By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – There was no loser on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium despite the visiting team losing by 45 points and never really having much of a chance to win.
Middle Tennessee State entered the game as a 24-point underdog and it quickly became apparent why as 14th-ranked Iowa marched down the field on its opening drive for a touchdown and then just kept marching up and down the field.
When the beat-down finally ended, Iowa was victorious by a score of 48-3 and 4-0 for the fifth time in 21 seasons under head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions of the game, and the one drive that didn’t reach the end zone ended with Keith Duncan making a career-long field goal attempt in the first quarter.
The Hawkeyes also finished with 644 total yards, which is the most under Kirk Ferentz and the ninth most yards in a single game in program history.
"Certainly, I was just pleased with the way we played today," Ferentz said. "I thought the guys really were focused and ready to go. And for the most part, we controlled every phase of the game, so that was good to see."
The game proved to be three hours of misery for the Blue Raiders, but it was well worth it from a financial standpoint as Middle Tennessee State was paid $1.55 million to play the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium.
There are times when you just have to suck it up, take your beating and then move on.
Saturday’s game was one of those times for Middle Tennessee State, which fell to 1-3 on the season. Its 40-21 loss at Michigan in the season opener was another one of those times where a nice paycheck helped to soften the blow from being crushed at by a power five opponent on the road.
Iowa racked up 358 yards in the first two quarters and led 24-0 at halftime.
"They did a nice job, they have a great team," Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill said of Iowa. "They whooped us today."
The Iowa offense started to sputter late in the second quarter, going three-and-out in one series and then having to settle for a field-goal attempt from 39 yards that Duncan missed with two seconds left before halftime.
Duncan had made his first nine field-goal attempts this season before that miss.
The Iowa offense continued to sputter in the third quarter until quarterback Nate Stanley connected with Tyrone Tracy for a 33-yard pass to the Blue Raider 14-yard line.
Receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette then scored on a 14-yard reverse and Duncan made the point-after kick to expand Iowa’s lead to 34-3 with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Starting left tackle Alaric Jackson was in uniform for Saturday’s game and participated in pregame warm-ups, but did not see any action.
Jackson has been out since suffering a knee sprain in the first quarter of the season opener against Miami of Ohio.
The fact that Jackson dressed for Saturday’s game is a good sign that he should be ready to play at Michigan next Saturday.
"He was able to start doing some work this week," Ferentz said. "His conditioning level is probably not where it neds to be. But I think he feels pretty good right now and we'll know more after we practice next week."
Jackson wasn’t needed on this Saturday as Iowa shredded Middle Tennessee State’s defense for 351 rushing yards, including Toren Young's career-high 131 rushing yards.
"It's a cool stat, but at the end of the day, it's about just winning," Young said. "I'm happy with the win. There's a lot that we can take away from this game and we'll just see if we can build off it."
True freshman Tyler Goodson also thrilled the fans with his ability to make defenders miss in space. His 27-yard run late in the fourth quarter helped to set up Iowa's final touchdown, which came on a 1-yard run by backup quarterbaclk Spencer Petras.
The Blue Raiders entered Saturday’s game allowing 222.0 rushing yards per contest, so it came as no surprise that Iowa had its way on the ground.
Iowa also controlled the air, too, as Stanley passed for 276 yard and two touchdowns, both of which were caught by junior receiver Brandon Smith in the first and fourth quarters.
"It's just great to be a balanced offense," Smith said. "When you can run the ball and throw the ball, it just makes you pretty much an unstoppable ofense."
Stanley has 60 career touchdown passes and needs just one more to tie Drew Tate for second on Iowa’s all-time list.
Stanley is also on course to break Chuck Long’s school record of 74 touchdown passes with at least eight games remaining.
Stanley completed 17 passes in Saturday's game and 11 of them gained at least 10 yards.
"The receivers do a great job," Stanley said. "They have the ability to make people miss and run away from people, too, when they catch the ball. A lot of that is on them and making plays after they catch the ball."
Middle Tennessee State 0 0 3 0 – 3
Iowa 17 7 10 14 – 48
I – Mekhi Sargent 4 run (Keith Duncan kick)
I – Duncan 49 FG
I – Brandon Smith 18 pass from Stanley (Duncan kick)
I – Brady Ross 1 run (Duncan kick)
I – Duncan 42 FG
MT – Crews Holt 43 FG
I – Ihmir Smith-Marsette 14 run (Duncan kick)
_ Tyler Goodson 30 run (Duncan kick)