Not many gave the Utah State Aggies a chance.
The Iowa Hawkeyes were 23.5-point favorites on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. So maybe a 24-14 defeat for the Aggies wasn’t the worst possible start to a new campaign.
“As you can imagine, I am frustrated with the outcome,” USU head coach Blake Anderson said. “… I’m not much for moral victories, so keeping it close and beating the spread doesn’t fire me up a lot. But, what does is how hard the guys played. The fact that we showed at times that we could compete with that group, that’s a really really well built football team.”
The Hawkeyes started fast.
New Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara’s first pass for the No. 25 Hawkeyes was a touchdown, one of the two he threw Saturday.
McNamara, who transferred from Michigan, was listed as questionable for the game with a quad injury to his right leg he suffered during an open scrimmage on August 12, but he made an immediate impact in this game with a 36-yard touchdown throw to Seth Anderson on Iowa’s second play from scrimmage.
“Gosh, I was so fired up,” McNamara said. “We got the exact look we wanted. To be honest, I was kind of surprised that play was called that early. I was expecting maybe a play-action or something. I was so fired up to hit that, and Seth made a great play on it.”
It was the first passing touchdown on the opening series of the season in Ferentz’s 25 years as the Hawkeyes’ coach, and the first for an Iowa team since 1991.
McNamara threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Erick All, another transfer from Michigan, on Iowa’s next drive, but the Hawkeyes’ offense bogged down at that point. Iowa’s only other points in the first half came on Drew Stevens’ 20-yard field goal seven seconds before halftime. The Hawkeyes wouldn’t score again until Kaleb Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Iowa, which had one of the worst offenses in the nation last season, finished with 284 yards.
“Overall, I thought we left a lot out there, to be honest,” McNamara said.
“They didn’t do anything to stop us,” Anderson said. “We were just stopping ourselves. We just have to execute better.”
Utah State (0-1) got field goals from William Testa and Elliott Nimrod and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Legas to Terrell Vaughn late in the fourth quarter.
“When we calmed down and did what we were supposed to do, at times we looked really effective, efficient, and talented,” Anderson said. “We played hard, the effort was great all day. It just comes down to self-inflicted mistakes.”
The Aggies had 329 total yards but were penalized 10 times for 91 yards, including five personal fouls. Utah State also turned the ball over once, and couldn’t recover two fumbles by the Hawkeyes.
“Those are called self-inflicted wounds, unforced errors,” Utah State coach Blake Anderson said. “You’re not going to beat a bad team with those, let alone a good team like Iowa.”
Legas was 32 of 48 for 213 yards with an interception.
“I think we had glimpses of what we can do,” he said. “I felt like the defense did a great job of holding them, and the offense needed to do a better job of capitalizing on that.”
Utah State host Idaho State next Saturday.