IOWA CITY – Never in the 150-year history of college football have both Iowa and Iowa State kicked off a season as nationally ranked teams.
For most of the first full Saturday of the season, the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes and 21st-ranked Cyclones had their hands full at home. While Iowa State finally prevailed over Northern Iowa in triple overtime, Iowa was able to avoid such late drama Saturday night pulling away in the second half for a 38-14 win over Miami (Ohio) at sold-out Kinnick Stadium.
Nate Stanley surpassed C.J. Beathard, moving into eighth place in the all-time passing yardage list in Iowa football program history. Stanley threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, fourth-most in program history needing just one more to match Ricky Stanzi for the program’s third-highest total.
“Everybody was ready to play,” Stanley said. “Coach (Kirk) Ferentz does a great job getting everybody ready to play. We had true freshmen in there playing. It all goes back to preparation.”
Oliver Martin caught Stanley’s second touchdown pass, hauling in a nine-yard score to close the opening drive for the Iowa offense in the second half. Martin added a tough five-yard catch in the fourth quarter, stiff-arming three Miami defenders, to cap his first game for the Hawkeyes after being officially declared eligible to play by the NCAA earlier in the week. Martin, an graduate of Iowa City West, transferred from Michigan in the offseason.
“I haven’t played since last year. Game tempo is different than any tempo in practice,” Martin said. “We’ve got a lot of depth at the receiver position. We all push each other and that raises our level of play. We’re all getting a lot better.”
Mekhi Sargent scored on a two-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter, giving Iowa a 24-7 lead. Sargent led Iowa with 91 yards rushing on 14 carries and 65 yards receiving on four catches.
Brett Gabbert, who’s older brother Blaine started against Iowa for Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl, completed 17 of 27 passes for Miami at quarterback. Gabbert threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, including an 11-yard pass in the second quarter that gave the Redhawks (0-1) a 7-3 lead.
Iowa (1-0) responded with a go-ahead touchdown drive as Brandon Smith put the Hawkeyes up for good with a nine-yard scoring catch from Stanley. Iowa’s lone turnover of the game helped Miami drive for a touchdown as Andrew Homer caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to pull the Redhawks within 24-14 before a 13-play, 75-yard drive ended with a fourth-down touchdown run by Toren Young to put the Hawkeyes up by 17 midway through the fourth quarter.
“There isn’t any big change with the running backs. They always run hard and have always done a great job,” Stanley said. “It all starts with the offensive line. The offensive line played extremely well. They opened up some massive holes.”
Gabbert committed Miami’s lone turnover on the very next play, throwing an interception to Michael Ojemudia. Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught a six-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to clinch the victory in the first season-opening night came at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa State will hope pulling out the victory over the Panthers earlier on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium will be enough to keep them in the top 25. The Cyclones have next week off before hosting Iowa in the annual Cy-Hawk showdown on Sept. 14.
Iowa, meanwhile, will have to get past Rutgers in an emotional Big Ten opener for Scarlet Knight head coach Chris Ash. The Ottumwa native will return to his home state as a head coach for the first time next Saturday at 11 a.m.