By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – All eyes were focused on the new-look Iowa offense on Saturday and Nathan Stanley and his cohorts had their moments against Wyoming.
But it was the Josey Jewell-led Iowa defense that seized the spotlight and paved the way for a 21-3 victory in the season opener at Kinnick Stadium.
Leading 14-3 at halftime, Iowa forced Wyoming to punt on its first two possessions of the third quarter.
Iowa took over at its own 24-yard line after Wyoming’s second punt and the Hawkeyes then marched 76 yards on four plays for touchdown that came on a 45-yard pass from Stanley to junior college transfer receiver Nick Easley with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
The Hawekyes expanded the lead to 24-3 on a 44-yard field goal by Miguel Recinos with 7:52 left in the fourth quarter.
Iowa was held without a first down until Butler had a 10-yard run with 3:50 left in the first quarter. He followed that with a seven-yard run, and then Stanley gained four yards on a scramble, with 10 more yards tagged on to the play after Wyoming was called for defensive holding.
However, the drive ended when Iowa freshman receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette fumbled on a reverse late in the first quarter. Wyoming recovered at its own 33-yard line and then drove into Iowa territory.
But the Iowa defense stiffened and the Cowboys settled for a 49-yard field goal by Cooper Rothe with 11:21 left in the second quarter.
Wyoming in addition to leading 3-0 also had sucked the life out of Kinnick Stadium.
Fans were waiting for Brian Ferentz and the Iowa offense to deliver and it finally happened when Stanley completed a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Noah Fant with 5:07 left in the second quarter.
The Iowa offensive line finally started to get a surge late in the second quarter, and with that came a shift in momentum.
Wyoming self-destructed late in the second quarter as punter Tim Zaleski whiffed on an attempt.
Iowa took over at the Wyoming 33-yard line with 27 seconds left in the second quarter. The Cowboys were penalized five yards for being offsides and Iowa made them pay as Stanley hit Fant over the middle for a 27-yard touchdown on the next play.
Fant slipped past his defender and then Stanley hit him in stride with a perfectly thrown pass.
After misfiring on his first four passes, Stanley completed his next four passes in a row, including two for touchdowns.
The best thing Stanely had going for him in the first half was the Iowa defense, which held Wyoming to just 79 yards in the first half.
Allen completed all but three of his 14 pass attempts in the first half, but it only produced 66 yards. He also spent much of the first half trying to avoid Iowa’s pressure.