AMES (AP) — Iowa State’s success over the past two seasons helped it land freshman running back Breece Hall, who could have easily gone somewhere else given his talent.
The Cyclones saw last weekend what it’s like to have someone on their own roster take over a game on raw ability.
Hall set himself apart from a muddled position group with a breakout performance, rushing for 132 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 victory at West Virginia. For his efforts, Hall won co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors and likely the starting nod when the Cyclones (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) visit Texas Tech (3-3, 1-2) on Saturday.
“The one thing Breece does have is natural running back vision,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “That vision and understanding of the offense certainly allows him … to accelerate where he’s going to go with the ball.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Hall, who only turned 18 on May 31, is cousins with Roger Craig, the former star back of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty in the 1980s. His stepfather, Jeff Smith, was a tailback for Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
Hall started slowly at Northwest High in Wichita, Kansas, before exploding onto the recruiting scene as a junior. Hall rushed for 2,082 yards and 32 touchdowns — on a whopping 10.3 yards a carry — for a team that made it to the state title game. Hall was even better as a senior, rushing for 2,127 yards and 29 touchdowns and catching 20 passes for 588 yards and eight more scores.
Iowa, Baylor, Kansas State, Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee were among the teams that offered Hall a scholarship. But with David Montgomery leaving early for the NFL, Hall saw an opportunity to play right away in Ames.
That didn’t happen though.
Hall and fellow true freshman Jirehl Brock joined Johnnie Lang, Kene Nwangwu and Sheldon Croney Jr. on the depth chart — and all five of those running backs have played this fall.
But after his team had some early struggles against the Mountaineers, Campbell turned to Hall. Hall came through on 26 carries — a week after getting just one in a 49-24 win over TCU — and he scored twice from a yard out and once from 12 yards away.
With Hall leading the way — his longest gain was 18 yards — Iowa State outscored West Virginia 24-0 in the second half.
With “him being young and having more things he can get better at, it’s scary,” Iowa State senior receiver La’Michael Pettway said.
Campbell on Tuesday would not declare Hall his top running back. Hall was unavailable; Campbell does not allow true freshmen to speak with the media.
But if Hall can build off last week’s momentum this week in practice, it’s hard to imagine anyone else getting the bulk of the carries against the Red Raiders.
The Cyclones could sure use some clarity at running back too. Even with Hall’s breakout game last week, they’re just 76th nationally in rushing yards per game.
“I really mean this when I say it. You’ve got to earn it in practice,” Campbell said. “We’ll see how he responds.”
IOWA CITY (AP) — Alaric Jackson knows Iowa’s problems on offense are frustrating.
Jackson, the junior left tackle on the No. 23 Hawkeyes’ offensive line, wasn’t about to point fingers this week. He knows there is plenty of blame to go around and figures there are ways to solve things.
“Just be a team. Just communicate,” he said. “It’s on everybody’s hands, to be honest. It’s not just one guy’s fault.”
Iowa (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) has lost back-to-back games to Michigan and Penn State, scoring just 15 points in all. The Hawkeyes, who scored in every quarter of their first four games, have had just one touchdown and three field goals in their last eight quarters. They also have six turnovers the last two games after just one in the first four. There have been penalties — eight against Michigan — to go with mental mistakes.
Quarterback Nate Stanley was sacked eight times in the 10-3 loss to Michigan, and then twice in Saturday’s 17-12 defeat to Penn State.
Stanley credited opposing defenses with some of the issues, but he, too, knew much of the blame fell on the Hawkeyes.
“When it comes down to it, we’re the ones who have held on to the ball (too long) or committed the penalties,” Stanley said. “Ultimately it comes down to us. If we execute better, we’ll put points on the board.”
Tight end Nate Wieting agreed, and said he thinks the team is “really close” to playing the best it can.
“I think you have to have some patience as a player, that not everything is going to be perfect,” Wieting said. “Sometimes, you’re going to feel like you’re spinning your wheels. But that’s the time where you really have to focus.”
That was the similar message from coach Kirk Ferentz.
