When junior Steve Bigach blew through the Northwestern line and recorded a sack Saturday, he became the latest little-known Hawkeye defensive lineman to step in and make a play this season.
“It was nice to finally get an opportunity to help the team win,” Bigach said.
Bigach finished with five tackles and a fumble recovery to go with his sack in his first career start. He replaced senior Thomas Nardo, who sat out with an ankle injury after starting the previous three games.
“He knows the defense inside and out and medical books inside and out,” Nardo said. “He’s a really smart guy. He’s always studying.”
A double major — integrative physiology and mathematics — Bigach is on track to apply to medical school and become a doctor.
He certainly knows the science Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle employs. Bigach came to Iowa as a 218-pound linebacker and now is a 6-foot-3, 282-pound defensive tackle.
“I didn’t have my hand on the ground a lot in high school,” Bigach said. “It was a big change for me.”
Bigach went to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio, and didn’t play a snap his first two seasons at Iowa. Then he just got a little garbage time in four games last season.
“It definitely puts a premium on playing time,” Bigach said. “When you don’t get to play right away, its makes you realize how much you love playing; how important it is to you to go out there and help the team win.
“You play behind some good guys here. You just kind of wait your turn, hope that you keep building as a young guy, that it’ll pay off in the later years.”
Iowa didn’t rotate a lot of D-linemen into games the past two seasons. When you have Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug … you want to keep them on the field.
But those three moved on to the NFL this spring.
Seniors Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels returned with game experience, but after that … not so much.
Coming into the season, Nardo, Bigach, sophomore Dominic Alvis, senior Lebron Daniel, senior Joe Forgy and junior Joe Gaglione had 16 career tackles between the six of them.
Halfway through this season, that group has 87 tackles, including 9½ tackles for loss.
“That’s one of the groups that we saw the guys really make some strides up front,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That was a tough team to play a defensive line against.”
Ferentz said two months ago it would take a lot of linemen to make up for the guys that now are playing Sundays. With Forgy and Gaglione getting some significant snaps Saturday — as the Northwestern offense played 92 snaps — the D-line now may be eight deep.
“Ideally, we would like to play a lot of guys, seven, eight guys,” Ferentz said. “But they have to also demonstrate that we can trust them, and they will do a good job in there.”
Nardo, who is second among defensive linemen with 30 tackles, said he sees the growth of the unit.
“We’re coming along; getting better,” Nardo said. “We’re getting a little more experience with all of us who haven’t played much and starting to come together as a group a little bit.”
The numbers bear it out. If you take the top eight D-linemen from 2010, compile their stats, and divide by 13 (games played), the group averaged 18.5 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.4 sacks per game.
The 2011 top eight, through six games, is averaging 24.5 tackles, 3.25 TFL and 1.5 sacks per game.
While this season’s group probably has played more snaps, it is interesting comparing the big names to the no-names.
“I think the biggest thing is to go out there, give an all-out effort,” Bigach said. “If you don’t give effort, its almost a guarantee you’re not going to make plays.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football