After a tumultuous offseason full of off-field issues and rumors surrounding the offensive staff, Iowa got back to playing football on Saturday, taking down Utah State 24-14. Michigan transfer Cade McNamara shined in his first start as a Hawkeye, and the defense lived up to its usual standard.

Here are the main takeaways from Iowa’s season-opening victory:

Xavier Nwankpa may be the next great Hawkeye defensive back

Nwankpa became arguably the most notable recruit of the Kirk Ferentz era when he committed to Iowa’s Class of 2022. The former 5-star out of Altoona, Ia. recorded 2 tackles and a highlight-reel interception on Saturday, cutting off a seam route and making an athletic play on the ball. With his 6-foot-2 frame and sideline-to-sideline ability, Nwankpa is fully capable of following in the footsteps of Desmond King, Micah Hyde, Amani Hooker, Josh Jackson and more. His breakout performance on Saturday was a great start, and he and Cooper DeJean are set to form an intimidating duo in the Hawkeyes secondary.

Cade McNamara is a sizable upgrade at quarterback, but the offense has a ways to go

After being beat out for the starting job at Michigan by J.J. McCarthy, McNamara opted for a fresh start in Iowa City. The senior, who led the Wolverines to the 2021 College Football Playoff, threw a 36-yard touchdown to a wide-open Seth Anderson towards the beginning of this game and managed the offense well, throwing for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did go down with a quad injury in the third quarter but returned later in the game.

However, the offense stalled in the middle of the game, and the rushing attack struggled at times against a Utah State front that will pale in comparison to what the Hawkeyes will face in the Big Ten. There were certainly some positive signs, but the offense will need to play a more complete game in Ames next week.

Kaleb Johnson and Luke Lachey are ready to have their breakout seasons.

It’s going to be hard to top setting the freshman rushing record in 2022, but Johnson got out to a great start in looking to one-up that performance this season. After recording 779 rushing yards in ’22, he ran for 63 yards, had 1 touchdown and tacked on an electric 54-yard kickoff return as well.

Junior tight end Luke Lachey, who came into his own in 2022, led the Hawkeyes with 7 catches for 73 yards. The 6-foot-6 native of Columbus, Ohio had 46 yards on a single drive in the fourth quarter, which allowed Iowa to extend its lead to 24-6. One of his two catches on that drive was an acrobatic 31-yard reception to convert on a 3rd-and-12.

On an offense that is in desperate search of weapons to surround McNamara with, the Hawkeyes have proven commodities in Johnson and Lachey.