Report card: Grading the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 27-10 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

When it was all said and done, Iowa left Piscataway, N.J., with a resounding 27-10 Big Ten-opening victory over Rutgers. The Hawkeyes improved to 3-1 (1-0 Big Ten) and handed the Scarlet Knights a loss in front of a sellout crowd at SHI Stadium.

With the win, Iowa has now won eight of its pasts 11 Big Ten openers.

“This is certainly the best way to start Big Ten play. Really happy for our coaches and players. Thought they did a great job. You know, hostile environment coming in here. We knew it would be. Guys did a good job concentrating though that, kept their composure and bottom line is I think we really had a good team plan out there, so that’s always a good thing.

“And I think we saw improvement all three phases. At least, that was my vantage point. Talk about the defense. I was told the color analyst said something about, you know, the Iowa defense being a sight to behold. I would not argue that point tonight. A lot of really good efforts out there. Certainly some great play-making by our guys and also the total’s the fewest amount of points now since 1956, which is 66 years. That’s pretty impressive. Cleary, the guys are really playing at a high level right now, doing a good job and, you know, the two defensive touchdowns. It did feel a little bit like the Indiana game and I guess that’s the last time that we did that, too,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said.

The defense certainly deserves its flowers, which they’ll receive below. Pull up a chair. Class is back in session. Let’s take a look at the report card following the road win at Rutgers.

The running game

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B-

Dare we say there’s some signs of life? Iowa combined to rush for 129 yards and one rushing touchdown courtesy of Leshon Williams on 38 carries. Or, put another way, 3.4 yards per carry. Still, at times it felt like the best the Hawkeyes’ offensive line has played and some of the biggest lanes for Iowa running backs to run through. Leshon Williams, Gavin Williams and Kaleb Johnson had long runs of 21, 14 and 9 yards, respectively. On the road in their Big Ten opener, the Hawkeyes made legitimate strides forward.

Hawkeye tight ends

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Grade: B

After sort of going missing in Iowa’s 27-0 win over Nevada, Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey returned in this one in a big way. LaPorta had just a pair of receptions for 13 yards against the Wolf Pack, but he and Lachey combined for six grabs and 114 receiving yards to lead the way through the air against the Scarlet Knights.

Spencer Petras

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Grade: B

The numbers won’t wow you. Spencer Petras completed 11-of-17 passes for 148 yards. It just felt like he was more dialed in and more accurate from the get-go in this one. He connected with his primary target in LaPorta on several occasions early to help set the tone. Despite being sacked three times, Petras put together a solid performance on the road to get the Hawkeyes off to a 1-0 Big Ten start.

Cooper DeJean

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Grade: A

Per Pro Football Focus, Cooper DeJean was Iowa’s second-highest graded defender versus Rutgers. DeJean finished with an 81.5 defensive grade and his cross country 45-yard interception return for a touchdown was truly a thing of beauty.

Kaevon Merriweather

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Grade: A

Kaevon Merriweather gets some love here, too. Sebastian Castro popped the football loose, and Merriweather scooped it up and raced 30 yards for a fumble return touchdown to put Iowa in front 14-3. The 6-foot, 212 pound Belleville, Mich., native also picked off a pass and nearly could have finished with a pair of interceptions.

Kirk Ferentz

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: A

Credit is given where credit is due. For a head coach that this report card has been hard on in recent weeks, it’s only fair to say when Kirk Ferentz had his team ready to play. Even after surrendering the opening-drive field goal, Iowa never blinked. It turned into arguably Iowa’s best offensive day combined with another defensive gem. The Hawkeyes scored a pair of defensive touchdowns, allowed just 61 rushing yards and started 1-0 in Big Ten play.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire