IOWA CITY — Iowa might have looked worse in victory than it did in defeat.
But after nearly a year without a win, the Hawkeyes are simply happy to have to something to build on for the second straight week.
Jake Rudock and Mark Weisman each ran for a pair of touchdowns and Iowa beat Missouri State 28-14 on Saturday, snapping a seven-game losing streak dating back to 2012.
Weisman had 180 yards rushing for the Hawkeyes (1-1), who won for the first time since beating Michigan State last October.
But Iowa followed up an encouraging opener — albeit a 30-27 loss to Mid-American Conference favorite Northern Illinois — with a shaky performance against an FCS opponent.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on our end,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I thought we improved during the week, but there were some things (Saturday) that didn’t, in my opinion, necessarily reflect improvement.”
Weisman scored on runs of 10 and 3 yards to help the Hawkeyes take a 21-0 lead late in the third quarter. Missouri State answered with touchdowns on back-to-back plays from scrimmage early in the fourth quarter, pulling within 21-14 with 14:15 to go.
Rudock’s 2-yard TD run put Iowa back ahead 28-14, and Tanner Miller sealed it with an interception in the end zone with 6:50 left.
Kierra Harris threw for 127 yards and a TD for Missouri State (0-2), which fell to 1-29 against FBS teams.
“Our kids came to play,” Missouri State coach Terry Allen said. “‘They took it to us in the fourth quarter. They won the physical battle, but we didn’t sit down.”
Even though the Hawkeyes had some early issues on offense, they still looked as if they were in complete control at the outset of the fourth quarter.
Ten seconds and 14 points later, Iowa found itself in a game that was suddenly much closer than it should have been.
The Bears finally got on the board with 14:25 left, as Julian Burton beat freshman cornerback Desmond King on a 27-yard TD reception. Rudock opened Iowa’s next drive with a pass that was picked off by linebacker Rique Bentley, who took it back 28 yards for a TD.
Iowa answered with a 65-yard touchdown drive that consumed more than four minutes, and Miller’s interception preserved some much-needed breathing room for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa’s defense looked strong, holding the Bears to 197 yards. But Iowa still led just 7-0 at halftime over a Missouri Valley Football school with just five wins over the past two seasons.
Iowa was plagued by dropped passes, negative rushes and a 33-yard missed field goal from Mike Meyer, usually a reliable kicker. The Hawkeyes had just one drive of note in the first half, a 69-yarder that ended with a 6-yard TD run from Rudock.
“Coming in the locker room at halftime, it didn’t feel like we were even up. It felt like we were down,” Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “But we kept our heads up and came out strong in that second half.”
The Hawkeyes then drove to the Missouri State 2-yard line to open the second half, only to watch Weisman get stuffed on fourth-down-and-1.
Weisman redeemed himself a few minutes later, scoring from 10 yards out to give Iowa a 14-0 lead. Rudock then threw a perfect ball to George Kittle for a 47-yard reception, helping set up Weisman’s second TD of the day.
Rudock threw for 193 yards in his second career start.
Though the Hawkeyes responded quickly to Missouri State’s brief threat, they still displayed some troubling signs — like committing 11 penalties for 100 yards — ahead of next week’s rivalry game at Iowa State.
“We learned from last week. We practiced hard; we had a good week of practice. We had a couple slipups in the game, and we’ll correct that too in film,” Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis said. “As long as we get better every week and we win games, that’s all I care about.”