Hawkeyes kick slow start, use strong second half to beat Rams

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The Hawkeyes went into halftime with a deficit for the first time this season against Colorado State yesterday. They didn’t like it much.

“We felt like we should be winning this football game and it kind of pissed us off a little bit,” junior tight end Sam LaPorta said.

It had Moon Family Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz kind of scratching his head.

“I think our guys were trying today and they had practiced well, but it just wasn’t clicking for us,” Ferentz said.

That deficit was in part, because the offense got off to a very slow start. They were outgained by the Rams 83-60 in the first quarter. Quarterback Spencer Petras noted Colorado State came out with some things defensively they didn’t prepare for.

Things started to get going in the second quarter thanks to freshman wide receiver Keagan Johnson. Johnson had all 92 of his yards in the second quarter, including a 43-yard touchdown from Petras to open the scoring.

“Spencer and I, we have that connection that I can win those deep balls,” Johnson said. “I was hoping I could get off the line cleanly and I did. Credit to Spencer, that ball could not have been thrown any better. I got it and was in the end zone. It was a crazy feeling.”

From there, it was trouble. A third down handoff to the fullback on their own nine, followed by a 22-yard punt from Tory Taylor set up the first Colorado State touchdown. A Petras interception on a screen pass, set up the second one right before halftime.

“Colorado State played really hard, but a lot of our issues were all self-inflicted, the interception,” Petras said. “It’s a little adversity and we fought through it and that’s what good teams do. If something doesn’t go right, you just keep riding the ship and keep chopping.”

Though the offense put them in tough situations, the Hawkeye defense wasn’t happy with their play either. Senior defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg estimated defensive coordinator’s Phil Parker’s anger was about “a six and a half.” Though he did clarify Parker’s scale is a little different than other people.

“No cliché, rah-rah speech or something like that,” he said of the halftime adjustments. “Just that we need to get back to our brand of football. That we need to do the things that we’ve been coached to do.”

In the second half, they certainly did. Early in the third quarter, Jack Campbell, who finished with 18 tackles, recovered a fumble at the CSU six. It was another one of those game-changing plays the defense has been making all season.

“Just stepping up when things need to happen, that’s just the defense and we just need to continue to do that,” Campbell said.

The very next play, Tyrone Tracy took a handoff into the end zone to tie the game at 14. It was all Hawkeyes from there on out.

‘You could hear the momentum,” Petras said of the two-play sequence. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve had to shush the crowd a little bit.”

Petras threw one more touchdown to LaPorta in the third quarter. The Hawkeyes scored 14 points in the third quarter, while the defense only allowed 22 yards.

Caleb Shudak added a field goal as well.

It wasn’t a “pretty” victory as Petras put it, but it was one the team can take some lessons from.

“We got a hungry group of guys that are really practicing well and working hard,” Petras said. “I have no doubt we’ll just keep working hard. The results are a byproduct, they’ll show up.”

The Hawkeyes now turn their attention Maryland on a short week. They play in College Park on Friday night.

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