Iowa quickly leaves slow-start talk — and Indiana — in the dust
It took Iowa 4 plays to quiet the critics.
Tyler Goodson took a handoff down the sideline 56 yards for a touchdown, and any worries of the football variety were drowned out in a sea of 68,166 waving fans, happy to be back in Kinnick Stadium for the first time since November 2019.
Faced with a ranked Big Ten opponent — one with more hype than the various streaks the Hawks carried into the game from 2020 and beyond — Iowa wasn’t done celebrating Goodson’s gift of a great start when Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. appeared to grant another with a fumble awkwardly shoveled forward and recovered by Iowa. After much discussion, it was overturned and ruled intentional grounding, then ruled absolutely nothing.
But former NBA player Rasheed Wallace taught us a long time ago: Ball don’t lie.
Whatever that shovel pass was, the football gods frowned, because Riley Moss promptly picked off Penix and took it 30 yards to the house for a 14-0 Hawkeyes lead.
While others were looking at the Hawkeyes’ recent history of losing Big Ten openers against teams not named Rutgers, Iowa was busy extending to 14 seasons its streak of having at least 1 interception returned for a touchdown.
Slow start? Not today.
But this game was all about bucking trends.
Indiana, ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 1969, was playing Iowa in its opener for the first time since Hayden Fry’s first game in 1979. It was only the 2nd time in 78 matchups that both teams were ranked. The other? 1991.
With a 2-touchdown lead, it would be typical for Iowa to take its foot off the gas. Offensively, the Hawkeyes might have, with a Spencer Petras’ 9-yard draw for a touchdown the only exception. That could be forgiven with the defense applying pressure and often moving the Hoosiers backward. While the bottom line on the TV screen was showing 2nd-and-13, 3rd-and-18, 4th-and-25 on 3 different drives in the first half, the stadium scoreboard held firm at 3 points for Indiana.
The score looked that way because Moss managed to duplicate his pick-6 performance before the break — this time from 54 — and Dane Belton added another INT that led to a field goal.
“It’s all good,” Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz told BTN after the game. “We weren’t counting on those pick sixes, but we’ll take ‘em.”
In more traditional Iowa fashion, the second half played to a 3-3 standstill, but the 34-6 win was still good for Iowa’s highest point total in a Big Ten opener since 2002 at Penn State.
And stats like that bring a lot more hype.
Alright, let’s talk about the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Lost 1st 2 gms in 2020 by a comb. 5 pts
Then rattled off 6 straight W’s to end the yr
Hottest team in the country at the end of 2020
ABSOLUTELY dismantling No. 17 Indiana right now
Iowa is a Top 10 team in the country.
— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) September 4, 2021
Let’s take a cue from Iowa and pump the brakes while we’re ahead — No. 7 Iowa State’s got next — but you best believe if there are a lot of firsts emulating 2002, a season that ended at an Orange Bowl with the Hawkeyes’ highest scoring average (37.2) and a Heisman runner-up — this season will be special.