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IOWA CITY — A couple of spark plugs suddenly turned the Iowa football team’s offense into a well-oiled machine Saturday night.

Nate Stanley connected with Noah Fant and Nick Easley early and often, getting the Hawkeye passing game in gear in a 38-14 win over Northern Iowa at sold-out Kinnick Stadium.

Stanley threw for 309 of the season-high 545 yards Iowa piled up in its final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play next weekend against Wisconsin, a 24-21 loser Saturday to BYU.

The junior connected on 23-of-28 passes, including 16-of-21 in the first half to facilitate Iowa’s fastest start of a 3-0 season.

"Not only in the passing game, but in the run game, we were looking to move the ball down the field and score points," Fant said. "… The coaches kept telling us to keep grinding away, grinding away and that good things will come."

Easley, who caught a career-high 10 passes for 103 yards, said implementing a tempo offense helped the Hawkeyes.

"It was all about getting that first first down, moving the chains," Easley said. "There were times when they’d move the chains, we were ready to go and they weren’t set there. We came out ready to go."

That was the plan.

"We started pretty fast," Fant said. "We haven't done that in a couple of games, and we wanted to come out, put up some points and get after them. It was the kind of start we've been looking for the past couple weeks. This is what we are capable of doing, and it feels good to get it done."

Iowa, which had accumulated just two Miguel Recinos field goals during the first half of its first two games of the season, bolted to a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

The Hawkeyes blended an effective passing attack with solid work on the ground to craft three long, confidence-building scoring drives.

In the process, Stanley reconnected with two players who were expected to be among his top targets this season.

Fant was on the receiving end of five passes covering 99 yards in the opening quarter.

He set up his own 5-yard touchdown catch when Stanley hit him in stride for a 43-yard gain, which moved the ball to the UNI 8-yard line on Iowa’s first scoring drive of the game.

The 10-play, 92-yard drive ended with Fant’s 14th career touchdown reception, a record for an Iowa tight end.

The Hawkeyes used drives of 12 and 14 plays to manufacture points on its next two possessions as well.

Stanley connected with Fant for gains of 19 and 29 yards on consecutive plays late in the opening quarter before the junior left the game after getting hit the ribs.

"I’ve dealt with worse," Fant said. "I wanted to get back out there, get another one."

Mekhi Sargent, who rushed for 72 yards, scored on carries of 2 and 10 yards as Iowa’s lead reached 21-0 with 2 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the first half.

"It was the kind of start we were looking to get off to, something we needed," Easley said.

Finishing the nonconference portion of their regular season with an unbeaten record for just the sixth time in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons, Iowa increased its lead to 38-0 by scoring on its first three possessions of the second half.

Miguel Recinos capped a 10-play drive with a 42-yard field goal two plays before Kristian Welch recovered a Terrell Carey fumble forced by Parker Hesse.

Stanley connected with Easley for the 10th time in the game for a 14-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.

He then hit Sargent for a 48-yard gain on his final attempt of the night to set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Toren Young, who ran for a game-high 82 yards on 14 carries.

Northern Iowa had no chance to answer the Iowa drives against an unyielding Hawkeye defense that limited UNI to 6 total rushing yards, the second-fewest yards Iowa has allowed an opponent on the ground in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons.

"We came out all on the same page, made sure we were all running to the ball," linebacker Jack Hockaday said. "It was a game where we were all playing together, making plays and doing what we’re capable of doing."

The Panthers gained just 20 yards while running just 20 plays in the opening two quarters, prompting a mid-game switch as quarterback for the second straight game for UNI.

Colton Howell made his first start of the season, but after completing 3-of-10 passes in the first half was replaced by first-game starter Eli Dunne at the start of the third quarter.

Dunne threw for 200 yards in the second half, completing 18-of-26 passes and led the Panthers (0-2) to a pair of fourth-quarter scores.

He cut into a 38-0 deficit with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Briley Moore prior to connecting with Elias Nissen on a 5-yard scoring play.

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