IOWA CITY — James Morris admitted he might have been feeling some fatigue toward the end of the first half.
The 6-foot-2 senior linebacker had good reason. Twice his Iowa defense stopped Western Michigan in its tracks only to quickly return to the field after punt-return touchdowns.
“We understand that could be the case going into a game,” Morris said. “It's just something you need to be mentally tough and work through it.”
Morris led the Hawkeyes with seven total tackles in a confidence-building afternoon for a unit bracing to face Big Ten offenses. Iowa surrendered just a second-quarter field goal, and that only became possible after running back LeShun Daniels Jr. fumbled the ball on Iowa's 20-yard line.
Iowa's defense hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season — one of four FBS schools that can make that claim. And it held the Broncos to 1 of 14 on third-down tries.
“Every time we go out there it's a new chance and new opportunity to improve and execute,” Morris said. “That's the way we look at it is one down at a time and one series at a time.”
QB happy to get backup on the field
The irony wasn't lost on Jake Rudock. Iowa actually played its No. 2 quarterback.
Rudock watched from the sideline last year as now-graduated James Vandenberg took every snap. But with Saturday's game getting out of hand, Rudock gave way to redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard in the second half.
“I wouldn't say it's weird; it happens in high school, too,” said Rudock, a sophomore. “I love when we can get the second team in — that's what you want. You want to have a game where you can get other people snaps and get them experience. It's great because you never do know when one guy goes down and the next guy has to step in.”
Beathard completed one pass on three attempts, hitting Damond Powell in stride for a 54-yard gain in the fourth quarter. He also ran four times for 30 yards in his collegiate debut.
“You always dream of that as a kid,” Beathard said. “Then it finally happens and it's surreal.”
Blowout eases Weisman's workload
Mark Weisman wouldn't quite call it a bye week. But Iowa's most-used running back was grateful for a little rest.
The 6-foot, 236-pound junior entered Saturday leading the NCAA with 85 rushing attempts (accumulating 425 yards). He set career highs in carries the last two weeks with 30 against Missouri State and 35 at Iowa State.
Weisman toted the ball just 10 times for 45 yards and a touchdown against Western Michigan.
“I still got hit a little bit,” Weisman said. “But it's definitely a lot nicer not being as sore now.”
Scherff still sees room to improve
Call Brandon Scherff a wet blanket, but he still sees work that needs to be done.
The Iowa junior offensive lineman and Denison-Schleswig graduate certainly enjoyed Iowa's first blowout win of the year. But the 315-pounder also pointed to six penalties for 60 yards and the need to start games faster.
“It's great getting those extra pushes off special teams,” Scherff said. “We talked about all three phases today, and I think it came together well. But there's improvement, and we're going to improve.”
Bits and pieces
The last time Iowa scored touchdowns four different ways was during a 56-7 win against Buffalo on Sept. 6, 2003. ... Western Michigan's special teams coach is graduate assistant Rob Wenger after former coach J.B. Gibboney quit one week before the season started. ... Iowa tight end Ray Hamilton caught a career-high three passes for 39 yards. ... Kicker Mike Meyer has made a school-record 99 consecutive PATs, the sixth longest streak in Big Ten history. ... Iowa had been 0-2 all-time against Western Michigan before Saturday.