James Vandenberg completed 21-of-33 passes Saturday, but averaged just 6.1 yards per completion.
Both the quarterback and coach Kirk Ferentz were disappointed with the team’s inability to create much of a vertical passing threat.
“We weren’t able to connect the way we have been. It was tough to get anything going,” Vandenberg said. “We’ll have to watch the tape to see why that happened. It was a tough day out there.”
Ferentz said the Iowa passing game seemed out sync.
“We had a tough time protecting at times, and we certainly had a tough time getting open,” Ferentz said. “I give (Northern Illinois) an awful lot of credit. They had a good plan, mixing up the pressure with coverage, and they did a good job of that.”
The Huskies sacked Vandenberg six times for losses totaling 57 yards.
Back in action
Dominic Alvis recorded one of Iowa’s two sacks against the Huskies’ first-time starter at quarterback, Jordan Lynch.
After missing the final weeks of the 2011 season because of a knee injury, chasing down a quarterback felt good again to the defensive end, especially in front of at least 35,000 Hawkeye fans among the crowd of 52,117.
“Hearing the crowd after I got to him made it special,” Alvis said. “It was like being at Kinnick.“
B.J. Lowery left the game with what looked like a potential collarbone injury, but Ferentz said that X-rays taken showed only a contusion.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Ferentz said.
The long run
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch’s 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was longer than any run for a score allowed by the Hawkeyes last season.
The longest touchdown run given up by the Iowa defense in 2011 was a 25-yard score recorded by Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell.
Freshman Greg Garmon saw his first collegiate action at running back, carrying four times for eight yards.
The other true freshman expected to see action at running back, Michael Malloy, did not play Saturday.
“His time will come soon,” Ferentz said. “We need to get all of our guys involved.”
Garmon was one of four true freshmen to play for Iowa.
Punter Connor Kornbrath averaged 41.3 yards in three attempts, joining Sean Draper and Kevin Buford in seeing the first action of their careers.
A Hawkeye crowd
More than three-fourths of the crowd of 52,117 seemed to be clad in black and gold and was cheering for the Hawkeyes, which did not escape the notice of the Iowa players.
“We have the greatest fans in the world,” offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said. “To come out of that tunnel and look up and see all that yellow was just amazing.“
Quarterback James Vandenberg said he felt it impacted the outcome.
“It was an incredible atmosphere and we fed off that at the end of the game,” he said.
Lynch tops 100 again
Although he was making his first career start, Saturday did not mark the first 100-yard rushing game ever for Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. It was his third. He also did it last year against Western Michigan and in 2010 against Buffalo.
Lynch finish with 119 yards in 18 carries Saturday, including a 73-yard scoring sprint that gave NIU a 17-9 lead in the third quarter.
“We spread the box out and the linebackers ... went outside the box,” Lynch said. “We ran up the middle. Aidan (Conlon) actually pulled on that play, made a good block and set me free.”
Lynch completed 6-of-16 passes for 54 yards for the Huskies, but as he demonstrated with his 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the Northern Illinois quarterback has multiple ways to move the ball.
He carried 18 times for a team-high 119 yards.
“We knew he was going to be a challenge for us, and they did a nice job game-planning for him, spreading us out and running him,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to see more of that down the road. That’s something we have to get better at, too.”
Loos gets a start
Also included among nine Northern Illinois players who made their first career start Saturday was former Sterling star Tyler Loos. The 282-pound sophomore played the entire game at left offensive tackle.