Iowa’s offense was only able to scrap together six points in the first halves of its previous two games this season. Three against Northern Illinois, three against Iowa State.

So it felt like the Hawkeyes were finding the end zone at will when they went into the locker room with a 21-0 lead over Northern Iowa on Saturday night. Yes, Iowa only scored three touchdowns in those 30 minutes against an FCS opponent, but it was still the first sign of life we’d seen out Kirk Ferentz’s bunch this season.

The Hawkeyes added another 17 points in the second half, to round out a 38-14 victory over the Panthers, recording a season-high scoring total while improving to 3-0 on the season.

Perhaps it’s a bit of an overreaction, giving Iowa so much credit for scoring 38 points against an FCS opponent. These games are meant to be morale boosters, after all. But Saturday night marked the first time that quarterback Nate Stanley was effective through the air. And it was really the first time that the offense had any sort of momentum at any point this season.

It comes at a good time too, with the Hawkeyes welcoming in Wisconsin — who actually suffered an upset loss to BYU — next weekend.

Stanley completed 23-of-28 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Nick Easley caught 10 of those passes for 103 yards. The Hawkeyes piled up over 200 rushing yards and totaled more than 500 yards of total offense.

The defense proved to be dominant once again, holding UNI to just 14 points, on what were essentially a pair of garbage touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

In the first two weeks of the season, Iowa’s defense proved it was up to the challenge for next week’s matchup against B1G West favorite Wisconsin. But the big question mark was whether the offense was capable of scoring enough points to beat the Badgers. While we still don’t have a real answer to that question, Saturday night’s performance is at least step in the right direction.

Wisconsin is a much different animal than Northern Iowa, and the Hawkeyes (probably) won’t be able to score as easily as they did this weekend. But if nothing else Ferentz’s offense got a little confidence booster before one of the biggest games of the season.

Can Saturday night’s performance translate one week from now? That’s the next question Iowa will have to answer.