IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa's running game hadn't been much of a factor in the first two weeks of the season.
The Hawkeyes turned in one of their better rushing efforts in a while, and it took several backs to do it.
Cade McNamara threw for two touchdowns and freshman Kamari Moulton scored twice after halftime in his debut, helping the No. 25 Hawkeyes beat Western Michigan 41-10 on Saturday.
Leshon Williams rushed for a career-high 145 yards on 12 carries as the Hawkeyes (3-0) pulled away in the second half of a game delayed 42 minutes by lightning in the first quarter.
Iowa, which led just 14-10 at halftime, had a season-high 387 total yards. The Hawkeyes rushed for 254 yards, the most since a 206-yard game against Kent State in 2021.
Iowa had just 200 rushing yards through the first two games.
“Happy to see the run game get started a little bit,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That's a good thing.”
McNamara said the Hawkeyes knew they could find some openings in Western Michigan's defense.
“In the passing game, some of the stuff they do, they still leave a lot of gaps,” McNamara said. “We really kind of controlled the tempo a little bit, and the O-line did an unbelievable job.”
The running game helped wear down the Broncos (1-2), who couldn't get much going in the second half.
“They’re just a physical team,” Western Michigan coach Lance Taylor said. “It’s what they always do. They play disciplined, they play smart, they play sound. They just wear on you with their physicality.”
McNamara, who was 9 of 19 for 103 yards and two interceptions, threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Diante Vines in the second quarter and a 25-yard screen pass to Williams for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Williams got the bulk of the carries early because of injuries in Iowa’s backfield. Starting running back Kaleb Johnson was ruled out before the game because of an ankle injury, and Jaziun Patterson didn’t play after the second quarter.
Williams had rushed for just 19 yards in the first two games.
“Leshon looked like Leshon again,” Ferentz said.
Moulton had touchdown runs of 3 yards and 1 yard in the third quarter.
“We're always told by the coaches to stay prepared,” Moulton said. “Anything can happen.”
“The guy's a stud,” Williams said of Moulton. “That's quite the introduction — two touchdowns. That's not regular for a freshman.”
Western Michigan scored first when quarterback Treyson Bourguet threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Sambucci in the first quarter.
“We got on the board quickly,” Taylor said. “But for the second straight game, we did just enough to beat ourselves. We couldn't get enough going in the second half.”
Iowa led 14-10 in the third quarter when Anterio Thompson blocked a punt out of the back of the end zone for a six-point lead.
“We had a chance to really put something together, make that a football game,” Taylor said.
Drew Stevens added a 31-yard field goal for the Hawkeyes late in the fourth quarter, and Max White had a 2-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to play.
“It was a slow start for us,” Ferentz said. “They came in with a good plan. But I was happy with how our guys responded.”
Iowa tight end Luke Lachey, the team's leading receiver this season, left with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Ferentz said it was “fairly significant.” Lachey, who came into the game with 10 catches for 131 yards, was injured after being undercut on an incomplete pass.
The Hawkeyes opened the season at No. 25, then fell out of the poll after struggling in the season-opening win over Utah State. The same thing could happen here.
Western Michigan: The Broncos had just one first down after halftime, with four drives ending on punts, one on a fumble and one on downs. “We just don't have the depth yet to compete in a four-quarter game,” Taylor said.
Iowa: The injury situation at running back revealed more options for the run-first Hawkeyes. Moulton finished with 50 yards on eight carries and fellow freshman Terrell Washington Jr. also averaged 5-plus yards per carry with 31 yards on six attempts. Eight different players had carries. “We’ve got an army of guys back there now,” left tackle Mason Richman said, smiling.
Western Michigan: At Toledo next Saturday.
Iowa: At No. 7 Penn State next Saturday.