Iowa football: Hawkeyes defense will need to carry program to Big Ten West title
Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. If you’re a fan of Iowa football, defense wins games and keeps you in contention for championships.
If there’s anything to take away from the Hawkeyes’ 27-10 victory over Rutgers, it’s the fact that the defense will have to carry the load this season. That’s the case most years as of late in Iowa City, but the writing has been on the wall for weeks when it comes to discussing Iowa’s offense.
Quarterback Spencer Petras finished Saturday 11-of-17 passing for 148 yards, failing to find the end zone for the 3rd time this season. The rushing attack averaged 3.4 yards per play, with Leshon Williams and Kaleb Johnson combining for 122 of Iowa’s 129 rushing yards.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes managed to score a touchdown thanks to a 2-yard run from Williams in the third quarter. Defensively, Iowa scored twice. More specifically, its secondary found the end zone twice in the first half to cushion the lead at halftime.
This isn’t to say this will be the formula for Iowa to win in 2022. It’s 1 game against one of the FBS’s more downtrodden rosters for over a decade. Then again, the Hawkeyes are sitting at 3-1 in large part due to defensive play.
That might be the story for most of the year, too.
Take for example Cooper DeJean’s interception in the first quarter. Pressure was added by the Hawkeyes’ front 7 against Scarlet Knights QB Evan Simon to where he threw under duress. Instead of sailing the ball out of bounds, it landed in the hands of the Hawkeyes’ safety for a 45-yard touchdown return.
COOPER DEJEAN CROSS COUNTRY PICK 6! pic.twitter.com/7ol7nLY35N
— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) September 24, 2022
Not enough for you to believe in the Hawkeyes’ defense? A quarter later, safety Sebastian Castro delivered a blow to Rutgers’ Joshua Youngblood to force a fumble. It was right place, right time for Kaevon Merriweather, who scooped up the loose ball for a 30-yard touchdown.
Was that the turning point for Iowa? No. It was the ending point. The Hawkeyes could have taken an offensive knee the remainder of the game, and 14 points would have been enough in Piscataway Saturday evening.
Will it be enough once B1G play is in full swing? In a sense, maybe. Entering Week 5, the B1G West might be madder than the hatter Alice plans on drinking tea with in Wonderland.
Northwestern hit a new low last week against Southern Illinois. It doubled down on its mediocrity with a loss to Miami (Ohio) a week later. Purdue nearly blew an 8-point lead to Florida Atlantic late in the fourth quarter without veteran quarterback Aidan O’Connell commanding the huddle. Illinois lost to Indiana, which lost to Cincinnati and needed overtime to take down Western Kentucky. Nebraska waved the white flag 2 weeks ago when it pulled the plug on the Scott Frost experiment almost 9 months too late.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) September 25, 2022
It’s a 3-team race to make it to Indianapolis out of the B1G West. Minnesota cemented itself in the driver’s seat with an impressive 34-7 win over Michigan State. Wisconsin can run the football, but can it run its way out of trouble? The Badgers’ defense, which entered Saturday allowing just 7 points per outing, allowed Ohio State to score 52 en route to yet another beatdown in Columbus.
Sure, Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen rushed for 165 yards. Take away Agent Zero, and Wisconsin’s offense has 0 answers. Is Minnesota good this year? Could the Spartans be bad? Perhaps it’s a mix of both?
The Hawkeyes were tested on Saturday defending the pass. While they allowed 300 yards through the air, they also kept the Scarlet Knights out of the end zone. Is there much of a difference between Rutgers and Illinois? Northwestern? Nebraska?
Next Saturday’s matchup with Michigan might give a better indication of if the Hawkeyes’ defense is real. While the Buckeyes win with the passing attack, the Wolverines rely on their ground game. So far, few have been able to stop the combination of Blake Corum and Donavan Edwards.
Will Iowa? We’re about to find out at Kinnick Stadium come Saturday.
Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. Whoever came up with the saying never spent time in Iowa City.