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Iowa grabs momentum on opening drive, doesn't look back

Iowa’s offensive line acted as a police escort for Tyler Goodson’s trip to the end zone.

With the entire right side of the field sealed, Goodson couldn’t have scored more easily from 56 yards out. The fourth play of the game carried four quarters of momentum as a Kinnick Stadium filled with 68,000 fans erupted and took hold of the game.

“You’ve got to play high level football right out of the gate against a team like this,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. “We didn’t.”

In one of the most highly-anticipated season openers in Indiana football history, the No. 17 Hoosiers started on their heels and stayed there, falling to No. 18 Iowa 34-6. Throughout the game, any chance Indiana had to shift the momentum was immediately stalled. 

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw an errant pass on his first attempt of the game and a pick six on his very next. On that interception, Penix’s pass was behind Florida State transfer D.J. Matthews and was awkwardly deflected. Iowa cornerback Riley Moss said he was foaming at the mouth when he saw the ball pop into his hands.

“It happened quick,” Moss said. “I didn’t realize I scored a touchdown until I was on the bench and I was like ‘Holy cow, that just happened.”

A 36-yard field goal from Charles Campbell to cut Iowa’s lead to 14-3. But following that, Indiana posted three plays for a total of negative three yards, then two more Indiana punts. With a minute and 50 seconds left in the first half, Indiana jumped on a Goodson fumble, which represented another opportunity to cut Iowa’s lead to 11 points before halftime.

But any hope for a momentum shift in Indiana’s favor on Saturday afternoon lasted merely seconds. Penix’s first pass attempt following Indiana’s fumble recovery marked his second pick six of the game. This time, Moss noticed Penix staring down his receiver and jumped the route.

Penix then threw his third interception just two plays later, and Iowa carried a 31-3 lead into halftime. In a raucous road environment, Indiana allowed Iowa to control the game from the first possession and could never stop the bleeding.

It wasn’t only a lack of rhythm from Penix and the offense, but self-inflicted penalties stymied the Hoosiers, too. Left tackle Caleb Jones was penalized for two false starts and one hold. As a whole, Indiana gave Iowa 67 yards back on seven penalties. Comfortable on their home field, the Hawkeyes were penalized twice for 20 yards.

In a 28-point loss, Allen admitted it was hard to draw any positives. But after allowing just three points in the second half, Indiana’s defense was certainly a bright spot.

A pair of defensive line transfers stood out and led an Indiana defense that did its best to keep the teamin the game during the second half. Ole Miss transfer Ryder Anderson and Northern Illinois transfer Weston Kramer were tops amongst Hoosiers with seven tackles apiece. 

Anderson sacked Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras and combined with Kramer for three tackles for loss. 

“In games like that where the offense is struggling, I want the defense to take over,” Allen said. “That’s the expectation for the side of the ball.”

Indiana’s defense would never be able to take over a game it trailed 31-3 at half time, but it stopped the snowball effect that felt like an avalanche at times in the first half. 

It was Indiana’s first game in front of a full-capacity stadium since the 2019 season, which, whether Indiana admits it or not, played an integral part in Saturday’s outcome. For Penix and Ty Fryfogle, the letdown in Iowa City was a result of a lack of execution.

Fryfogle said everyone needs to be honest with their mistakes when watching film in order to find solutions to the clear problems present in the Indiana offense. Allen was both disappointed and surprised by Indiana’s execution on Saturday, but recognized Indiana cannot allow a loss in the season opener to derail the season.

“We got knocked down,” Allen said. “But we’ve got to get back up and keep swinging.”

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