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Game week opponent profile: Iowa

This weekend, Iowa travels to Piscataway to face off against the Rutgers football team in both programs’ first Big Ten game of the season.  – Photo by Hawkeye Football / Twitter

The Rutgers football team will play Iowa under the lights in Piscataway with fans for the first time since Greg Schiano returned as head coach. The season really gets started starting Saturday, as it will be the first Big Ten matchup for both teams.

The Scarlet Knights (3-0, 0-0) and the Hawkeyes (2-1, 0-0) are coming off wins headlined by their defense. Rutgers is ranked 10th nationally in total defense, while Iowa is ranked fourth. 

In anticipation of this matchup, The Daily Targum spoke with Chloe Peterson, sports editor for The Daily Iowan, about this matchup.

Running the football is something the Hawkeyes have tried to establish early in the season. Despite this, in its season opener against South Dakota State, the team rushed for a combined 57 yards on 36 attempts. 

In Iowa’s most recent win over Nevada, the team finally found its footing with Kaleb Johnson, who carried the ball seven times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. 

Even though the young back had production, Peterson believes this game will feature the different backs. 

“I think they’re going to lean more on Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams,” Peterson said, as she explained that both running backs were out against their last game. “So we might see more of Leshon Williams than Gavin Williams and then a little bit of Kaleb Johnson, but (Johnson) did replace Riley Moss on the kick return depth chart, so he’ll be back there at least.”

While the running game for both the Knights and the Hawkeyes is starting to come into form, questions about the quarterback position still linger for both teams. 

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras has been the starter all season so far. This is an area on the team that Peterson feels needs to improve.

“For Iowa in any game, they just need to get (Petras) to be effective,” said Peterson. “Petras kind of improved against Nevada and threw his first passing touchdown of the season … so I think not only with Rutgers, but in general, they need to make their quarterback be effective.”

Petras’ play has been underwhelming, throwing for 376 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions through three games. 

It might not be all on the quarterback, though, as he has been without some essential offensive weapons. The Hawkeyes received some encouraging news this week as one of their leading receivers will return this Saturday. 

“The first two weeks, Iowa’s top two receivers Nico Ragaini and Keagan Johnson were out,” said Peterson. “Ragaini had a fractured foot, and we still don’t know what’s wrong with (Johnson) ... (Johnson’s) ready to go this week with, I believe, no limitations, so he should be a boost for the Iowa offense.”

Iowa is noted as being “Tight End U” by some, with former Hawkeyes and now NFL tight ends including George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant

Iowa has two players at that position that Petras will often look for if they want to succeed on offense.

“In terms of offense, Sam LaPorta is Petras’ favorite person to throw to,” Peterson said. “I think LaPorta has always been very vital to Petras’ offense specifically, and that’s moved down to Luke Lachey as well.”

As previously mentioned, Rutgers and the Hawkeyes are both coming in with top 10 defenses. Entering Saturday’s game, Iowa allowed just one offensive touchdown. 

Peterson knows this is a strength for the team.  

“Someone that has stood out in the first three games this season is Cooper DeJean,” said Peterson. “He has two interceptions … and has been very solid at both corner and as a linebacker. He can do anything and go anywhere.”

If the game is going to be decided by the defenses, special teams will be the x-factor on Saturday. Both teams have standout punters in senior punter Adam Korsak and Tory Taylor

It will be the battle of Australian punters as Korsak and Taylor are both from Melbourne. 

“(Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz) was talking (Tuesday) about how last time they went to Rutgers ... Korsak was basically putting them in the endzone to start their drives,” Peterson said. “They’re not used to doing that, and with the ineffective offense that Iowa has right now … if they have to start on the 5-yard line, I’m not sure how far they’re going to get”

While this matchup will be aired nationally on Fox Sports 1, fans should not expect a high-scoring game, and Peterson feels the same way.

“I think it’s going to be a very defensive game. Iowa will likely get at least one of its touchdowns from either an interception by the defense or a blocked punt, which they’ve been trying to do a lot of lately," Peterson said. "The defense is going to do something to give Iowa very good field position, and they’ll score off of that at the very least.”


For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter


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