Totally different vibe out of Iowa football. Play-calling, QB talent, RBs cutting, defensive pursuit, sense of fun. 1 half, but promising.
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) September 5, 2015
Iowa jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter following a 13-play, 81-yard scoring drive that culminated with a C.J. Beathard 6-yard touchdown run.
During that opening drive, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz chose to go for it on a fourth-and-2 from the Illinois State 14-yard line. Beathard converted it by completing a 5-yard pass to Tevaun Smith, and the confident decision from Ferentz seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes were solid throughout the game. Both the running game and passing game performed well, with Beathard throwing for 211 yards, LeShun Daniels Jr. rushing for 126 yards, and Jordan Canzeri totaling 118 yards.
In his second career start and first at Kinnick Stadium, Beathard also utilized his underrated athletic ability by running for two scores to go along with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Matt VandeBerg in the 3rd quarter. Beathard and company were efficient in key moments, converting 6-of-12 third-down plays.
The Hawkeye defense also came to play and was suffocating, particularly in the first half. Defensive lineman Drew Ott wreaked havoc throughout the game and registered two sacks along with one forced fumble.
Ott became the first Iowa player with multiple sacks in a season opener since Mitch King had two against Northern Illinois back in 2007. Iowa led 17-0 at halftime and held the Redbirds to only 231 total yards in the game, with much of that coming late in the 4th quarter when the game was in hand.
Illinois State struggled to put together drives all day long, and the Hawkeyes defensive line proved to be too big and too fast for the Redbirds' offensive line. Illinois State shuffled quarterbacks multiple times during the second half and their biggest weapon, dual-threat signal-caller Tre Roberson, proved to be ineffective against the Big Ten squad. He finished 5-of-12 with 49 yards passing and rushed 12 times for -12 yards total.
With the win, Iowa's all-time record against FCS teams now stands at 13-0. There are certainly things to improve on after their first ever meeting with the Redbirds, including third-down defense, turnover margin, and finishing games off the right way. However, Ferentz has to be happy with the way his team performed on Saturday as they've struggled to put teams away the last three years in season openers.
Next week, Iowa (1-0) will travel to in-state rival Iowa State (1-0) for the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game.