Wyoming draft darling Josh Allen stymied in first tough test

Josh Allen on loss to Iowa : 'Today was unacceptable' (1:57)

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen breaks down what went wrong in his team's season-opening loss to Iowa. (1:57)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, whose profile exploded over the past year as a potential top pick in the 2018 NFL draft, struggled Saturday in his second career opportunity to exploit a Power 5 defense.

Allen threw for 174 yards on 23-of-40 passing with two fourth-quarter interceptions as Iowa beat the outmanned Cowboys 24-3 at Kinnick Stadium.

“There’s no excuses,” Allen said. “It sucks.”

The 6-foot-5 junior from Firebaugh, California, often showed the arm strength and physicality that has bolstered his professional stock and earned Allen strong reviews at the offseason Manning Passing Academy.

“He’s a great player,” Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann said. “Got an unreal arm. Can fit balls in some tight places.”

A bevy of NFL scouts watched in person Saturday as he failed to connect with Wyoming receivers downfield. When he did find an open man, the Cowboys didn’t always catch the ball. A 36-yard strike to C.J. Johnson in the third quarter was ruled a touchdown before replay review overturned the score because the receiver bobbled the ball as he slid through the end zone.

Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson knocked down a well-thrown Allen pass in the third quarter to Johnson in the end zone. Jackson also recorded the Hawkeyes’ first interception, a red zone pick early in the fourth that he returned 41 yards.

The Hawkeyes sacked Allen three times, including a second-quarter stop credited to linebacker Josey Jewell as Allen ran through a hard hit and displayed impressive footwork before several Hawkeyes converged to bring him down.

Allen said he expected an inspired effort from Iowa.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a target on my back,” he said, “but whenever an opposing team comes in with a player who gets talked about a lot, you want to come in and shut him down.

“Opposing defenses should thrive off that.”

The Hawkeyes, in fact, did.

“If you’re a competitor and you get to go against someone who’s highly touted,” defensive end Parker Hesse said, “someone who people respect, who you respect, you’ve got to look forward to that challenge and that opportunity to limit him.”

The QB performed better Saturday than in a 52-17 Wyoming loss last year at Nebraska, in which he threw five interceptions in his only other start against a major-conference foe.

The Cowboys, 8-6 last year and Mountain Division champion of the Mountain West, host Oregon in Week 3.

Allen was responsible for 36 touchdowns as a sophomore, one off the school record, while throwing for 3,203 yards.

Mel Kiper Jr.'s take: "You can’t evaluate Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who’s No. 2 on my preseason Big Board, on this game at Iowa alone. You have to take into account every game. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger had a four-interception game against the Hawkeyes to open the season in 2003. Allen has showed he has an NFL arm, but that offense just lost too many weapons to compete against a front seven as good as Iowa’s. I want to see Allen improve from week to week this season."