Christensen throws 4 TD passes to lead Iowa past Syracuse 35-0
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)—Iowa looked as though it could do no wrong. Again, Syracuse looked like it couldn’t do anything right.
Jake Christensen threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns and Iowa held Syracuse to five first downs and pounded the Orange, 35-0, on Saturday night.
Tony Moeaki had three TD catches and Kenny Iwebema blocked two field goals for Iowa (2-0), which handed Syracuse (0-2) its worst loss under third-year coach Greg Robinson. The Orange have lost their last three games by an average of 32 points, dating back to last year’s 38-7 defeat against Rutgers.
The Hawkeyes led 28-0 by halftime, aided greatly by the Orange’s poor tackling and inability to move the football. Iowa, which held Syracuse to 103 yards total offense, has not allowed a touchdown through two games for the first time under coach Kirk Ferentz.
“They’re playing hard. I just really like their energy level right now,” Ferentz said of his defense. “If we’re going to have a chance this year to be a good football team, we’re going to need those guys.”
Syracuse had one yard of total offense in the first half, and didn’t pick up its initial first down until six minutes into the third quarter. By then the game had long been decided, as Iowa scored touchdowns on four straight first-half possessions to take a 28-point lead.
Asked if the team was “broken” following the game, Robinson couldn’t offer up much of a defense. For the second straight game, the Orange didn’t put up much of a fight.
“I can’t argue with that. The game was 35-0,” Robinson said. “We have to evaluate what we’re doing and what we’re going to do.”
The Hawkeyes opened the scoring midway through the first quarter on a 52-yard touchdown reception by Moeaki. The pass carried just a few yards past the line of scrimmage, but Moeaki slipped through the middle of the Syracuse defense, eluded a tackle and went untouched the rest of the way.
After Mike Humpal picked off an Andrew Robinson pass in Syracuse territory, Albert Young took a screen pass and wove 36 yards through a sea of Syracuse defenders for a touchdown that made it 14-0.
The Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter, as Damian Sims punched it in from a yard out on fourth down.
Iowa’s fourth touchdown was set up by a spectacular 49-yard punt return by Andy Brodell. After squirming out of the initial tackle, Brodell regained his balance and raced down the sidelines, leaping over Syracuse punter Rob Long before landing out of bounds at the Orange 21.
Christensen took advantage with his third touchdown pass of the first half, a play as crafty as Brodell’s return. He scrambled back nearly 10 yards, broke through a pair of would-be sacks and threw across his body to a wide-open Moeaki. The 5-yard touchdown pass gave Iowa a 28-0 lead midway through the first half.
Christensen was shaky at times against Northern Illinois, but he bounced back nicely, completing 23-of-32 passes.
“I think we all felt comfortable. We were playing hard, and there’s no reason not to feel comfortable when you’re playing well,” Christensen said.
Syracuse caught a break when Joe Fields picked off a pass and returned it to the Iowa 26 late in the first half, but the Orange couldn’t capitalize, as Iwebema blocked Patrick Shadle’s 39-yard field goal attempt. Syracuse finally got a drive going midway through the third, moving to the Iowa 21, but Iwebema swatted away Shadle’s 38-yard field goal try.
Christensen and Moeaki hooked up for the third time late in the third quarter, pushing the Hawkeyes lead to 35-0 on a 6-yard TD pass.
About the only excitement the sellout crowd at Kinnick Stadium got after that came when Northern Iowa’s 24-13 win over Iowa State was flashed on the scoreboard. The Hawkeyes will travel to Iowa State next Saturday.
Robinson was 7-of-20 passing for 79 yards. Syracuse, which was held to minus-8 yards net rushing last week in a loss to Washington, had 20 against Iowa. This was the most lopsided defeat for the Orange since they fell to Georgia Tech, 51-14, in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl, Paul Pasqualoni’s final game as coach.
“We need to be a lot more fundamentally sound,” Syracuse running back Curtis Brinkley said. “There were a lot of missed assignments and there were a lot of people not hitting their targets. There’s a little bit of everything we need to fix up.”