Iowa jumps to 28-3 halftime lead; James Vandenberg throws for three touchdowns

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Louisiana-Monroe's brutal September is in the books.

After hanging with TCU and Florida State for stretches, the Warhawks never had a chance against Iowa.

James Vandenberg threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns and the Hawkeyes cruised past Louisiana-Monroe 45-17 on Saturday.

Marcus Coker added 113 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns for the Hawkeyes (3-1), who raced out to a 28-3 halftime lead on the strength of a revitalized passing attack in their final tuneup before the start of Big Ten play.

Vandenberg threw for 198 yards in the opening half. His 1-yard TD plunge opened the scoring, and Vandenberg found Marvin McNutt for TD pass of 13 and 17 yards to put the Hawkeyes up by 25 late in the second quarter.

Cody Wells had 162 yards passing for ULM (1-3), which gained 352 yards of offense but had no answer for Iowa's suddenly potent passing game.

The Warhawks finished 0-3 against BCS opponents, falling to the Seminoles, Horned Frogs and now Iowa. They get a much-needed bye week before opening Sun Belt play against Arkansas State on Oct. 8.

"We knew it going in. It's certainly less challenging than Auburn, LSU, Arkansas last season," ULM coach Todd Berry said. "We will have a week to heal up and right now, to be honest with you, we are a really beat up football team."

Louisiana-Monroe started the second half playing like the team some thought could give the Hawkeyes serious trouble.

By then, it hardly mattered.

The Warhawks finally found the end zone with 9:35 left in the third quarter, capping an impressive drive on a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kolton Browning.

Iowa simply drove right back down the field, jumping back ahead 35-10 on Coker's 2-yard run. "They ran a 3-3-5 (defensive formation), so running lanes were bound to be there," Coker said. "We were just ready to go."

ULM answered with a 1-yard TD run by Tavarese Maye. But a failed onside kick set the table for Vandenberg's 23-yard TD pass to Keenan Davis with 39 seconds left in the third quarter that gave the Hawkeyes a 42-17 lead.

Wells and Browning combined for 293 yards through the air, but neither threw a TD pass. ULM couldn't do much on the ground either, rushing for just 59 yards on 30 attempts.

"We got to the red zone and couldn't score," ULM wide receiver Anthony McCall said. "You can't beat a team like Iowa on field goals."

Iowa used a hurry-up offense to erase a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter and stun Pitt 31-27 last week in the largest comeback in school history.

The traditionally conservative Hawkeyes went right back to a no-huddle look on Saturday.

It paid off with by far their best start of the season.

Vandenberg capped a 74-yard opening drive with a 1-yard plunge to put Iowa up 7-0 less than four minutes in.

ULM answered with Justin Manton's 43-yard field goal. But the Hawkeyes drove right back down the field, pushing their lead to 14-3 with 1:39 left in the first on a textbook fade pass from Vandenberg to McNutt from 13 yards out.

Micah Hyde took a Warhawks punt back to the ULM 29-yard line, and six plays later Coker ran for a 4-yard TD that put the Hawkeyes up 21-3.

Vandenberg and McNutt hooked up for a touchdown the fourth time this season with 2:07 left in the first half.

The 6-foot-4 McNutt sealed himself between the cornerback and the sideline and plucked his 17-yard TD grab out of the air, giving Iowa a 28-3 lead.

McNutt caught seven passes for 100 yards, reaching the 100-yard mark for the second game in a row, and Iowa earned 28 first downs and converted all six of its red zone chances.

"I think some of it's a function of the fact that Iowa's done a nice job. I think some of it's a fact that we're emotionally tired right now which is my responsibility," Berry said. "Thirdly is, we're not quite as good as what everybody thought we were on defense."

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