Oct. 3, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- After going toe-to-toe with a spirited Arkansas State football team, No. 13 University of Iowa earned its fifth consecutive victory to start the 2009 season, 24-21, this afternoon in front of 67,989 inside Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes, who took a 14-0 lead after their first two drives, have now won nine games in a row dating back to Nov. 1, 2008. Despite the three-point victory, barring a bizarre miracle, Iowa never appeared in serious danger of losing to the Sun Belt Conference foe.
"We would have liked to have had the game be a little more comfortable and we had opportunities to do that," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We came out with good energy and played well from the onset. We kind of stalled out and allowed Arkansas State to continue to play."
Iowa rolled to 420 total yards, with 296 coming through the air via the right arm of quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Wide receiver Marvin McNutt caught four passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Stanzi and McNutt hooked up for scoring tosses of 41 and 43 yards.
"You always work on timing in practice," McNutt said. "I don't think he could have thrown those passes any better than what he did today."
Stanzi completed his first five attempts and finished 18 of 26 with three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice -- one that returned 75 yards for an Arkansas State touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
"When you give up a (75-yard) touchdown the other way it changes the complex of the game real fast," Ferentz said.
Iowa is 5-0 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten Conference. Arkansas State (1-3 overall) has dropped its last three games since downing Mississippi Valley State, 61-0, on Sept. 5.
The final statistics were nearly as close as the final score. Iowa picked up 18 first downs to 17 by Arkansas State. Iowa threw for 296 yards and rushed for 124. The Red Wolves had 216 yards through the air and 80 on the ground.
"We would have liked to have had the game be a little more comfortable and we had opportunities to do that. We came out with good energy and played well from the onset. We kind of stalled out and allowed Arkansas State to continue to play."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard completed 22 of 40 passes ofr 216 yards and two touchdowns.
"We're very pleased to get the win," Ferentz said. "It was great to be back in Kinnick. Both teams played hard. Arkansas State had a great plan, a good scheme. Also a tip-of-the hat to Leonard, the quarterback. He made it tough on us today."
The final three plays of Iowa's opening drive went for 13 or more yards and ended with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Stanzi to Trey Stross. A 13-yard completion from Stanzi to tight end Allen Reisner took the ball into Arkansas State territory for the first time on third-and-4, before Paul Chaney, Jr., gained 20 yards on an end-around, setting the stage for the scoring pass. The point-after kick by Daniel Murray was good, and the Hawkeyes led 7-0 after 2-minutes, 44-seconds.
Stanzi's sixth consecutive completion produced a second touchdown for Iowa -- this time a 41-yard beauty to McNutt. The seven-play scoring drive began with a 13-yard rush by running back Brandon Wegher. Following Murray's PAT, the Hawkeyes had a 14-0 first-quarter advantage, the first time that has happened since the 2009 Outback Bowl against South Carolina.
Arkansas State put together a nine-play drive that spanned 60 yards and reached the Hawkeye 20 before Red Wolves running back Don Jones was stripped of the ball by Sash and Broderick Binns recovered.
The Red Wolves made things interesting at the end of the first half. Arkansas State started a drive from its own 11 with 4:43 left in the second quarter. A 16-yard completion from Leonard to Taylor Clements to the ball to the Red Wolves 35. On the next play, running back Reggie Arnold rushed 26 yards to the Iowa 39. The nine-play, 89-yard drive culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Leonard to Brandon Thompkins. The successful PAT kick by Josh Arauco made it a one-touchdown game at 14-7 with 44 seconds before halftime. Thompkins caught eight passes for 76 yards.
At the break, Iowa had 223 total yards and 167 of those came during the first 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Arkansas State picked up 138 of its 169 yards in the second period.
Stanzi was 10 of 13 passing for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Wegher led all rushers with 42 yards on six carries. Stross (three catches, 46 yards) and McNutt (2-41) both surpassed 40 receiving yards.
Sash's fifth interception of the season on the third play of the third quarter set up a third Iowa score -- and a third touchdown pass by Stanzi. On second-and-9 from the Arkansas State 43, Stanzi threw a perfect strike to McNutt for a touchdown and a 21-7 Hawkeye lead. The interception by Sash (the 10th of his career) snapped a streak of 79 attempts without an interception by Leonard.
"This game wasn't pretty but it will help us down the road. We're going to have to do it the hard way week in and week out."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
On the next Red Wolves series, they tried some trickery with a fake punt on third-and-6. Arkansas State punter Ryan Wilbourn was stopped short, giving Iowa first-and-10 from the Red Wolves 44. Stanzi connected with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for 27 yards on first down, but the Hawkeyes would gain just six yards on the next three plays. Murray was wide left on a 28-yard field goal attempt.
Arkansas State kept the pressure on after intercepting Stanzi on a pass that ricocheted of at least two players. Daylan Walker came up with the turnover at the Iowa 27. The Hawkeyes emerged unscathed when Arauco was wide left on a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Iowa wasn't as fortunate on the second play of the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes were poised to go up by three touchdowns when Stanzi was picked off by Demario Davis, who returned 75 yards for a touchdown. Arauco's PAT reduced the Hawkeye lead to 21-14. A 15-yard celebration penalty by Davis allowed Iowa to start its next drive from its own 42.
A 37-yard throw-and-catch from Stanzi to McNutt took the ball to the Red Wolves 21. Murray extended the Iowa lead to 24-14 with a 20-yard field goal seven plays later.
Arkansas State didn't go away quietly. The Red Wolves completed a 17-play, 68-yard scoring drive that chewed 7:59 and ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Leonard to Trevor Gillott with 2:01 left. McNutt easily fielded the on-side kick attempt, and leading 24-21, the Hawkeyes milked the game clock to 10 seconds remaining.
Leonard, who attempted 40 passes, threw incomplete on his final two offerings to end the game.
"This game wasn't pretty but it will help us down the road," Ferentz said. "We're going to have to do it the hard way week in and week out."
Now that the Hawkeyes have secured victory No. 5 to start a season for the first time in 14 years, they can focus their undivided attention on Big Ten Conference foe Michigan. The Wolverines come to Kinnick Stadium for a prime-time tilt beginning at 7 p.m. Iowa has not opened a season with six consecutive wins since 1985, when the Hawkeyes won their first seven.
"Michigan is having a good season and I can't remember a year when they didn't have great players," Ferentz said.