“Whatever it is we’re doing that’s not performing well enough to get us in a winning margin, we just got to try to focus on that, improve it,” Ferentz said. “Really doesn’t matter what position it is. If we’re not quite getting it done, it’s always frustrating. We want to do well. But the good news is, we’ve seen our guys play better. We’ll keep focused on that, see if we can’t get back up a little bit better.”
The Hawkeyes had just one rushing yard against Michigan — a number diminished by the 65 yards lost on the Stanley sacks — and had 70 yards against Penn State. Their leading rusher against Michigan was Toren Young with eight carries for 49 yards, the leading rusher against Penn State was freshman Tyler Goodson with 35 yards.
“Everything goes hand-in-hand on offense, in my opinion,” Ferentz said. “At some point in the season, somebody is not going to let you run it, you got to throw it, and vice versa. You got to be able to do both to be a successful team, unless you live off the option or throw it every snap of the game type team.”
Iowa this week will face a Purdue team that ranks 79th nationally in rushing defense (166.5 yards per game), 104th in total defense (444.5) and 112th in passing yards per game (278).
Every game for the rest of the regular season will be against Big Ten West opponents, so the Hawkeyes haven’t given up hope of winning the division, although they’ll need some outside help.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating that we haven’t won,” Stanley said. “But I don’t think anyone’s attitude or demeanor has diminished. I think everybody’s been upbeat and positive, knowing that we still have some goals out there on the table.”
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — Iowa State’s hopes for competing for a Big 12 title suffered a blow when Talen Horton-Tucker decided to leave for the NBA after just one season.
The Cyclones hope they have filled that hole with guard Rasir Bolton, a Penn State transfer whose offensive numbers were similar to Horton-Tucker’s as a freshman in 2018-19.
The 6-foot-3 Bolton, a sophomore who figures to slide into Horton-Tucker’s starting spot in the backcourt, averaged 11.6 points on 38.3% overall shooting and 36.1% from deep. Bolton also led the Big Ten from the line at 87.6%.
The 6-foot-4 Horton-Tucker, while a much better rebounder than Bolton, averaged 11.8 points on 40.6% shooting. But Talen Horton-Tucker shot just 30.8% on 3s and 62.5% from the line.
Iowa State isn’t banking on Bolton performing like a future draft pick. But the NCAA’s decision to grant Bolton immediate eligibility last month certainly raised expectations in Ames.
The Cyclones (23-12 in 2018-19), which lost nearly 70% of its scoring from a year ago, open play on Nov. 5 against Mississippi Valley State.
“He’s a guy that, I think, can really impact our team,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said at the team’s annual media day. “Offensively, he’s very talented, gifted. He can score in a lot of ways.”
Bolton, 20, committed to play for the Nittany Lions after a season at Massanutten Military Academy in which he led the team to a school-record 32 wins and the No. 1 spot in the national prep school rankings.
Penn State threw Bolton right into its rotation. Bolton averaged 20 points over a five-game stretch in December, and he had a nine-game stretch scoring in double figures while coming off the bench during Big Ten play.
Bolton struggled down the stretch, bottoming out with a zero-point effort in a loss to Minnesota in the league tournament. Bolton left after the season and, after months of waiting, was granted a waiver to play right away in Ames.
“Just felt like leaving was the best decision for me and my family,” Bolton said. “It felt like a real family fit (at Iowa State). It just felt like a place for me … I felt like I could come in and help this team (and) contribute by watching coach Prohm’s playing style and how he plays his guards. That really intrigued me.”
What Bolton should give the Cyclones is a perimeter threat who can create his own shot as the shot clock winds down.
Bolton’s experience at the point should also allow Iowa State to move around star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, a preseason first-team All-Big 12 pick, in hopes of creating mismatches.
Bolton has areas he needs to improve. He had 83 turnovers against just 47 assists — ghastly numbers for a point guard — and he only shot 40.3% on 2s.
“Defensively, keep making strides,” Bolton said when asked about his goals for 2019-20. “Offensively, just being efficient. Cut down on turnovers, scoring the ball at a higher rate, (having) a higher field goal percentage. Just all the little things.”
