The Daily Iowan

Passing game sharp in Hawkeyes’ nonconference finale

Iowa finally found its rhythm in the once-dormant passing game on Saturday.

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Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) calls out signals to his offense during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) calls out signals to his offense during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) calls out signals to his offense during a game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers 38–14. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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Hello, Hawkeye passing game. It’s been awhile.

Iowa clicked on all facets during its 38-14 throttling of Northern Iowa in Kinnick on Sept. 15, and in the aerial attack, quarterback Nate Stanley and his receivers seemed in sync for the first time this season.

Prior to Sept. 15, Stanley had gone 27-of-51 for 274 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Against the Panthers, Stanley had more yards (309) and touchdowns (2) than his first two games combined.

The passing game clicked, which was just what the Iowa offense needed to right the ship. Stanley found his two favorite targets from 2017, Nick Easley and Noah Fant, and the aerial attack came together smoothly.

“It’s just [about] having a confidence that it’s going to fall sooner or later,” Fant said. “I’m not saying it’s fallen all the way through already, but hopefully, we can keep improving on that.”

After Iowa’s first two contests, neith Fant nor Easley were the focal points of the passing game, let alone the offense.

Fant, who set a program record for tight-end touchdowns last year, only had 7 catches for 41 yards and one score heading into Iowa’s matchup with Northern Iowa. He finished with 5 catches, 99 yards, and 1 touchdown.

Easley, who led the team with 51 catches a year ago, had just 1 reception for 15 yards entering the game against the Panthers, but he finished with 10 receptions, 103 yards, and 1 touchdown. Easley was Iowa’s first receiver to register 10 catches since Keenan Davis did so in 2011 against Pittsburgh.

“Certainly, it’s good anytime we go out there and execute like that,” Easley said. “More so, I’m just proud of the way we came out with energy as a team, right from the get-go. There’s certainly a lot to clean up, but I felt like we did some really good things.”

Penalties stalled Iowa’s offense on the first drive, but on its second go-around, momentum flowed like the Mississippi.

The Hawkeyes scored their first touchdown on a 10-play, 92-yard drive that took 4:39. Iowa then scored touchdowns on its next two drives, jumping out to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

“[The early lead] allows us to play loose, play free, not worry about ‘Oh man, we have to score on this drive,’ ” Stanley said. “Really, just being able to start fast allows us to keep that confidence going and build throughout the game.”

Iowa hadn’t scored a touchdown in either of its two first halves this season, so a 21-point lead at halftime was a major contrast from Weeks 1 and 2.

The Hawkeyes needed something, anything, to spark their passing game, especially with Wisconsin and the rest of Big Ten play on the horizon.

Last season, Iowa’s offense struggled against Wisconsin (and the word “struggle” is used generously here). Going into their first game of the conference slate, the Hawkeyes defense had played lights out. It was a matter of getting things into gear — specifically, the passing game — to build momentum heading into arguably Iowa’s toughest and most important game of the season.

The Hawkeyes did just that against the Panthers.

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About the Contributors
Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor
Adam Hensley is the current Pregame Editor at the DI, covering football, men’s basketball, and baseball. Formerly the DI Sports Editor, Hensley has been on staff for all four years of his time at the University of Iowa, covering a wide range of sports, including cross-country, track and field, and women’s basketball. Comments comments
Beau Bowman, TV Sports Director
Beau Bowman is one of the TV Sports Directors for DITV. He is a senior studying journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa and plans to graduate in December 2018. Previously he has covered the Hawkeye football and wrestling teams and worked as a news reporter. He has also interned with KCCI 8 in...
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