This was a message game.

Iowa’s 51-14 win over Maryland on Friday night was the perfect statement heading into next Saturday’s home game with Penn State in what is shaping up to be a matchup of top-five teams.

Although the Hawkeyes, ranked fifth in this week’s Associated Press poll, could swap spots with the No. 4 Nittany Lions when next week’s rankings are released.

What Iowa (5-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) did to the Terrapins was punishment, starting in the second quarter when Maryland (4-1, 1-1) had a 7-3 lead. The Hawkeyes scored 31 points in the quarter, keeping the ball for more than 12 minutes while holding the Terrapins to just nine plays for 28 yards. By halftime, Iowa had drained the Terrapins with its defense, and the second half was all about finishing strong.

Iowa finished the game with 428 yards, holding the ball for 39 minutes.

Last week’s win over Colorado State was a sluggish game, one the Hawkeyes endured and won.

The 4-0 September was a month that set the Hawkeyes on a path few expected to begin the season. October will be the month that defines them, and this was a convincing start.

The keys to the game:

SEVEN HEAVEN

Iowa’s defense has built its reputation this season on takeaway artistry, and this game was a masterpiece.

The Hawkeyes forced seven Maryland turnovers — six interceptions and one fumble. And it wasn’t just six picks, it was six different players coming up with them.

Dane Belton, Terry Roberts, Kaevon Merriweather, Jack Koerner, Riley Moss and Quinn Schulte had the interceptions — Schulte nearly took his back for a touchdown — leading to 17 Iowa points. The six interceptions are the most for the Hawkeyes since they had seven against Wisconsin in 1982.

Iowa let Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa work his way into his mistakes. He completed nine of his first 11 passes, then just seven of his next 18 as the Hawkeyes were constantly around the ball. Tagovailoa came out of the game in the second half, the fourth starting quarterback that the Hawkeyes have benched this season.

Iowa’s defense now has 16 takeaways this season that the Hawkeyes have turned into 75 points.

PETRAS AND THE PASSING GAME

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras was 21-of-30 passing for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Throw in his two touchdown sneaks, and he became the first Iowa quarterback since Brad Banks in 2002 to have multiple passing and rushing touchdowns in the same game.

What was equally impressive was how Petras spread the ball around. Seven different receivers had at least one catch of Petras’ passes, and the three touchdown passes went to Arland Bruce IV, Tyler Goodson and Tyrone Tracy Jr.

Bruce became the second true freshman receiver to have a touchdown catch in the last two weeks, joining Keagan Johnson. Bruce was Iowa’s leading receiver for the game, with six catches for 43 yards.

GOOD NIGHT FOR GOODSON

Goodson had 19 carries for 66 yards, but his 67-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown to start Iowa’s second-half scoring was one of the more impressive plays of the night.

It was also important to get Ivory Kelly-Martin some confidence. Kelly-Martin, who has been plagued with fumble issues to start the season, had eight carries for 62 yards.

IT WASN’T A TRAP

The concern was that maybe the Hawkeyes would be looking ahead to Penn State, but after some stumbles in the first quarter, it was clear this team was focused on the night’s task.

Every game this season has been a step forward. The win over a ranked Indiana team got this defense going. The win at Iowa State showed the Hawkeyes could win on the road. Kent State was a big day for the running game. Colorado State was about survival.

This one, on the road in a hostile setting that turned quite docile at halftime, was its own chapter. And, to this point, the best one of them all.

NOTEWORTHY

• Iowa has won 11 consecutive games, outscoring opponents 380-141 in the streak. It’s the longest winning streak since the 2015 team won 12 to open the season.

• The Hawkeyes have held opponents to 24 points or less in 27 consecutive games, the longest streak among Power 5 schools.

• The 31 second-quarter points were the most for Iowa in a single quarter since the 2002 team scored 37 in the first quarter of the season opener against Akron.