After not one, not two....but three seperate lightning delays that combined to last well over three hours, the Iowa Hawkeyes shut out Nevada Wolf Pack 27-0 Saturday evening at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.
Let’s get into some takeaways I had from tonight’s game that lasted nearly seven hours!
1. Iowa strikes first, matches scoring output from first two games in 1Q
Over its first two games, Iowa scored 14 combined points; it scored seven in its season opener against FCS foe South Dakota State off two safeties and a field goal. No, that’s not a typo. Yes, that’s actually what happened.
Against Iowa State last week, Iowa’s lone touchdown on a nine-yard rushing touchdown by tailback Leshon Williams — its only touchdown of the season thus far.
Ugly TD trend: Snapped. In the first quarter of Saturday’s non-conference contest, christmas came early for the Hawkeyes. They scored not one, but two touchdowns! Christmas miracles are still a thing, right?
Anywho, true freshman running back Kaleb Johnson scored the first courtesy of a 40-yard rushing score — their longest play of the season up to that point. Petras connected with Arland Bruce IV for a 21-yard touchdown towards the end of the quarter — widening its lead to 14-0.
Johnson tacked on with a 55-yard touchdown with 8:22 left in the final quarter that made it 27-0, their final touchdown of the game. Their offensive attack is still a work in progress — registering 337 yards (5.5 yards per play) and 15 first downs — but they did indeed look better after a completely abysmal first two showings.
2. Pack offense reaches stalemate
When you organize 10 new starters that are largely inexperienced, an entirely new scheme with an entire new coaching staff, generating offense will be tough. Even after three games.
The steep task becomes even that much more daunting after the team changed practice locations this week (due to smoke from the Mosquito fire) and competing on the road in a hostile environment against a Power-5 foe who has one of the best defenses in the nation; Iowa ranks within the top-10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and red-zone defense.
A bad combination, I know.
The stout Iowa defense shut off Nevada’s water. Iowa held the Pack to 151 yards — 2.4 yards per play — and 10 first downs. The last time it recorded less than 175 yards of offense was in 2017 on the road against Washington State.
The lighning delays didn’t help, but zero sustainable offense was generated against one of the best defenses in the nation — who are the only team in the nation that hasn’t surrendered a play of 25-plus yards. Nevada’s longest play was 16 yards long.
3. Still experimenting behind center
As I kind of alluded to above, Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth received most of the snaps behind center. This comes after signal caller Nate Cox played the entire game against Incarnate Word after the two split reps the first two games.
Illingworth never looked comfortable behind center, completing 14-of-28 passes for 82 yards and one interception, while the Pack tailbacks averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on 30 attempts.
4. Nevada secondary tested with big play
The Wolf Pack’s defensive gameplan from the jump was to shut down the run — oftentimes with an extra defender in the box — and dare Iowa to attack through the air.
Petras did just that — testing the Wolf Pack secondary down the field. He attempted a half-dozen of passes of 30-plus air yards down the field. The only one completed was a 46-yarder to Nico Ragaini after the final return — their biggest play of the season up to this point.
For the most part, Petras, who completed 14-of-26 for 175 yards and a touchdown, was on-target, too. And while it did not force any turnovers, Nevada still made it a challenge for Petras on the back-end.
5. Dom Peterson continues to stand out
We know how Wilson feels about Nevada’s All-Mountain West caliber defensive lineman Dom Peterson; Wilson, who coached the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dontay Moch, has previously called Peterson the “the most disruptive lineman I’ve ever been around anywhere.”
And Peterson’s ability to be incredibly disruptive can’t be ignored — no matter who he’s going up against. The 6-foot lineman added a pair of tackles-for-loss — including one sack — to his name Saturday evening, moving to a team-most 5.5 on the season.
6. Pack cap off non-conference play at 2-2
Nevada closed non-conference play at 2-2, with wins over New Mexico State and Texas State and losses to Incarnate Word and now Iowa.
The Pack will begin Mountain West play with Air Force, one of the top teams in the Mountain Division (despite losing Friday to Wyoming) on a short week on Friday. It will then square off against Colorado State in the much anticipated return of former head coach Jay Norvell on Oct. 7.
It will have three more home contests thereafter against San Diego State, Boise State and Fresno State, and three more road games against Hawai’i — perhaps the worst team in the Mountain West — San Jose State and UNLV.
As many college football — and definitely Mountain West — fans know all too well, anything can happen on any given Saturday. But if Nevada is able to conjur up at least three-to-four victories over this final eight-game stretch, it will be looked at as a good sign given the dire circumstances coming into the season.
Only time will tell to see what Wilson’s squad has in store for the remainder of the season.