Rob Report: Northern Iowa

Iowa opened 2014 with a 31-23 victory Saturday against Northern Iowa. Go inside the win with our news, notes and observations wrapped up in the Rob Report.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Rob Report returns for its 12th season of Hawkeye football. For the uninitiated, this is a notebook of news, notes and observations compiled by Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe. Enjoy.

RAIDER PACKAGE: Iowa brought back the unique defensive formation Saturday that it unveiled last season. It was designed to add speed in hopes of covering more of the field when the opponent was in third and long and likely to pass.

Last season, the Hawkeyes pulled their every-down linemen with the exception of Louis Trinca-Pasat and put linebacker Reggie Spearman at one end and reserve, Nate Meier, on the other side in a three-man front.

Saturday, it looked a little different with Trinca-Pasat and Meier, now a starter, with starting middle linebacker Quinton Alston on the other end. Back-up linebackers Travis Perry and Cole Fisher, both strong in coverage, also were brought into the game.

Northern Iowa appeared ready for the alignment, however. It completed a 22-yard pass for a first down on a third and 15 early in the opening quarter. To my recollection, the Hawkeyes did not return to that package for the rest of the day.

Iowa could go back to the Raider after fine-tuning it in practice. But the Hawkeyes base defense is faster these days than in the past with smaller, quicker linebackers and Meier at end. It looked solid most of the day on third down, holding UNI to 6 of 16.

RUDOCK ALL THE WAY: Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was asked after the game if he considered playing back-up quarterback C.J. Beathard Saturday. The coach had discussed carving out series or two for the sophomore in the offseason.

Starter Jake Rudock took all of the snaps against the Panthers, completing 31 of 41 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.

Ferentz said the coaches didn't consider playing Beathard Saturday, at least not because they were displeased with Rudock, who did miss some obvious open receivers and checked down quite often.

"No, not at all, and if we do it, it's going to be because we've talked about it. We kept both guys alert that we might go with that situation. No. I thought Jake played a really good game," Ferentz said.

INJURY REPORT: Redshirt freshman Josey Jewell missed Saturday's game on Saturday after breaking his hand in Wednesday's practice. The Decorah product had surgery after rising to a depth chart to share the first-team weak-side linebacker with Reggie Spearman.

"It looks like he might be (out a while). He won't be in next week, I know that, and then hopefully maybe after that. We'll see what happens. He was injured during practice Wednesday afternoon," Ferentz said.

RETURN REVERSAL: Iowa employed different return men than it had listed on its two-deep. Instead of Kevonte Martin-Manley back on punts, Matt Vandeberg lined up there. Jonathan Parker brought back kicks instead of Jordan Canzeri.

Martin-Manley said he was beat out by Vandeberg. He said he was trying to win back the job.

TRUE FRESHMEN: The Hawkeyes played two true freshmen on Saturday. Miles Taylor and Ben Niemann saw action in special teams.

Taylor worked as the second-team strong safety in pre-game warmups. Niemann lined up on the No. 2 unit at weak-side linebacker. He played one down on defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Here are the units from Saturday -

Kick Return - Parker, Vandeberg, Weisman, Hamilton, Krieger Coble, Hillyer, Perry, Fisher, Gair, Kittle.

Kicker Coverage - Perry, Fisher, Bower, Koehn, Niemann, Taylor, Lomax, King, Spearman, Gair, Fleming.

Punt Return - Mabin, King, Vandeberg, Bower, Meier, Davis, Spearman, Ott, Trinca-Pasat, Alston, Lowdermilk.

Punt Coverage - Kidd, Plewa, Kluver, Perry, Lomax, Vandeberg, Lowdermilk, Alston, Spearman, Taylor, Fisher.

QUICK HITTERS: Offensive lineman Ryan Ward switched from No. 73 to No. 40 on Saturday and was interred as a blocking tight end in a jumbo package. Iowa did the same thing years ago with Andy Kuempel…The Hawkeyes finished with 26 first downs and 31 points…Iowa allowed just 25 yards rushing, the fewest since holding Minnesota to 7 yards in 2008…Martin-Manley caught eight passes, raising his career total to 130, tying Marv Cook for No. 9 on the school's all-time list…Trinca-Pasat posted a career-bests tackles (10), sacks (2) and tackles for loss (4).

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