gained 74 on Saturday, Antoinne Jimmerson added 66 and Willy Ivery 39.

But Iowa did keep one impressive statistic intact. The Hawkeyes haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

Special teams: A rare miss, and a royal effort

Marshall Koehn’s 57-yard field goal beat Pittsburgh a week ago. He missed his first point-after-touchdown kick Saturday. That ended the nation’s longest streak of games without a missed or blocked PAT at 59. Iowa kickers had made 185 straight.

Koehn said he was upset that his kickoff hadn’t gone into the end zone for a touchback and was still stewing about it when Jewell had his interception return for a touchdown two plays later. So Koehn wasn’t zoned in for the PAT and missed it right.

“I just pushed it a little bit,” Koehn said. “It’s nothing to dwell on.  It’s good that it wasn’t a major point that affected the game. I guess it’s good to get it out of the way now and I’ll be laser-focused for the next game.”

Desmond King continues to impress as a kick returner. He averaged 35.5 yards on two punt returns, including a career-long 38-yarder in the first quarter. He also had a career-long 40-yard kickoff return.

Brown: Iowa follows an expected script vs. North Texas