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091518-Iowa-UNI-017

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws a pass under pressure from Northern Iowa Panthers linebacker Rickey Neal Jr. during the first quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday.

IOWA CITY — National Egg Day isn’t until June 3, but Big Ten football teams laid several of them Saturday.

Wisconsin took the luster off next week’s visit to Iowa by getting scrambled by someone named Squally Canada and suffering its first home non-conference loss in 15 years. Nebraska put another dent in Scott Frost’s quest for sainthood by losing to Troy.

Illinois blew a 19-7 fourth-quarter lead. Rutgers lost to the worst team in the Big 12. Purdue lost. Northwestern lost. Maryland followed two very impressive wins by laying a gigantic Terrapin egg against Temple.

Someone needs to do some digging to find the last time the Big Ten lost seven non-conference games on one Saturday.

Iowa chose not to participate in the egg-laying.

The Hawkeyes did what legitimate Big Ten contenders are supposed to do when they come up against FCS opponents, even when they happen to be above-average FCS teams.

They dominated in every way imaginable on the way to a 38-14 victory over Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

Forget what that final score looks like. It was 38-0 at the end of three quarters. After Iowa scored to make it 31-0 in the middle of the third quarter, it had outgained UNI 414-38.

You get the idea: It was about as lopsided as college football games get.

These Week 3 non-conference games can be very tricky things for power-five teams.

Very often, the opponent is someone you’re supposed to pummel and the next game frequently is the conference opener. It’s easy to catch yourself sneaking a peek ahead instead of being properly prepared for the task at hand. It’s human nature.

You don’t think Wisconsin had Iowa in the back of its brain when it stepped onto the field to face BYU on Saturday? It was pretty obvious Nebraska might have been anticipating next week’s visit to Michigan’s "Big House."

"The way college football is right now, you better show up every week or you could be in for a bad surprise," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers probably didn’t get caught looking ahead. They’re just not very good.

But the others fell victim to what have come to be referred to as "trap games."

"I never use that word. Actually, I have used it before but not this week," Ferentz said. "We’ve always had great respect for UNI. Coach Farley has done a great job there for a long time."

Iowa has occasionally been caught in trap games before. It lost to North Dakota State in Week 3 in 2016. It lost to Pittsburgh on the eve of Big Ten play in 2008. It looked past UNI in the 2009 season opener but escaped by miraculously blocking back-to-back field goal attempts in the final minute.

Nothing like that was necessary Saturday.

Iowa’s players vowed all week that they wouldn’t look past the Panthers but, hey, every team says that, right? No one says "We’re really not taking this opponent seriously because we have a bigger game next week."

But saying the right thing and doing it are two different things.

The Hawkeyes did all the right things this time, taking care of business in a methodical way.

"Obviously, we were just focused only on this week and what we can do week to week," said tight end Noah Fant, who caught five passes for 99 yards in the first quarter alone.

Obviously. The Hawkeyes outgained UNI 191-16 in the first quarter, 125-4 in the second quarter. The Panthers only had the ball a little more than nine minutes in the first half and they only ran 20 plays to 50 for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes didn’t make any sort of major mistake until the final minute of the half when Nate Stanley threw a pass up for grabs over the middle and had it intercepted. Iowa’s Michael Ojemudia made up for that by intercepting it right back on the very next play.

Ferentz wasn’t completely satisfied. He said he still saw some things — sacks, turnovers, penalties — he didn’t like — but it was a vast improvement on the first two games.

Now, comes a much larger test when Wisconsin comes to visit. It’s something the players said they really haven’t contemplated until now.

"Not yet," Fant said. "We’ve been focusing on each and every game as we go along and not looking ahead."

That’s how you avoid laying an egg.

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