Iowa defense scores twice, Hawkeyes beat Rutgers 27-10

Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather (26) returns a fumble for a touchdown against Rutgers...
Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather (26) returns a fumble for a touchdown against Rutgers during the first half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)(Noah K. Murray | AP)
Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 10:50 PM CDT
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Cooper DeJean scored on a 45-yard interception return and Keavon Merriweather returned a fumble 30 yards for another first-half touchdown as Iowa rode its defense to 27-10 victory over Rutgers on Saturday night.

Leshon Williams scored on a 2-yard run and Drew Stevens kicked two field goals as the Hawkeyes (3-1, 1-0) handed Rutgers (3-1, 0-1) its 20th straight Big Ten Conference loss at home.

Evan Simon, the only healthy scholarship quarterback with Noah Vedral and Gavin Wimsatt hurt, threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Aron Cruickshank early in the fourth quarter with Rutgers down 24-3. Jude McAtamney kicked a 28-yard field goal on the opening series for the Scarlet Knights, who were looking for their first 4-0 start since 2012.

Rutgers appeared ready to challenge Iowa on the opening series, but turning the ball over three times against a defense that allowed 13 points in its first three games was not the way to win.

DeJean, who now has interceptions in three straight games, made an over-time shoulder catch on the right hashmark on a deep, hurried pass by Simon with about six minutes left in the opening quarter. He turned, cut across the field, eluded a couple of tacklers and scored for a 7-3 lead.

Merriweather, who also had an interception, got the defense’s second touchdown and stretched the lead to 14-3 with 8:28 left in the half. Safety Sebastian Castro forced a fumble by Joshua Youngblood after an 18-yard reception and Merriweather picked up the ball and had a clear path to the end zone.

Stevens stretched the lead to 17-3 with a 25-yard field goal just before halftime and Williams tallied on the opening possession of the third quarter. Stevens added a 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter with a goalpost assist.

THE TAKEAWAY

Iowa: The Hawkeyes defense was outstanding for the fourth straight game. However, playing that way next week against one of the top teams in the country will be a major test. Iowa also needs more from its offense to challenge the league.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights showed flashes on offense but the turnovers were the difference. Not having either Noah Vedral or Gavin Wimsatt — both injured — to provide a change of pace at quarterback hurt. The defense seemed to wear with little help from the offense.

DEFENSE

The last time Iowa had two defensive TDs in a game was early last season against Indiana when Riley Moss had two pick-6s against Indiana. The Hawkeyes have scored on an interception return in 15 straight seasons and 20 of 22. The defensive touchdowns were the first of the year for Iowa. The unit scored 28 points last season.

UP NEXT

Iowa: Hosts No. 4 Michigan on Oct. 1.

Rutgers: Gets the team ahead of the Wolverines, traveling to the Horseshoe to face No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 8-0 against the Scarlet Knights.