Iowa prepares for North Texas
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Iowa relied on its defense to win its opener, and the Hawkeyes leaned on their offense to survive their first road test.
Iowa will look for a complete team effort to close out non-conference play — especially with No. 5 Penn State set to visit Iowa City on Sept. 23 to start Big Ten play.
The Hawkeyes (2-0) host North Texas (1-1) on Saturday in the last non-Power Five game left on their schedule.
North Texas is averaging 45.5 points a game, but the Mean Green piled up 59 points against an overmatched Lamar team and last week lost to SMU by three touchdowns.
Still, North Texas plays an up-tempo spread offense that’s more prevalent at the Group of Five level than in the Big Ten. And Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had high praise for quarterback Mason Fine, who threw for 424 yards last week.
“I tell you, a lot of their skill guys, they’re not big guys, but he’s a really good quarterback. He makes good decisions. He’s fast, efficient, he’ll run the ball, throws it where it needs to go,” Ferentz said.
Here are some of the keys to consider as the Hawkeyes wrap up their non-conference schedule:
SCOUTING NORTH TEXAS
Running back Jeffrey Wilson has rushed for 212 yards on 8.5 yards per carry with four touchdowns, though all but 36 of those yards came against Lamar. The Mean Green have plenty of impressive stats; like scoring seven touchdowns in nine red zone trips and rushing for 5.8 yards an attempt. But they haven’t seen a defense like Iowa yet, even though Iowa State hung 38 on the Hawkeyes in regulation last week. The Mean Green use a 3-4 alignment on defense, which Iowa doesn’t see much of in the Big Ten and could cause confusion, especially in the first half.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to come out of Iowa’s 44-41 OT win over Iowa State was the performance of sophomore quarterback Nate Stanley, who threw for 333 yards and five TDs in his first road start. That’s troubling for North Texas, which allowed 394 yards and five touchdowns through the air in last week’s 54-32 loss to SMU.
“We need to play much better in the back end. We’ve got to be more disciplined. We need to have our eyes in the right spots,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said.
HAWKEYE LINE SHUFFLING
Iowa announced Monday that starting tackle Ike Boettger is out for the season with an Achilles injury. The Hawkeyes have since shifted Sean Welsh to right tackle and redshirt freshman Alaric Jackson to left tackle. True freshman Tristan Wirfs, a highly-touted 6-foot-5, 315-pound prospect, is now Welsh’s backup.
“We just have to plan like he will play at some point because we’re really running out of depth,” Ferentz said of Wirfs, who won the discus and the shot put at the Drake Relays this spring.
Iowa beat North Texas 62-16 when the teams met in Iowa City two years ago. … The Mean Green averaged just 24.8 points a game last season. … Iowa had four touchdown drives of 89 yards or longer last week, with a fifth that went 76 yards. … Former Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry went 40-23-3 at North Texas before leaving for Iowa in 1979. Fry went on to win 143 games with the Hawkeyes.
HE SAID IT
“They’ve got a lot of trust in me. But we talk about getting the other guys in the game. James (Butler) can make some really explosive plays. He needs to play more, and we’re going to make that happen.” — Iowa senior running back Akrum Wadley, who has 52 carries through just two games.