IOWA CITY, Iowa — No. 17 Iowa’s backfield tandem of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels looked spectacular in its opener.
The same couldn’t be said for the Hawkeyes defense, which looked lost at times against a Mid-American opponent that won just three games last season.
Wadley ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns, Daniels added 83 yards rushing and two scores, and Iowa beat Miami (Ohio) 45-21 on Saturday.
The speedy Wadley and the more powerful Daniels did their damage on just 22 carries, a promising sign for a program that prefers to set the tone offensively on the ground.
“With LeShun splitting the carries and that line we’re running behind, it makes it so much easier. You could probably run through that, with the line we’ve got.” Wadley said, joking with a reporter.
Senior C.J. Beathard was 13 of 20 passing for 192 yards and a touchdown for the Hawkeyes (1-0), whose sloppy defensive play in the second half let Miami hang around.
Iowa played much of the game without star linebacker Josey Jewell, who was ejected early in the first quarter for targeting. Jewell nailed Matt Merimee with a viscous helmet to helmet hit.
Daniels and Wadley each scored twice in the first half, and Jerminic Smith’s 12-yard TD reception put the Hawkeyes ahead 35-7 early in the third quarter.
The RedHawks (0-1) had touchdown drives of 75 and 74 yards with the game seemingly in hand before Derrick Mitchell Jr.’s touchdown run with 3:08 left put Iowa ahead by 24.
“Our run defense was not what it needs to be (Saturday),” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Miami, which ran for 158 yards. “When people can move the ball on the ground, it can be a little bit demoralizing.”
Billy Bahl threw for 266 yards and two TDs for Miami, which outgained Iowa 424-404.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes’ defense gave up a ton of yards without star linebacker Josey Jewell, who was ejected early in the first quarter for targeting. The Hawkeyes forced and recovered two fumbles though.
Miami: Bahl had a strong day against one of the Big Ten’s better secondaries. The RedHawks will need more days like that from him as they look to work back into contention in the Mid-American after just five wins in two years. But Miami’s defense, as expected, was pushed around by the more physical Hawkeyes. Iowa averaged eight yards a play.
Iowa’s ranking won’t likely move much. The Hawkeyes looked like a team ranked No. 17, with flashes of brilliant play on offense and plenty of questions to be answered on defense.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes decision to use Desmond King, the 2015 Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back, on punt returns paid off in the opener. King had 85 yards on three returns —despite having a long run off a punt called back because of the penalty that saw Jewell get booted. … Iowa turned to true freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley in garbage time, burning a possible redshirt season. It’s likely a sign that the Hawkeyes coaching staff, which has veered from its traditional ways in the past 18 months, has high hopes for Stanley.
Miami: Maurice Thomas ran for 60 yards on just nine carries and Alonzo Smith had 58 yards. …The RedHawks held the ball for nearly 37 minutes, wearing out Iowa’s defense in the process. … Miami converted on both of its fourth-down tries and was a respectable 5 of 11 on third downs.
“I wasn’t consciously doing it. I mean, it just never really presented itself. We were really good on first and second down, so we really weren’t put in many third and long situations,” said Beathard when asked why he didn’t run the ball much Saturday. The Hawkeyes have worked with Beathard, a talented rusher from the pocket, on sliding to avoid the injuries that hampered him after big hits in 2015.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes get their first Power Five test of the season when rival Iowa State visits Kinnick Stadium next Saturday. The Cyclones have a new coach, Matt Campbell, and an offensive line decimated by injuries and departures. But Iowa State usually plays Iowa tough. The Hawkeyes needed two late TDs to beat the Cyclones 31-17 last year in Ames.
Miami: The RedHawks open a two-game home stand when it hosts Eastern Illinois. The Panthers, of the FCS, opened with a 38-21 loss to Western Illinois on Thursday.