Miami Ohio Iowa Football

Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette has emerged as the top target of Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley early in the season. The Hawkeyes visit Iowa State this week.

IOWA CITY — Ihmir Smith-Marsette first introduced himself to Iowa fans in a most dramatic way two years ago.

Having already established himself as quarterback Nate Stanley’s favorite target this season, he appears poised for even more success.

Iowa’s junior wide receiver returns this week to the site of his first breakout game, Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa — where he caught the game-winning touchdown in the Hawkeye’s 44-41 overtime victory over rival Iowa State in Week 2 of the 2017 season.

“Confidence booster,” Smith-Marsette said when asked about that breakout game. The question came just minutes after the Hawkeyes beat Rutgers, 30-0, at Kinnick Stadium. “I’m looking forward to playing, but I’m going to take this win. I’m going to enjoy this win and then on Monday I’m going to get to (preparing for Iowa State).”

He’s coming off the best game of his career — matching personal bests with four catches and two touchdowns while setting a new high with 113 yards. He caught a 58-yard touchdown on the Hawkeyes’ first possession of Saturday’s game, then added a 23-yard score late in the third quarter.

“He made a great catch on the second touchdown he had,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “I threw the ball a little bit behind him and he did a great job of making that catch, and finishing that first post ball off.”

After catching just one pass for 4 yards in the 2017 season opener, Smith-Marsette had four receptions for 36 yards and two touchdowns the next week at Iowa State. The second TD went for 5 yards and came after the Cyclones had kicked a go-ahead field goal on its overtime possession.

He set career highs with 23 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns last season. He was the team’s primary kickoff return man, averaging nearly 30 yards on 24 returns. He had a long of 60.

Through just two games this season he is on pace to shatter those career bests. He’s already matched it with three touchdowns, and leads the team with eight receptions and 148 yards.

“He’s just been everything you’d hope,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s done a good job and focused and works extremely hard, so we are thrilled with the way he’s playing right now.

“He’s really turned the corner. He’s enjoying being a guy out there that gives us good energy, a good lead in the group and setting a good example.”

Stanley moves up yardage list — By throwing for 236 yards, Stanley passed James Vandenberg for seventh on Iowa’s all-time list. Stanley has thrown for 5,839 yards and needs three touchdowns to pass Drew Tate for second on that career list.

Career bests and firsts — Keith Duncan’s 46-yard field goal with 3:50 left in the first half set a new career high. Running back Ivory Kelly-Martin’s 25-yard reception was the longest of his career. Djimon Colbert recorded his first career interception. Tyrone Tracy’s 7-yard touchdown was the first of his career.

Quick hits — Iowa is 2-0 for the sixth consecutive season, its longest such streak since 1900-05. … Iowa’s defensive unit surrendered just 125 yards of total offense to Rutgers, the fourth-lowest total under Ferentz. … It was the Hawkeyes’ second shutout in five games. Iowa won, 63-0, at Illinois on Nov. 17.