IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kaleb Johnson rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Iowa endured a night of lightning delays for a 27-0 win over Nevada on Saturday night.
The game, which was delayed three times for 3 hours, 56 minutes, started at 6:40 p.m. CDT, and ended at 1:39 a.m.
“Three rain delays and seven hours, and we found a way to win the game,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Johnson, a true freshman, had a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for Iowa’s first points of the game, then added a 55-yarder in the fourth quarter for the Hawkeyes’ final score.
“I've been waiting for this since I got here,” Johnson said. “It's just a blessing.”
Iowa (2-1) had scored just 14 points in its first two games, but matched that in the first quarter. Johnson had his run, then quarterback Spencer Petras threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Arland Bruce IV on the Hawkeyes’ next possession.
“My heart dropped,” Johnson said of the touchdown. “It was so amazing. I was wanting another one.”
The Hawkeyes, ranked 131st in total offense through the first two games after gaining just 316 yards, had 337 yards against the Wolfpack (2-2), who came in ranked 95th in total defense giving up 404.3 yards per game.
Iowa’s other points came on two field goals by Drew Stevens — a 43-yarder in the second quarter and a 33-yarder in the third.
Petras completed 14 of 26 passes for 175 yards.
The game, which was played in a steady rain, was finally affected by lightning in the second half.
The first delay lasted 1 hour, 19 minutes. The delay was called at 8:37 p.m. with 10:02 left in the third quarter.
The two teams returned and after a 12-minute warm-up session play started again. Nine minutes later, another lightning delay was called. This one lasted 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Nevada quarterback Shane Illingworth threw an incompletion on third-and-22 on the first play after that delay. The Wolfpack wouldn't get off their next play, as lightning lit up the sky and referee David Siegle announced there would be another delay.
The stadium was evacuated for all three delays.
“That's a first right there,” Nevada coach Ken Wilson said. “First one, we fed them some food. The long one, we let them take their pads off, let them walk around in the hallway. The last one, we knew it wouldn't be too long, so we just put together our plan for the rest of the game.”
“It was a long battle sitting in the locker room for a while,” Iowa safety Cooper DeJean said. “I was just kind of hanging out.”
“It was interesting,” Ferentz said of the delays. “Guys were doing all kinds of things.”
The Hawkeyes’ offense showed some life after struggles to start the season. It helped that Petras got back wide receivers Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini, who missed the first two games after beginning fall camp at the top of the depth chart at their respective positions. Running back Gavin Williams, also expected to be a starter, missed the first two games of the season, but he returned to rush for 57 yards on 16 carries. “It was great to see some of these guys back in the huddle,” Petras said. “It made us more multiple, less predictable.”
Nevada, which came into the game ranked 105th in total offense nationally, couldn’t move the ball against the Hawkeyes, who were ranked sixth in total defense. The Wolfpack, who had 151 yards in the game, head into Mountain West Conference play next Friday against Air Force. “I don't think our offense got into any rhythm today, at any time,” Wilson said. “That left our defense out on the field way too long.”
THE LATE NIGHT
Ragaini couldn't help but make a joke when he arrived for the post-game press conference.
“You're still here?” he said to the media.
Ragaini said he relaxed during the delay — “I just laid on the floor, played some games on my phone,” he said.
Bruce said he avoided the food the team was given during the delays.
“I wanted to stay light,” he said.
Bruce smiled when he got done answering questions.
“Thanks for staying around,” he said as he left the room.
Nevada: At Air Force on Friday.
Iowa: At Rutgers on Saturday.