What we learned from the No. 22 Hawkeyes' 23-0 win over Maryland

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central
Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent (10) rushes during an NCAA Big Ten conference football game on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Coats came out and toboggans too, as the wind came whipping into Iowa City. No fan base embraces 11 a.m. kicks with shady weather quite like the Hawkeye faithful.

Iowa rewarded those who stuck it out. A suffocating defensive effort and enough points pushed the No. 22 Hawkeyes to a 23-0 win over Maryland at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) has now won three straight, continuing its quest for a late surge and possible division title.

With winds exceeding 45 miles per hour, Iowa kept the passing game in the shop and leaned on its roots. A balanced effort among the Hawkeyes’ three running backs spearheaded four scoring drives, while the defense kept Maryland’s awkward, motion-heavy run attack in check.

A defensive touchdown — Anthony Nelson’s end-zone recovery on a ball that was kicked by Terrapins quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome after a botched snap — handed Iowa a 23-0 lead late in the third quarter. The Hawkeyes called it good from there.

A smattering of lopsided stats: Iowa topped Maryland in total yards (310-115), total plays (76-39), first downs (22-7) and time of possession (40:55-19:05). The Terrapins only ran two plays in Hawkeye territory.

Here's what we learned:

Defensive dominance

Maryland entered averaging more than six yards per carry — good for 10th nationally — and its 19 runs of 20-plus yards ranked third. But the Terrapins had nothing going all day.

Kirk Ferentz earlier in the week said Maryland’s offense had some Georgia Tech parallels, but the constant motioning and moving generated little. Eight different Terrapins carried the ball, combining for 43 yards on 20 touches.

Even when Maryland found a bit of room, Iowa pounced with a pivotal play. Amani Hooker’s second-quarter interception halted the only drive that crept into Hawkeye territory. Pigrome’s costly bobble and kick put the game to bed.

Iowa’s defense has been racking up accolades and attention all year, but Saturday’s showing was impressive considering what the opponent offered up. Maryland’s quirkiness stood little chance.

Running free

The Hawkeye ground game, meanwhile, took back center stage. An early Nate Stanley interception — coupled with the relentless wind — made this a running show. Ivory Kelly-Martin, Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young obliged.

Kelly-Martin, out of concussion protocol after missing the Indiana trip, took control with a 24-carry, 98-yard showing. Sargent (nine carries, 51 yards) and Young (nine carries, 21 yards) got their spots, but it was the sophomore with a hyphen on his jersey who closed things out.

Getting Kelly-Martin healthy is a nice boost to a running back committee that can still shoulder the load. Saturday’s forecast called for exactly that.       

"It's just awesome," center Keegan Render said. "Obviously, we've got coach Brian (Ferentz) in the locker room saying, 'Hey, this is going to be won up front.' At that point, pride takes over.

"If we got out there and lay an egg, hey that's on us — and everybody will know that. But if we just go out there and do what we do and keep grinding like we did today, we'll do a good job."   

Kicking special         

Miguel Recinos’ usage had been modest so far — 7-for-10 on field goals and 24-for-24 on extra points before Saturday. But the senior kicker handled the conditions well in banging home three field goals.

Recinos was good from 23, 25 and 36 yards. That was more than enough.  

"I think we handled it well," Recinos said. "It was a difficult situation, but thankfully, coach was really receptive to the things that we say (as far as handling the wind)."   

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.