IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Drew Tate is back and so is Iowa's confidence -- at least on offense.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes still have some work to do.
Tate returned from a concussion to throw two touchdown passes and Albert Young ran for two more scores, leading No. 22 Iowa to a 45-21 victory over Northern Iowa on Saturday.
In tying a school record with its 20th straight win at home, Iowa (2-1) looked much sharper than the team that lost to Iowa State 23-3 a week ago. The Hawkeyes felt they had to improve because they open Big Ten play next Saturday at Ohio State.
"I thought we were better, though I might put an asterisk in there that it would be hard not to be better," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We at least looked a little more like a cohesive offensive team."
Northern Iowa (2-1) also got something from the game. The Panthers, one of the nation's top Division I-AA programs, had a chance to test themselves against a major I-A team and the university collected a $325,000 guarantee.
They also did enough to raise some concerns for Iowa defensively, particularly with the play of quarterback Eric Sanders, who threw three touchdown passes and broke down the Hawkeyes at times with his scrambling.
"Our offense moved the ball against a very good defense," Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said. "I thought our receivers were catching the ball, Eric played well and our line was protecting well.
"Overall, our offense, I thought there was definitely something there that we could make special," he said.
Tate showed no problems from the concussion that knocked him out of the Iowa State game, completing 15-of-18 passes for 247 yards and no interceptions. He threw touchdown passes of 11 and 71 yards to Clinton Solomon and called it a day after playing three quarters.
Young carried 13 times for 97 yards and capped two 80-yard drives with first-quarter touchdowns, one from the 10 and the other from 1 yard out. The Hawkeyes scored on four of five first-half possessions and also got a touchdown on Jovon Johnson's 18-yard interception return en route to a 31-7 lead.
Iowa finished with 496 yards, including 308 in the first half.
"It's what we needed," Tate said. "Everybody needed to be on the same play and in sync and that's what we were today from the first snap all the way to the last snap. I think everyone was working on the same page through the whole game."
That offensive efficiency was a sharp contrast to the Hawkeyes' sloppy play the week before, when they turned the ball over five times and never got closer to the end zone than the Iowa State 26.
"What Tate did well was adjusting at the line of scrimmage," Farley said. "He saw what we were rolling into and he took advantage of it."
Still, it wasn't a waltz for Iowa, which surrendered 368 yards.
Sanders, who had completed 84 percent of his passes coming in, went 19-of-29 for 263 yards, including touchdown throws of 12 yards to Brian Cutright, 4 yards to Justin Surrency and 22 yards to David Horne. Cutright and Surrency both were wide open in the middle of the field on their touchdown catches.
"We made a lot of mental errors," Johnson said. "A game like this is supposed to be a game for us to fine-tune things and prepare for the Big Ten season, but I don't feel like we played to the best of our ability."
Cutright's touchdown drew Northern Iowa to 21-7 midway through the second quarter, giving a small contingent of Panthers fans a reason to cheer.
But Iowa answered with Kyle Schlicher's 23-yard field goal and then got the ball right back when Abdul Hodge recovered Horne's fumble at the Northern Iowa 35. The Hawkeyes needed only three plays to score, Tate hitting Solomon for the TD from the 11. Solomon caught the ball at the 8, stiff-armed Dre Dokes and took it in.
In the third quarter, Solomon broke free on a post pattern and Tate hit him in stride. Alphonso Key caught Solomon inside the 15, but the Iowa receiver fought him off and scored standing up.
"My arm length helped me out a lot with the stiff-arms," said Solomon, a rangy 6-foot-3, 196-pounder. "Drew put the ball in some perfect spots, so I just put my hands up."
And now, on to Ohio State.
"It is a tremendous way to come off a loss like we did last weekend and step it up," Solomon said. "We just talked about ball security. The three goals are ball security, ball security, ball security. We are coming together."