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2023 MAC Football Week 3 Game Recap: Iowa Hawkeyes 41, Western Michigan Broncos 10

WMU frustrated the homestanding Hawkeyes to start, but second-half adjustments sealed their fates.

Western Michigan v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Western Michigan (1-2) held tough for the first half, but halftime adjustments on the Iowa (3-0) side pushed the game from 14-10 at halftime to 41-10at game’s end. The Broncos made plays early but committed offensive penalties that killed four drives. The drives may have ended with the same result, but we’ll never know.

Iowa started the game with the ball and was moving the ball on the ground, but threw an interception to linebacker Damari Roberson. He made a great diving, one-handed catch to get the ball to the offense and kill the Iowa drive.

Western Michigan started with a first-and-22 after an offensive pass interference moved them half the distance to the goal line. The bottom line for the Bronco offense is that they aren’t explosive enough to overcome that kind of setback right now. They showed some flashes of it, and they might be able to work around it in conference play. But not against Iowa.

The Broncos were on the move in the second quarter when a false start made a 2nd and 9 in Iowa territory a second-and-14. That’s not too bad. They should have plays in the playbook for that situation, but when the Iowa defense can lock on the pass they become very tough.

Another second quarter third-an-two ends up a third-and-seven after a false start while trailing by four points. Down 24-10, a personal foul creates another first-and-22 that the Bronco offense cannot overcome. In total, the Broncos had eight penalties for 64 yards compared to one penalty for five yards by Iowa.

Western Michigan opened the scoring after forcing Iowa to punt from Bronco territory. The punt was downed at the WMU four, but quarterback Treyson Bourguet was able to run for 29 yards to get out of the shadow of the endzone. Bourguet got his first start of 2023 and played all but one series.

Two plays later, Bourguet found Anthony Sambucci up the sideline for a 64-yard touchdown.

Western Michigan’s defense didn’t have a way to stop the Iowa offense when they ran the ball. It can happen with almost any Group of Five team against a Big Ten team, but this Bronco squad replaces nine starters from a year ago. One was selected in the NFL draft. They didn’t have the experience or the size to make Iowa’s life difficult.

On the other side, the Hawkeyes wanted to throw the ball early in the game. Their first drive ended with an interception by Roberson, and the Hawkeyes faced three consecutive 3rd and threes and passed on each one. They converted only one and the other drives turned into a punt and a missed field goal.

Iowa created another scoring opportunity on their final drive of the first half with the ball on the WMU 31. Iowa was out of timeouts with 47 seconds remaining in the half. They passed on three consecutive plays and took a shot at the endzone on 3rd and 10. Cornerback Keni-H Lovely jumped in front of the pass and picked it off.

Hawkeye’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz was visibly upset on the sideline after that play and the teams went into halftime with different energies.

Once the second half kicked off, Iowa was done messing around. With penalty yardage included, the Broncos managed 13 yards of offense in the second half. Bourguet connected with Jehlani Galloway for a 60-yard touchdown pass but it was called back for an ineligible man downfield. The score was 31-10 at that point, but Iowa wasn’t responding well to being pressured in the first half. Who knows what could have happened in the fourth quarter?

Iowa’s offense ran the ball 20 times for 132 yards in the second half. Six of those runs were for ten yards or more. Iowa was gouging the Bronco defense for large chunks of yards as they scored 27 second-half points. Western Michigan didn’t totally disappear. They forced punts when Iowa got cute and decided to pass. Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara was sacked three times in the second half, and both drives ended in punts.

Ultimately, Iowa was able to get into their game plan and won convincingly. Their defense gave the ball to their offense in great field position and their offense turned that advantage into points. Even if it wasn’t always clean. Iowa’s average starting field position was their own 46 and they kept Western Michigan to their own 21.

Iowa running back Leshon Williams had 14 touches for 172 total yards and a touchdown. Kamari Moulton scored twice for the Hawkeyes on eight rushes for 50 yards. Tight end Luke Lachey left the game and returned to the sideline in a boot just after a brief lightning delay. He’s a weapon they can’t afford to miss as they head into conference play.

Bourguet got his first start of the year and passed the eye test. His final stat line wasn’t good but he was aware of the pocket, made good reads in the read option running game, and hit on some deep passes. Salopek came in for a series and the offense moved the ball, but mainly on quarterback runs. Marshawn Kneeland left the game late and went to the medical tent and did not return. He needs to be in the front seven to anchor that group for the Broncos to have success going forward.

Iowa has their hands full in week four as they head to Happy Valley to play Penn State. Brian Ferentz has a ten-point cushion on his drive to 325 after the 41-10 win, but Penn State can erase that in a hurry.

Western Michigan is on the road against Toledo to kick off their own conference play. Toledo has looked like the best team in the MAC to this point in the season and the Broncos will need to scheme to contain Dequan Finn and the rest of the Rocket offense. The Western Michigan offense needs to crack the code that leads to points to have a chance in a week.