One area where Bolton might help the Cyclones is on defense. Bolton was a key contributor to a Penn State team that, while finishing just 14-18, was one of the more efficient defensive teams in the country.
“It’s kind of like having another dog on the defensive side. He talks really well and gives us another communicator,” Haliburton said. “He’s one of the guys who wants to defend.”
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Noah Cain ran for a five-yard touchdown with 5:17 left and 10th-ranked Penn State held off No. 17 Iowa 17-12 on Saturday night, its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
Cain finished with 102 yards for the Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), who extended their winning streak over the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) to six games.
A matchup between two of the nation’s top defenses turned when Iowa’s Nate Stanley threw an interception near midfield with 9:22 remaining. Penn State drove 35 yards on a gassed Iowa defense, and the last of three straight runs by Cain made it 17-6.
Iowa pulled within 17-12 when Stanley found Brandon Smith for a 33-yard TD pass with 2:31 to go. The Hawkeyes’ two-point try failed though, and Cain converted a crucial third down that ensured that Iowa never saw the ball again.
Up 7-6 late in the third quarter, Penn State recovered a fumble at Iowa’s 16 and Sean Clifford connected on an apparent touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth that was overturned on review. Iowa then held the Nittany Lions at the 1-foot line, and two straight holding calls forced them to settle for a 33-yard field goal.
KJ Hamler caught seven passes, including a 22-yarder for a TD, for Penn State.
Stanley threw for 286 yards, but the Hawkeyes ran for just 70 yards on 30 attempts.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions survived their toughest road challenge outside of a trip to Ohio State on Nov. 23. Penn State was on the road against a talented team with a jacked-up crowd, and yet the Nittany Lions were the ones making the plays that made the difference.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes nearly went back-to-back games without a touchdown. Granted, Michigan and Penn State are really good on defense. But Iowa can’t continue to lean on its own defense to keep it in games. At 1-2 in the league and with Wisconsin looking like one of the best teams in America, the Big Ten West doesn’t look so winnable anymore.
Penn State might move up a few spots. Iowa might struggle to hang onto its spot in the Top 25 after back-to-back losses.
Penn State hosts Michigan on Oct. 19.
Iowa hosts Purdue next Saturday.
By JOHN RABY
AP Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Breece Hall may have given Iowa State the dependable option at running back the Cyclones have been looking for since star David Montgomery left.
The freshman rushed for 132 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Iowa State to a 38-14 victory over West Virginia on Saturday night in a game in which the Mountaineers lost quarterback Austin Kendall to injury.
Hall scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in the second and fourth quarters and also had a 12-yard TD in the third quarter.
“He certainly did a great job tonight and hopefully he can build on that,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “I expect that he would.”
The 205-pound Hall is the third different running back to lead the Cyclones (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) in rushing this season and the first to eclipse 100 yards. Quarterback Brock Purdy had 102 yards a week ago against TCU.
Johnnie Lang started Saturday’s game and had four carries for 11 yards before giving way to Hall, who entered the game fifth on the team with 84 rushing yards on 18 carries.
“Breece just brings a lot to the table,” said Iowa State wide receiver La’Michael Pettway. “He’s physical. He can move. I like his feet. He’s got a quick twitch and he’s smart. With Breece just being a freshman he still has a lot to learn so that can be scary.”
Kendall was hit hard while attempting a pass during West Virginia’s first series. He did not return and was replaced by backup Jack Allison.
West Virginia coach Neal Brown said Kendall appeared to sustain a chest injury and will know more by early in the week.
“It’s not an arm or shoulder injury,” Brown said.
Purdy threw for one TD and ran for another for Iowa State, who held the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2) scoreless in the second half. The Cyclones scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull away.
“I’m not disappointed in our effort. I thought our guys were ready to play,” Brown said. “We just ran out of gas. They are one of the top offenses in the country and I thought we did a pretty good job holding them in check, 372 yards.”
