IOWA CITY – A look in the mirror is where Iowa’s second-half effort in Saturday’s 31-14 victory over North Texas started.
Teammates talking to teammates, telling each other that they were better than the error-filled first half that left the Hawkeyes staring at the reality of a 14-10 halftime deficit at Kinnick Stadium.
“Guys were telling each other it was time to get going, time to start playing the way we can,’’ defensive end Parker Hesse said.
He said offensive lineman Boone Myers and defensive end Sam Brincks came up to him and others, encouraging a more representative second-half effort.
“They were saying that things had to change, we had to start playing up to our potential,’’ Hesse said.
As the offense held the ball for more than 21 minutes in the second half, the defense limited North Texas to 93 yards.
“We had some communication things that we need to get cleaned up, but we came out and played better team defense after halftime,’’ linebacker Josey Jewell said. “That gave us a chance to play our game.’’
Different look: Quarterback Nate Stanley pinned some of Iowa’s early offensive issues on the 3-4 defensive alignment that North Texas deployed.
“Trying to run (the offense) against it was difficult. They mixed things up pretty well, and as the game went on, our offensive line did a good job of adjusting to what they were doing and that made things work,’’ Stanley said.
The sophomore completed 16-of-27 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns in his final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play.
He has thrown 10 touchdown passes, the best three-game stretch in the Kirk Ferentz era by an Iowa quarterback and the best by a Hawkeye since Chuck Hartlieb threw 11 over a three game stretch in 1987.
A first: Redshirt freshman T.J. Hockenson scored his first collegiate touchdown in the final minute of the first quarter Saturday, tying the game when he grabbed an eight-yard pass from Stanley that had been deflected by North Texas’ LaDarius Hamilton.
“At first I was like, did I really catch that?’’ Hockenson said. “It ricocheted to me. I wasn’t expecting the ball at all, but once it sunk in it felt really good. It was my first. Hopefully, there are many more.’’
The catch was one of three Hockenson made in the game and one of five reeled in by Iowa tight ends.
Hooker steps in: Amani Hooker figured his role Saturday would be confined mostly to playing in the Hawkeye defense’s nickel and dime packages, given the pass-heavy nature of the North Texas attack.
But after the Mean Green’s Jeffery Wilson slipped past free safety Jake Gervase and raced 41 yards into the end zone for the first points of the game, Hooker suddenly found himself playing safety.
“I’ve been working a bit at both safety positions and the responsibilities are pretty much the same,’’ Hooker said. “I just stepped in an did the best I could.’’
Coach Kirk Ferentz said following the game a rotation between Miles Taylor at strong safety, Gervase and Hooker is likely.
“They’ve all been doing a decent job,’’ Ferentz said.
Block party: Iowa’s Josh Jackson blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt by North Texas’ Trevor Moore with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, a ball recovered by the Hawkeyes’ Manny Rugamba.
“I was in the right spot to get a hand on it,’’ said Jackson, who grew up less than 10 minutes from the North Texas campus. “It was there a play to make and I was able to step in and make it.’’
Jackson also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter, his second of the season.
The field goal block was the first for the Hawkeyes since Josey Jewell blocked an attempt in Iowa’s loss at Penn State last season.
Topping 2,000: Akrum Wadley’s work was limited Saturday, but with eight caries for 24 yards, the senior did become the 15th Hawkeye to top 2,000 rushing yards.
Wadley has 344 career carries for 2,021 yards.
Friday possibilities: Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta wants to talk about the possibility of keeping the Hawkeyes’ final game of the regular season on Black Friday after a Big Ten schedule change ends the current agreement to play Nebraska on the day after Thanksgiving following the 2019 season.
Schedules released last week have Iowa playing Wisconsin on the final weekend of the season in 2020 and 2021 as part of a rotation that will include Minnesota and Nebraska in future seasons.
“I do plan to bring it up with Barry (Alvarez, the Wisconsin director of athletics) and the Big Ten,’’ Barta said. “I’m going to make the request at some point. That’s how we feel about it at Iowa.’’
A personal touch: Fred Barr, an all-Big Ten linebacker on the Hawkeyes’ 2002 Big Ten championship team, put his own touch on serving as the honorary captain on Saturday.
Barr showed up wearing gold-and-black bib overalls and a cowboy hat, then blew kisses to the crowd as he was introduced.