Fresh starts: More fresh faces took the field Saturday for Iowa, with true freshmen LeShun Daniels and Matt VandeBerg seeing their first collegiate action and Desmond King making his first start one week after playing in his first collegiate game.
Daniels and VandeBerg, initially a gray-shirt recruit who wasn’t even invited to participate in fall camp at Iowa until the week it started, both contributed to the Hawkeyes’ offensive attack.
A physical 6-foot, 215-pound running back from Warren, Ohio, Daniels gained 30 yards on six carries while VandeBerg, a 6-1, 170-pound receiver from Brandon, S.D., caught passes on consecutive plays to move the ball 17 yards early in the second quarter.
“You look at Daniels coming in, he looked like he belonged out there and VandeBerg as a receiver did some good things,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
King, the only other true freshman to play this season, recorded three tackles, recovered a fumble and got picked on a bit in the passing game while starting at cornerback.
“As long he learns, that will be a good thing,’’ Ferentz said.
DEFENSIVE DIFFERENCE: Missouri State played without its leading rusher, Ryan Heaston, on Saturday, but the Hawkeye defense limited what quarterback Kierra Harris was able to do.
The Bears’ junior led his team in rushing with 51 yards in a season-opening loss to Northwestern State, but was limited to 18 yards on six carries against Iowa. Anthony Hitchens also recorded the Hawkeyes’ first sack of the year, dropping Harris for a 2-yard loss.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we did what we could to make it tough for them to move the ball,’’ Hitchens said. “He was pretty mobile, and it was a challenge for us.’’
Freshman Phoenix Johnson ran for 26 yards to lead Missouri State, which finished with 197 totals yards.
BRINGING IT BACK: Rique Bentley returned a Jake Rudock interception 28 yards for a Missouri State touchdown with 14 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game, cutting the Iowa lead to 21-14 just 10 seconds after the Bears put their first points on the board.
The interception return for a score was the first by an Iowa opponent since Arizona’s Trevin Wade returned one 85 yards against the Hawkeyes on Sept. 18, 2010.
FIRST-TIME START: King is the first Hawkeye true freshman to start on defense since James Morris made his first start at linebacker against Michigan State in 2010, eight games into his freshman season.
He got the call because of a hamstring injury that kept Jordan Lomax on the sidelines. Ferentz expects Lomax to return to practice Tuesday.
ROUGH HOMECOMING: It was a challenging homecoming for Missouri State coach Terry Allen, an Iowa City native and former Northern Iowa quarterback and coach.
Allen said he believed his 0-2 team improved over the course of the game and the Bears collected 130 of their 197 total yards after halftime but also turned the ball over twice.
“Kierra (Harris, the Missouri State quarterback,) settled down a little bit,’’ Allen said. “We had some throws and catches in the first half that we didn’t execute. … We have 10 more games and if we can improve on the effort we had today, we can win a lot of those.’’
KITTLE CONNECTS: Tight end George Kittle recorded a 47-yard reception in the second half, the first catch of the redshirt freshman’s career. It came on the first play of Iowa’s second touchdown drive of the third quarter and was the second-longest play the Hawkeyes have had this season.
FAMILY TIES: Two spectators in the house Saturday already knew their way around Kinnick Stadium.
Jim and Wanda Barkema of Muscatine were in the stands to watch as their son, former Iowa State tight end Ben Barkema, works as a first-year tight ends coach at Missouri State.
Barkema spent three seasons as a graduate assistant at Iowa State before working last year as an assistant at Upper Iowa.
The Barkemas are also the parents of former Hawkeye C.J. Barkema.
SMALL HOUSE: Saturday’s crowd of 64,201 at Kinnick Stadium was the smallest since a crowd of 54,471 attended an Iowa game against Buffalo on Sept. 6, 2003.
TAKING THE FIFTH: Safety Tanner Miller recorded the fifth interception of his career, making a diving effort to grab a pass from Harris in the end zone shortly after Iowa had opened a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
“I just read the quarterback’s eyes and went for it,’’ Miller said. “I noticed that the chance might be there a couple of plays before, the way things were set up, and when I saw the chance, I took it.’’
— Steve Batterson