Iowa State: Hall’s performance will help the Cyclones take the running load off of Purdy, who entered the game with the most carries on the team.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers were limited to 190 yards of offense. Allison had one good series but couldn’t generate enough offense to keep up with Purdy. Allison finished 18 of 24 for 140 yards with one touchdown pass and an interception.
“I think it’s tough when a backup quarterback has to come into a game and play,” Brown said. “In college football, you don’t get as many reps. I thought under the circumstances he did an OK job.”
The Mountaineers will be without cornerback Hakeem Bailey for most of next weekend’s game after the senior was called for targeting for a hit on wide receiver Tarique Milton early in the third quarter.
EARLY CYCLONE STRUGGLES
Iowa State’s offense had two three-and-outs all season entering the game but failed to get a first down on two of its first three series Saturday. On the second one, West Virginia’s Tykee Smith caught a deflected pass from Purdy and went 19 yards for the opening touchdown.
CHANGE OF FORTUNE
West Virginia’s Nicktroy Fortune broke up a second-quarter pass that would have forced an Iowa State punt near midfield. Instead, linebacker VanDarius Cowan was called for using his hands to the face on the play, giving the Cyclones a first down at the 34. Purdy later converted a fourth-down run and then scored on a 2-yard run to put Iowa State ahead 14-7.
Iowa State travels to Texas Tech next Saturday.
West Virginia plays at No. 6 Oklahoma next Saturday.
CEDAR FALLS (AP) — Redshirt freshman Will McElvain threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Weston, and Trevor Allen and Tyler Hoosman ran for scores, as Northern Iowa held off Youngstown State 21-14 in a Missouri Valley Football Conference opener between two ranked teams on Saturday.
McElvain staked the Panthers (3-2), ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches poll, to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when he capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with his TD toss to Weston. McElvain directed an eight-play, 79-yard drive — ended by Allen’s 10-yard TD run — to push Northern Iowa’s lead to 14-0 with 5:07 left in the second quarter. On the ensuing possession for the 17th-ranked Penguins (4-1), Nathan Mays needed just one play — a 75-yard scoring strike to Jermiah Braswell — to halve the lead at 14-7. But the Panthers took the kickoff and marched 75 yards, with Hoosman running it in from the 15-yard line for a 21-7 halftime lead.
The only scoring in the second half came on Youngstown State’s opening drive of the third quarter. Mays completed all four of his passes in an eight-play, 75-yard drive, accounting for 56 yards with the last 14 coming on a scoring toss to Kendric Mallory that pulled the Penguins within 21-14.
McElvain finished 10-of-20 passing for 235 yards and a TD for the winners. Allen had a game-high 74 yards rushing on 16 carries. Weston had three receptions for 108 yards.
For the Panther defense, former Manson Northwest Webster and Iowa Central standout Tim Butcher had three tackles and assisted on a sack, with Bishop Garrigan grad Zac Kibby recording a tackle.
Kibby also averaged 36.5 yards on six punts, with a long of 49.
Mays completed 17 of 23 passes for 239 yards and two scores for Youngstown State. The Penguins were held to 55 yards on the ground on 36 carries.
RUSHING—Youngstown St., J. Alessi 8-28, C. Turner 9-15, N. Mays 18-13, B. Chapman 1-(minus 1). No. Iowa, T. Allen 16-74, T. Hoosman 8-38, A. Soko 1-5, W. McElvain 9-(minus 13).
PASSING—Youngstown St., N. Mays 17-23-0-239. No. Iowa, W. McElvain 10-20-0-235.
RECEIVING—Youngstown St., J. Braswell 2-82, R. Emans 4-55, K. Mallory 3-45, C. Turner 5-31, M. Joiner 2-19, J. Alessi 1-7. No. Iowa, I. Weston 3-108, J. James 2-63, A. Graham 1-34, D. McShane 3-28, T. Allen 1-2.
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — Iowa State’s offensive strategy this season has been to let quarterback Brock Purdy try to make as many plays as possible.
Purdy showed yet again on Saturday how effective such an approach can be, running and throwing his way past an overwhelmed TCU defense.
