Hawks Happy With Opener

Iowa held a 10-point, third-quarter lead before breaking away for a 41-7 victory against Montana Saturday. What should Hawkeye fans take away from the game? HN.com Senior Writer Rob Howe spoke with several players for their perspective on the contest and to find out they felt coming off of the field. Read all about it in this Premium feature.

In a world of style, thankfully the Iowa Hawkeyes still offer their fans substance.

Some respondents on radio call-in shows and message boards complained about a 41-7 victory against Montana on Saturday, saying Iowa needs to be more convincing. These probably are the same people that have grumbled about traffic and parking on game days.

Listen, nobody felt great about it being a 10-point game in the third quarter. But from the press box, Montana looked like a pretty good team with a darn solid game plan. Maybe that's why the Grizzlies have earned 13 playoff berths in a row.

Yeah, yeah, but that's Division IAA. But how do we know how a really good opponent from a level down compares to a mediocre or bad I-A squad. You can take this to the bank: Montana is a heck of a lot better than the Ball State team that came into Kinnick a year ago.

"First games, you come out to a slow start," Iowa Defensive End Bryan Mattison said. "(The critical fans) will get into the whole division thing with Montana, but they're a great opponent. I have a lot of respect for that team. I think our whole team has a lot of respect for them."

Montana brought it. The Grizzlies came to Kinnick with a goal of winning, not just staying close. They were hitting hard.

With seven, eight, nine guys in the box, Montana dared the Hawkeyes to beat it through the air. Why not? Iowa offered green receivers.

"UNI is a I-AA opponent, and they gave us a tough run last year," Iowa Linebacker Mike Humpal said. "This is college football. No matter what division the team is, they're going to come out and play tough and give you their best shot.

"It was a good game. Some people might expect us to win by more, but all we can do is do our job and do the best we can and the score takes care of itself."

Did Iowa play a great game? Absolutely not. They committed too many penalties, dropped too many passes and missed too many tackles.

However, the Hawkeyes looked better than most people thought they would on defense as evidenced by Montana's 10 rushing yards. Many first-time starters and new back-ups were initiated.

"In the first game, you're going to have some mess-ups and things of that nature," Hawkeye Safety Marcus Paschal said. "As the season goes on, you have to start to perfect those things to be a real good ball club. We did a lot of good things. And we're going to see that on the film tomorrow, but we're going to see some things that we can be better on."

Iowa played things pretty conservatively on both sides of the ball Saturday. That was OK. They turned the ball over just once, and they built some confidence for the young players.

"I definitely wasn't coming off (the field), jumping for joy, excited," Iowa Corner Adam Shada said. "But at the same time, I really wasn't disappointed. I thought that we did some things well. And for a first game, I though the secondary handled itself well."

The Iowa players preferred playing a game opponent as opposed to a Ball State team that arrived at Kinnick broken down by suspensions and bruised team moral.

"Yeah, they came in and had a lot of athletes on the offensive side of the ball," Paschal said. "It has made us a better club going into the rest of the season. They really came out and gave us what we needed to see."

Said Mattison: "They exposed some of our weak points. Hopefully we can get those corrected this week and move on from that."

I-AA schools represent a much tougher challenge than years ago, especially the really good programs. The 85-scholarship limit allows them to land players that would have gone I-A to sit on the bench in the past. They also pick up quite a few disgruntled players from up a level.

Montana's starting quarterback, running back and wide receiver all arrived from I-A programs. Former major program players litter the Northern Iowa roster.

"At this level, you learn to appreciate wins, and they're very difficult to come by," Shada said.

Iowa's superior depth eventually wore down the Grizzlies, and that's often the biggest difference between the two levels.

The Hawkeyes approached the season wanting to be better in September, and they felt like they headed in the right direction on Saturday.

"Coach said that in order to have a fast September and get off to the right start, you have to have a first step, and that was today," Mattison said. "It wasn't perfect by any means, but we got the win and we'll be going back to work on Monday."

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