Iowa defense’s play is flashy, not its celebrations
No turnover chains needed.
“We just get a pick,” Iowa defensive back Riley Moss shared. “And then walk off, ‘that a kid,’ and then you’ll go back out and try to get another one.”
And another one.
The Hawkeyes have 76 interceptions since 2017, more than any team in the country. They also lead with 12 in 2021.
Iowa padded — doubled, actually — its numbers when 6 different players picked a pass in a 51-14 win at Maryland on Friday. That tied a 1982 school record for most Hawks with an interception in a single game.
“I think collectively as a defense, this was probably one of our better outings,” said Moss, who has 3 of those interceptions and returned 2 for touchdowns.
But other than a standard celebration, you don’t get much extra from Iowa.
“Pretty blue collar to be honest with you, and I think we love that,” Moss said. “We just come out and do our job. … No turnover chain or that flashy stuff. We just go out and play football.”
Defensively, it’s an elite brand of football.
“Even if you’re out there for one play, that one play might change the game,” said defensive back Terry Roberts, who recorded 1 of the 6 picks Friday night — the first of his career.
Iowa has turned 16 turnovers into 75 points so far. The Hawkeyes’ defense has scored 20 points, with a fumble return and a safety added to Moss’ 2 pick-6s.
“We’re veteran, that’s one thing. That doesn’t ensure that you’re gonna be good, but it helps,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Moss and [Matt] Hankins, they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. It is a team effort, but those guys gotta go get the ball when it’s up there.”
That hasn’t been a problem so far. In fact, it’s “fun.”
“It was kind of like recess,” Moss said of the second half of the 51-14 win over Maryland. “You’re just flying around playing football. No worries in the world. I think that was my favorite part of the second half, is we were just out there and really just enjoying the game that we all love.”
The work that goes into it might not be as enjoyable in the moment, but don’t think for a second that these Hawkeyes are more lucky than good.
“We got all of these picks because of what we were doing in practice,” Moss said. “That’s the most rewarding part. And it’s really cool to see that pay off. It was really cool to see the three phases be so successful. The scary thing is we played very well — all three phases — and I think the sky’s the limit. There’s still so much we can improve on.”
And if the Hawks do, watch out, sky.
“Our goal from the beginning has always been a Big Ten championship,” Moss said. “We’re working it week by week, and I think that’s why we’re seeing success. We’re just chunking it out — the next opponent and the next opponent.”
That next opponent … is No. 4 Penn State. We told you how rare this matchup is for No. 3 Iowa on Monday. But it turns out there’s something missing from this B1G matchup that’s been there for every Top 5 bout since 1962. No Ohio State. No Michigan. Back then, it was Minnesota-Wisconsin. Now, it’s Iowa-Penn State, 59 years later.
“The standard’s the standard,” Roberts said.
Perhaps a new one will be established Saturday. Nothing flashy, but fun. You know, “just football.”
“The game that we all love.”