Purdy threw for 247 yards and a pair of TDs and Iowa State walloped the Horned Frogs 49-24 for its first Big 12 win of the season. Purdy also ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns for the Cyclones (3-2, 1-1), who beat the Horned Frogs for just the third time in 11 tries.
“I think Brock is really special. I don’t know if I have any different feeling for the words I can use for to describe Brock,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “He’s a guy who gives us an ability (as) a dual threat football player.”
TCU (3-2, 1-1), down 35-10 after three quarters, made things interesting by getting a touchdown run from Darius Anderson and a 22-yard TD grab by Jalen Reagor to make it a 35-24 game with nine minutes left.
But Purdy’s fourth TD of the day, a 9-yard run, put the Cyclones ahead by 18 with 6:27 left. Purdy now has 10 TD passes, five TD runs and just two interceptions — and he finished with at least 300 combined yards for the fourth straight game.
“Honestly I just kept telling the guys to have fun. And that was like the theme going into this game, because we’ve been playing uptight and things like that the past couple of games,” Purdy said. “When they scored and made it close again nothing changed. We decided to just keep having fun.”
Eyioma Uwazurike’s 1-yard scoop and score on a fumble put the Cyclones ahead 14-3 early in the second quarter. Purdy then made it 21-3 on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Kolar, and his 10-yard TD run put Iowa State up 28-3 early in the third quarter.
Freshman Max Duggan got TCU within 28-10 on a short TD pass to Reagor. Iowa State answered by going 75 yards in just five plays, and Johnnie Lang’s 3-yard touchdown run pushed the Cyclones back ahead by 25.
“They kicked our butts,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Duggan was 17 of 25 passing for 219 yards and two TDs for TCU. But Anderson ran for just 49 yards, snapping his streak of 100-yard games at three.
Iowa State: This was the breakout game the Cyclones were searching for. Iowa State’s offensive line played its best game in recent memory and its defense largely took away Anderson, forcing the Horned Frogs to become one dimensional. “I thought we played in a really good rhythm,” Campbell said. “We were aggressive on both sides of the game early. When things got a little awkward there late in the game and we needed to make a play, we made a play.”
TCU: After a rough start, Duggan settled in and brought the Horned Frogs back into the game — albeit briefly — in his return to his home state. The upcoming bye week should only help Duggan’s progress moving forward.
While Purdy continues to be Iowa State’s best threat running the ball, Johnnie Lang might be inching closer to becoming the Cyclones’ starting running back. Lang had 72 yards on a team-high 16 carries. “I really thought Johnnie Lang played a great game, his best game to date. That’s really exciting. He’s practicing great and he showed it on the football field,” Campbell said.
HE SAID IT
“We say it all the time. You can’t beat yourselves. You’ve got to take ballgames when you’re on the road playing in somebody else’s house,” Patterson said. “We did not do that.”
Iowa State plays at West Virginia on Oct. 12
TCU has a bye next week. The Horned Frogs play at Kansas State on Oct. 19
AMES (AP) — Iowa State began the season with five running backs and coach Matt Campbell hoping that one would step forward and prove he could be the No. 1 guy.
After four games, that hasn’t happened. No one yet has given the team the production it needs from the position and as a result, the overall running game has been hit and miss.
Iowa State is ninth in the Big 12 in rushing yardage and last in rushing attempts, forcing the offense to rely heavily on the throwing of quarterback Brock Purdy. Discounting the yards Purdy has lost the six times he has been sacked, he would lead the team in rushing.
And there’s been a decided lack of big plays no matter who’s running the ball. Iowa State’s longest run this year is 29 yards — by backup quarterback Re-al Mitchell. The longest gain by a running back: 19 yards by Kene Nwangwu.
“I think we’re more consistent (running the ball) than we’ve been,” Campbell said Tuesday. “Are we as consistent as we need to be? Probably not. But again, I think it’s an area for us that we’ve got a lot of confidence in what we can do.”
All five backs are listed on the depth chart for Saturday’s home game with TCU, with senior Sheldon Croney at the top. Croney has run the ball more often than the other backs and is the best blocker, but he averages only 3.1 yards a carry.
