By Shawn Gibbs
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Junior Akrum Wadley returned to his native New Jersey and tight roped the sideline for a 26-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to lead Iowa to a 14-7 victory over Rutgers in the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Iowa, looking to rebound from an upset loss to perennial FCS power North Dakota State last week, struggled much of the day to gain any tempo on both sides of the ball, but won the field position battle and capitalized on the game’s lone takeaway by safety Brandon Snyder to move to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten.
Rutgers took the opening kickoff 12 plays down to the Iowa 12 yard line, relying primarily on a rushing attack. A critical offensive pass interference call on tight end Nick Arcidiacono and a subsequent sack by Iowa’s Parker Hesse stalled the promising drive forcing Rutgers back to the Iowa 36 and a subsequent punt.
Iowa’s first drive stalled at the Iowa 34-yard line.
Senior Ron Coluzzi, the graduate transfer from Central Michigan, boomed a 55-yard punt to the Rutgers 11 yard line. Coluzzi was a critical component of a game that was largely dependent upon field position. He ended the day with 4 punts downed inside the Rutgers 20 yard line and did not allow a kickoff return. Both teams flipped field position throughout the first Quarter.
The second quarter began with Iowa starting on its own 30, but a 15-yard sideline interference penalty on the Iowa sideline had the team going in the wrong direction and the Hawkeyes were forced to punt.
After a Rutgers punt, Iowa took the ensuing drive from it’s own 20 down to the Rutgers 10-yard line behind the Garden State native Wadley, who had 29 yards rushing on the drive and a C.J. Beathard pass to Jerminic Smith for 24 yards. However, the drive stalled and facing a 4th-and-5 on the Rutgers 10-yard line, Iowa elected to forego the field goal and Beathard’s overthrow of Smith in the endzone resulted in a turnover on downs.
Rutgers took the ensuing drive and quarterback Chris Laviano connected on a 76-yard pass to Janarion Grant, who broke multiple tackles and zig zagged to the Iowa 3-yard line before he was finally brought down by Desmond King.
The play proved costly for the Scarlet Knights, however, as Grant, their dynamic playmaker, suffered a leg injury and was unable to return. The Hawkeye defense stiffened and, Rutgers also foregoing the chip shot field goal was stopped at the Iowa 3 when Josey Jewell tackled Laviano, forcing a turnover on downs.
“That was an excellent effort by our guys.” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
Backed up on their own 1-yard line, Iowa executed a brilliant 9-play, 99 yard drive ignited by two C.J. Beathard runs of 13 and 12 yards and capped off by a Beathard 36 yard pass to a wide open senior George Kittle, who just crossed the plane of the goal line to put the visiting Hawkeyes up 7-0 at the half.
Iowa’s opened the second Half with an apparent 75-yard touchdown run by senior LeShun Daniels, only to have the run negated by a personal foul for cut blocking called on right tackle Ike Boettger.
Ferentz addressed the play at the end of his opening remarks after the game saying “the rule changes they made with cut blocking…one thing I have done for a long time is coach the offensive line and they’ve altered the rules and I’m really troubled as to why. My concern with it is that it is four different weeks and it has been four different interpretations on a rule. It impacts a game and it certainly did on the first play of the second half. We’ve created a set of rules that are hard to understand.”
Ferentz went on to say that his issues were not with the officiating crew who he described as “excellent” rather it was the rule interpretation itself.
“I’ll probably get fined from the national office, if we have one but so be it," Ferentz said. "It needs to be said.”
Iowa rebounded from the 15-yard penalty to drive to the Rutgers 41 only to have the drive stall again. The teams traded punts and field position on the next four possessions before Rutgers put together an 88-play drive highlighted by a Justin Goodwin rush of 24 yards to the Iowa 14 and then capitalized on a 14-yard touchdown from Laviano to Andre Patton to bring the Scarlet Knights even at 7-7 with 12:38 to go in the fourth quarter.
Desmond King took the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to the Iowa 48, however the Hawkeyes went backwards 16 yards the end result of two C.J. Beathard sacks forcing another Iowa punt by Coluzzi to the Rutgers 18.
On the ensuing drive, after a pass completion from Laviano to Patton, Iowa Safety Brandon Snyder stripped Patton of the ball and Snyder recovered it on the Rutgers 21. Two plays later, it was Wadley using his slender build to go off tackle, tightrope the sideline for the go-ahead score with 8:35 remaining in the game.
The junior running back from Newark admitted afterwards that he had his eye on Rutgers when he was a senior in high school, but he never received an offer from the home state school.
“I’ve been waiting for this game and it feels good to come out with a victory.” Wadley said.
Rutgers was able to take the ensuing drive down to the Iowa 17 yard line, but it was Snyder again coming up big, stopping receiver Jawun Harris for a 2-yard loss on a critical 4th-and-2 at the Iowa 17.
“He’s a guy that works so hard and is so conscientious and extremely tough," Ferentz said of Snyder.
The Hawkeyes were able to take advantage of the fact that Rutgers had expended all of its timeouts and a Daniels rush of 12 yards allowed Beathard to take a knee twice giving Iowa the 14-7 win.
“I thought the best thing our football team did today was the fight they showed both first half and the second half," Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes return home to Kinnick Stadium next week for homecoming and an 11am kickoff against the Northwestern Wildcats.