Iowa football: Hawkeyes defense is proving to be a special unit
Late in Saturday’s Iowa game with in-state rival Iowa State, many fans in the stadium and those watching on TV must have thought that these two teams had set back college football a hundred years.
They would be wrong, of course. It was, in reality, 101 years.
That’s right. As the Hawkeyes and Cyclones were slugging it out Saturday, folks had to start digging through the record books to find comparable abysmal offense. And there it was, way back in 1917, when Iowa won the rivalry game 6-3.
This was 6-3 Iowa very late too, until the Hawkeyes added a touchdown Saturday in the final five minutes to seal the deal and win 13-3.
It was a a full-360 from last year’s game, when Iowa won 44-41 in overtime in a game where both teams marched up and down the field all day.
Not this time.
“This is just the opposite this year. It was a pitcher’s duel. Both defenses played as hard as they could,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. This was the first time he’d ever beaten Iowa State four years in a row.
He knew it would take a big effort to retain the Cy-Hawk trophy. “Nobody gets to keep it or defend it,” Ferentz said. “Every year it’s up for grabs.”
It certainly was Saturday because this was a battle.
And, for the second straight week, it was the Iowa defense that rose to the occasion. They had to pick up their offense last week because of some suspensions on the offensive line, and they did just that in leading Iowa to a 33-7 win over Northern Illinois.
This performance was even better, because Iowa State has plenty of weapons. And Iowa kept them in check from start to finish.
The numbers were staggering:
- Iowa State running back David Montgomery, who’s rushed for more than 1,700 yards for the Cyclones, had only 44 yards on 17 carries.
- As a team, Iowa State rushed for just 19 yards on 25 carries, an average of two feet and change. Much of that was sack yardage — don’t get me started on why colleges count it that way — but still, that was a flat-out stuffing along the line of scrimmage.
- Iowa State punter Corey Dunn was busy. He had to punt eight times on Saturday. It could have been more because Iowa State went for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter and didn’t make it.
- Iowa was really stout on third down, allowing only 4-of-14 third-down conversions.
Iowa’s defense was great at every level. The secondary allowed some completions, but it was never easy. The young linebackers were flying around everywhere making tackles and the veteran defensive line simply dominated the game.
Parker Hesse was everywhere. He spent much of the game in the backfield and deflected a key third-down pass late. Then A.J. Epenesa sealed the deal, sacking Iowa State’s backup quarterback Zeb Noland and forcing a fumble. It was recovered by Iowa’s Chauncey Golston, ending any further threats.
That’s twice in two weeks the Iowa defense has raised some eyebrows. It’s Iowa, so you expect good defense, but that hasn’t always been the case the past few years.
This group, this year, seems to be something special.
Yeah, it’s just two weeks, but so far so good.