Sophomore Johnnie Lang and Nwangwu, a junior, are next in line, followed by freshmen Breece Hall and Jirehl Brock. Neither freshman played in last Saturday’s 23-21 loss at Baylor, where the Cyclones (2-2) had to abandon any serious thoughts of running the ball in the second half after falling behind 20-0.
The Cyclones were left scrambling for a No. 1 back after David Montgomery, who rushed for 1,216 yards a year ago, gave up his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He’s now with the Chicago Bears.
“It will be really interesting to see how the season emerges and who emerges at that position,” Campbell said. “It’s a tough question because we’d all love David Montgomery and David Montgomery’s a great player. But now you’re trying to figure out who is that guy, what is that situation for you. We’ve been fortunate that some guys have stepped up and done some great things for us so far. Has that one single person emerged yet? They haven’t.”
If anyone’s close, it might be Lang. He’s averaging 4.8 yards a carry and scored two touchdowns at Baylor, a 3-yard run on which the blocking was so good he wasn’t touched and a 12-yard reception when Purdy found him wide open after he drifted out of the backfield.
“Johnnie is a guy that I’ve got great confidence in just because of that trust factor,” Campbell said. “I think he’s a guy that when his number’s been called, he’s always been able to be the most consistent guy.”
Yet Campbell sees all five backs continuing to compete for the job and is hesitant to rule any of them out.
“Everyone is competitive in that room,” Lang said. “So if you’re not pushing yourself, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
Campbell would like to see someone stick out for the right reasons.
Notes: Defensive end JaQuan Bailey, who shares the school’s career lead in sacks, is doubtful for Saturday’s game because of a lower leg injury sustained at Baylor, Campbell said. But he said Bailey’s backup, sophomore Zach Petersen, has been outstanding this season so he see little, if any, dropoff.
“I think the one thing about Zach is he’s played the best of all our defensive linemen up to this date anyway,” Campbell said.
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s offense sputtered at times over the past few years because it never quite knew what it might get out of its rushing attack.
The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes are soaring this season behind a ground game that appears to have found its way.
Iowa (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) heads into a crucial early showdown with No. 19 Michigan (3-1, 1-1) on the heels of one of its best days running the ball in years.
The Hawkeyes racked up 351 yards on the ground in last week’s 48-3 blowout of Middle Tennessee, powering an offense that finished with 644 yards. That total was the most in coach Kirk Ferentz’s 21 seasons in charge.
Iowa is averaging 5.18 yards per carry in 2019 — a leap of 1.3 yards from a year ago and 1.4 yards in 2017 — and it hasn’t lost a fumble in three games.
“I can’t pinpoint one thing. It’s a collective effort,” junior running back Toren Young said. “The offensive line is doing a great job of blocking. The receivers, tight ends and fullbacks are doing a great job of blocking. I think, as running backs, we are doing a better job of seeing the bigger picture, understanding the concepts.”
Arguably Iowa’s biggest priority in the offseason was to fix its rushing attack, a foundational piece of a program that’s constantly striving both for balance and to control the clock.
The Hawkeyes were 95th nationally in rushing offense in 2018 and 97th two seasons ago despite running the ball 56 percent of the time during those years.
Despite some upheaval along their offensive line, the Hawkeyes broke through on the ground in September.
Redshirt freshman center Tyler Linderbaum, who switched over from defense during bowl preparation, has blossomed into an anchor for a unit that’s getting much more consistent downhill push up. Iowa has even overcome the loss of star tackle Alaric Jackson, who is expected to return this weekend after missing three games with a sprained knee.
Jackson practiced on Tuesday, a promising sign for his availability.
“Everybody is really paying attention to the details, especially in practice. You don’t just show up on game day and establish the run,” quarterback Nate Stanley said.
All that extra space created by the line has led to career-best starts for Young and Mekhi Sargent, also a junior.
Sargent, the starter, is averaging 5.5 yards a carry with a pair of touchdowns. Young has exploded for 7.6 yards an attempt, and he had a career-high 131 yards on just 11 attempts last weekend.
