Threshers fall on late game Punt Return TD

Youthful optimism has been the name of the game in Iowa throughout training camp and the preseason. That optimism was on display as Iowa began it’s second season in front of the home crowd at Jack Trice Stadium. Today’s game was full of late game heroics as Omaha and Iowa went back and forth in the third quarter. Omaha vs. Iowa seems to be a budding rivalry in the Midwest Division.

The scoring got started on Omaha’s first possession. QB Terrelle Pryor marched the Express 80 yards down the field capped off by an 8 yard TD run by Rex Burkhead. Iowa marched right back down the field but fell short of the end zone, settling for a 28 yard Kenny Allen FG to make the game 7-3 Omaha early in the second.

The second quarter broke wide open. Pryor nailed WR Tanner McEvoy on a 38 yard strike to make it 14-3. Iowa answered right back once again with a drive of their own. CJ Beathard hit his favorite target TE George Kittle for a 36 yard score to close it to 4 for the second time, 14-10. Omaha capped the second half scoring with a 32 yard FG off the foot of Brett Maher. At the half the score was 17-10 in favor of the Express.

Maher added two 3rd quarter FG’s, 48 and 32 yards, to make the score 23-10 entering the 4th quarter.

A lot of the talk this off-season centered around if CJ Beathard would be capable of picking this team up and catching up late. Last season they saw a lot of their losses get out of hand late. Beathard at least quieted those talks for a week. The second year pro lead the team on a 75 yard drive culminating in an Orleans Darkwa 8 yard TD reception. The defense held strong forcing Pryor and the Express 3 and out. The Threshers marched right back down and scored to take their first lead of the day after a TD run from Darkwa, 24-23 with 8:05 remaining. The Express looked to eat some clock on the ensuing drive and were successful until a sack fumble by Freddie Bishop was scampered back by Marquel Lee for a 65 yard TD making it a 31-23 game.

The Threshers thought they had victory at this point, hoping to sit back and eat some time of the clock of their own. That plan back fired. On a quick 5 play, 75 yard drive and a successful 2 point conversion, the Express tied it, 31-31, with 3:11 to go.

A quick 3 and out by the Threshers offense gave the Express another chance, but they wouldn’t need a drive to take the lead as LaRico Stevenson would take the Trevor Daniel punt 75 yards to pay dirt to give the Express the lead and eventually the win.

Beathard performed much better than he had during last season, finishing the opener 18-28 for 255 yards and 2 TD. “I think it was important today that CJ didn’t turn the ball over. He found his spots when the defense would give it to him and had a lot of success,” Head Coach Clint Dolezel said after the game.

Another Thresher that needs to have success this year, Orleans Darkwa, had a nice afternoon. He totaled 94 yards on 25 carries with a rushing and receiving TD that came up huge in tying the game up in the second half. “That third quarter was a real momentum boost for us. It really sucks to go out there and have it end like that, but that’s football, man.”- Darkwa

Star TE George Kittle caught 5 passes for 107 yards and a score in the loss.

On defense, the Threshers continued to struggle to get to the passer, allowing Terrelle Pryor to go 19-31 for 274 yards and 2 scores. The front seven only tallied 2 sacks on the game. Iowa keeps it in the division next week as they travel to new Midwest Division opponent, the Houston Wranglers next Saturday. They will return home week 3 to take on the Louisville Cougars.