IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa’s defense came with two safeties in the second half and the Hawkeyes opened the season with a 7-3 win over South Dakota State on Saturday.
Both teams couldn’t do much offensively. Iowa finished with 166 yards of offense, while South Dakota State had 120. The two teams combined for more points (21) than the first downs (16).
“Obviously a very unusual scoring line,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “You have 3 (in the first quarter), 2 (in the third quarter), 2 in the fourth. I’ve never seen a match like this. But we’re taking it today.”
Iowa was seventh nationally last season with four defensive touchdowns, so the Hawkeyes are used to getting points from that side of the ball. And they needed them on a day when the transgression was difficult.
“The standard has been set,” said linebacker Jack Campbell, who picked up one of the safeties and finished with 12 tackles.
The first safety came after Tory Taylor of Iowa dropped his run at South Dakota State’s 1-yard line in the third quarter. A game later, Campbell grabbed Isaiah Davis back after taking the handoff and brought him down a yard to get out of the end zone.
The second safety came in the fourth, when Joe Evans sacked Iowa quarterback Mark Gronowski in the end zone on a second-and-11 game.
“We’re trying to score as much as we can on the defensive side, but we can do it,” said Iowa safety officer Quinn Schulte.
The Hawkeyes kept South Dakota State in their own territory for most of the game. Ten of Taylor’s punters were knocked down within the Jackrabbits’ 20-yard line, including one on the 2 and the one on the 1.
“Tory did a great job,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gambler so involved in a game.”
Taylor averaged 47.9 yards per punt.
“The field position was very difficult for us,” said South Dakota state coach John Stiegelmeier. “It’s hard to go out and mentally think we have to go 98 meters against this defense.”
Iowa took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on Aaron Blom’s 46-yard field goal. The lone points for South Dakota State came on Hunter Dustman’s 44-yard field goal with 20 seconds left before halftime.
Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras completed 11 of 25 passes for 109 yards. Leshon Williams had 72 rushing yards.
Gronowski was 10 of 26 who passed 87 yards. Davis had 18 carries for 50 yards.
Iowa was without three offensive starters – wide receivers Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini, and running back Gavin Williams. All three missed time in the preseason camp due to unknown injuries. Starting linebacker Jestin Jacobs left the game in the second quarter with an injury and did not return.
South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft, a second-team Associated Press FCS All-American last season, was injured after catching a pass in the first quarter and did not return.
THE TAKE OUT
Iowa had one of the worst offenses in the nation last year, despite a season with 10 wins, finishing 99th in fouls scoring and 121st in total offense. Petras’ battle sparked much booing from the sold-out crowd at Kinnick Stadium, and with in-state rival Iowa State entering this Saturday, there will be plenty of questions for Ferentz to answer.
“I still have a lot of faith in him,” Ferentz said. “I think the noise on the outside is probably much louder than on the inside.”
South Dakota State, which fell to 2-10 against FBS teams, struggled to move the ball against the Iowa defense, which was one of the best in the country last season.
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