No. 19 Iowa 38, Miami (Ohio) 14: What we learned
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It’s not a performance that’s going to win any beauty contests. But Iowa avoided any significant season-opening turbulence in dispatching Miami (Ohio).
The No. 19 Hawkeyes pulled away with a solid second half, upending the RedHawks, 38-14, Saturday night in front of a sold-out Kinnick Stadium. Iowa (1-0) sported a modest 10-7 halftime lead before pulling away with two third-quarter touchdowns.
With those in gold in a bit of a lull, Oliver Martin woke up the Kinnick crowd with a 9-yard touchdown grab. That handed Iowa a 17-7 lead with 10:06 remaining in the third. Mekhi Sargent expanded the lead to three scores with a 2-yard scoring run three-and-a-half minutes later.
After the RedHawks answered on Andrew Homer’s 20-yard touchdown grab, Iowa put things away in the final minutes. Toren Young’s short rushing score did the trick.
Iowa wasn't perfect, but it was better than many of its college football counterparts.
Coaches often refer to openers as the game of unknowns. A scan around college football reveals things can get hairy in a hurry. Out west, a budding Iowa State team got all it could handle from Northern Iowa. Big Ten members Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Purdue struggled or lost as double-digit favorites. Tennessee delivered the weekend flop with a home loss to Georgia State.
All things considered, Iowa did a nice job sidestepping any sort of upset disaster.
Alaric Jackson's injury could be big.
The biggest bit of adversity came on the injury front.
Heralded Iowa tackle Alaric Jackson exited Saturday's season opener against Miami of Ohio with a right knee injury and didn't return to the sideline in the second half. He exited the field on crutches and headed to the locker room right before halftime.
Jackson went down on the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes' second drive late in the first quarter. He jogged off under his own power, but Jackson couldn't get right from there. He spent the rest of that drive pedaling on the stationary bike and walking gingerly on the sideline.
Jackson eventually migrated to the bench, where medical personnel laid him down and continued working on his right knee. Jackson's helmet was eventually removed.
Losing Jackson for any period of time would be a massive blow. He and Wirfs generated plenty of preseason hype as two of the best tackles in the country.
Mekhi Sargent has taken control of the ground game.
The preseason dialogue indicated that Iowa’ running back situation would remain a timeshare. And it might still be depending how the rest of the year unfolds. But it’s clear that Mekhi Sargent gives Iowa the most explosive and versatile option out of the backfield.
Sargent spearheaded the Hawkeyes’ offense both early and late. He was Iowa’s leading rusher and receiver in the first half — one of the few initial bright spots in what was a sluggish start. Sargent’s 41-yard screen set up Brandon Smith’s second-quarter touchdown. He also combined for 39 yards on the Hawkeyes’ first scoring drive.
Sargent finished as Iowa’s top rusher (91 yards) and receiver (65 yards) on 18 total touches.
Young (nine carries, 48 yards) had sporadic moments. Ivory Kelly-Martin and Tyler Goodson had fourth-quarter cameos. Getting through an entire season with one main back is still a rarity in college football — and Sargent knows that as well as anyone. It was he who came on late last year in grabbing this main role.
One game in, Sargent again controls this backfield.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.