Iowa’s 217.5 yards rushing through four games ranks 29th in America, despite the fact that the Hawkeyes are running the ball at nearly the exact same rate, 56.7 percent, as in 2017-18.
“When you have an explosive (play), it does carry over to the next play because, on the next play, you want to capitalize on that,” Sargent said.
Iowa’s success running the ball could wind up being a major problem for Big Blue on Saturday.
Michigan let Wisconsin, which at 230.5 yards a game on 5.15 yards a try has been a near mirror image of the Hawkeyes, rack up 359 in a 35-14 loss two weeks ago.
“They just run the ball very well,” Michigan defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “They got a really good offensive line and they trust them, and they’ve got a good set of tailbacks.”
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s defense has been among the nation’s best all season.
The Hawkeyes’ offense joined in on the fun at just the right time, racking up more yards than it ever has under longtime coach Kirk Ferentz.
Senior Nate Stanley threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, Toren Young added a career-high 131 yards rushing and 14th-ranked Iowa throttled Middle Tennessee 48-3 on Saturday, moving to 4-0 for the third time in 10 years.
Brandon Smith caught both of Stanley’s TD throws for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa gained 644 yards ahead of a two-week stretch in which the Hawkeyes travel to No. 20 Michigan and host 12th-ranked Penn State. The Hawkeyes looked ready for that gauntlet against Middle Tennessee, going 10 of 16 on third downs, 3 for 3 on fourth downs and 6 of 6 in the red zone.
Iowa also didn’t commit a turnover for the third game in a row.
“For the most part, we controlled every phase of the game, which was good to see,” said Ferentz, now in his 21st season in charge at Iowa. “We’re playing clean football right now.”
Iowa racked up 358 of those yards in the first half and scored on its first four drives, a stretch headlined by an 18-yard TD throw from Stanley to Smith, to jump ahead 24-0 midway through the second quarter.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s 14-yard touchdown run off a jet sweep pushed Iowa’s lead to 34-3 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
Asher O’Hara was 15 of 22 passing for 110 yards for Middle Tennessee (1-3). The Blue Raiders’ defense was gashed for over 8 yards a play.
“This game was very important for our offense. We executed at a high level,” Smith said.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes’ first drive — a nine-play, 65-yarder that lasted 3:59 and finished with a 4-yard touchdown run by Mekhi Sargent — was so clinical, so balanced and, frankly, so easy that it set the tone for the day. Iowa pushed around the undersized Blue Raiders from the opening whistle in joining its 2009 and 2015 teams with 4-0 starts. The Hawkeyes are now allowing an average of 9 points per game.
Middle Tennessee: This was likely the most overmatched the Blue Raiders will be all year. But they’ve got enough to compete for another bowl bid with Conference USA play starting next week. “We’ve had some tough losses. But it shows us who we can be,” O’Hara said. “We believe in each other.”
GROUND AND POUND
Iowa’s running game, which has been inconsistent over the past few years, exploded against the Blue Raiders. The Hawkeyes exploited their size advantage in the trenches and ran for 351 yards — their most since 2016 — on 51 carries. Sargent, the starting running back, didn’t touch the ball in the second half and still finished with 91 yards. Freshman Tyler Goodson continued to show that he might be special as well, juking past multiple defenders on his way to 97 yards.
Iowa punted just once. Keith Duncan missed his first field goal of the season, although he made up for it with successful tries from 49 and 42 yards. … The Hawkeyes went 10 for 16 on third downs. … Middle Tennessee committed eight penalties for 72 yards. Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon had the best game of his brief career. Nixon had seven total tackles, two for a loss, and he added a sack.
Iowa won’t move much unless the teams ahead of it lose. But the Hawkeyes are starting to look worthy of a spot in the top 10.
HE SAID IT
“I call him ‘The Human Joystick,’” Smith said of Goodson.
Iowa plays at Michigan next Saturday. The Wolverines, who pummeled Rutgers 52-0 on Saturday, beat Middle Tennessee 40-21 in their opener.
Middle Tennessee hosts Marshall on Oct. 5.