Status Report: Breaking down Daniels, other key factors in Iowa win
Iowa played well on both sides of the ball in a dominating season-opening 31-14 victory over Illinois State.
"We've hardly arrived," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday's victory. "We're just getting started here."
But it was a positive start.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard was sharp in his second career start and first at Kinnick Stadium, completing his first six passes of the game and passing for 211 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two scores.
Iowa's first two touchdown drives went for 81 and 99 yards. The last 99-yard drive came at Miami of Ohio in 2002.
"There were a lot of things there that were pleasing," Ferentz said.
Defensive end Drew Ott was a one-man wrecking crew, spending as much time in the Illinois State backfield as quarterback Tre Roberson and running back Marshaun Coprich. Ott had two sacks, forced a fumble and earned praise from Illinois State coach Brock Spack.
"He was a handful," Spack said.
Illinois State didn't cross the Iowa 29 until late in the fourth quarter, when it was 31-0.
Let's take a look at how the Hawkeyes did in key areas of the game:
Pass offense: Beathard on the mark
Beathard completed 15 of 24 passes, with no interceptions. The most impressive completion was a 9-yard out to Matt VandeBerg, with a blitz in Beathard's face, for a touchdown to make it 24-0.
Go-to receiver Tevaun Smith had three catches for 24 yards. One of those catches came on a fourth-and-two play from the Redbird 14 on Iowa's first possession. Smith gained 5 yards over the middle, and the Hawkeyes scored two plays later. Illinois State played Smith one-on-one most of the game, and that is a matchup Iowa needs to exploit in the future.
VandeBerg, who entered the game with 22 career catches his first two seasons, had a team-high six Saturday for 59 yards. Running back Jordan Canzeri, who has been used as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, had four catches for 90 yards, including a 51-yard gain on a screen pass late in the first half.
The tight ends were used as blockers more. Backup Jameer Outsey had the only catch for a tight end, late in the game.
Rush offense: Daniels reaches the century mark
LeShun Daniels Jr. ran with purpose and had his first 100-yard rushing game as a collegian. He finished with 123 yards in 26 carries. He had a total of 50 carries for 184 yards in his first two seasons. An Iowa back rushed for three figures just twice last season.
And the much-discussed offensive line deserves a lot of credit. A lot of the pregame chatter centered on left tackle Boone Myers replacing Outland Trophy winner and first-round draft pick Brandon Scherff. Ott manhandled Myers in Iowa's last public practice August 15. New right tackle Ike Boettger was replacing another NFL draft pick in Andrew Donnal.
"I'm not as bad as they think I am," Myers said. "There was a lot of talk that we lost Brandon and we lost Andrew, they're just going to be sacking the quarterback every play and we're not going to be able to get a pass off. It was good to come out and show they that we're pretty good, too."
For the record, Beathard never got sacked.
Pass defense: Quiet day in the secondary
I expected the secondary to be the strength of the team, and it still might be. Greg Mabin and Maurice Fleming were called for pass interference in the same possession late in the second quarter. Other than that, it was a solid day for the back defenders.
Mabin stood out early in the game, finishing with five tackles, and shared a tackle for a loss with safety Jordan Lomax, who also had five tackles.
Rush defense: Hawkeyes shut down Illinois State star Coprich
Illinois State's Marshaun Coprich rushed for 2,274 yards last season, when Illinois State finished 13-2 and was the FBS national runner-up to North Dakota State. He had just 32 yards in 13 carries Saturday as the Hawkeyes' defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage.
Iowa defensive tackles Nathan Bazata and Jaleel Johnson were solid. Ott and fellow defensive end Nate Meier were good, too. And linebackers Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann (Spack was very impressed with him) and Cole Fisher were fluid and seemed to take the right angle on most plays.
Special teams: Ferentz says Hawkeyes to be more aggressive on fourth downs
Hold on to your seats here. Iowa tried a fake field goal in the first half. It didn't work, as placekicker Marshall Koehn picked up only 8 of the necessary 10 yards on a play that started at the Illinois State 30. But the crowd responded with a resounding cheer.
"It probably won't be as popular the next time it doesn't work," Ferentz said.
As for the fake, Ferentz said, "That's just part of our thinking now."
Desmond King passed his first test as a kick returner. He returned two punts for 26 yards and his only kickoff return for 19 yards.
Punter Dillon Kidd didn't see much action. He averaged 47 yards on two punts. Both those punts went into the end zone for touchbacks.