Two weeks ago Iowa was 4-2 and 2-0 in the Big Ten. An embarrassing loss to Central Michigan was in the review mirror and fans were talking about a conference title with a straight face.
Things weren’t perfect, but it was clear if there were any problems with this Hawkeye team … it was with the offense.
Then Iowa gave up 504 yards to Penn State in a 38-14 loss. A week later, the Hawkeyes allowed 349 rushing yards to Northwestern and fell 28-17.
In each game Iowa trailed big, 38-0 and 28-3.
“All the outside running that has been happening the last week was just a little different than we’re used to,” senior defensive lineman Steve Bigach said. “And we just didn’t execute.”
Two weeks ago, Iowa was ranked 21st nationally in scoring defense (17.2 points per game), and 19th in total defense (317.2 yards per game).
Heading to Indiana (3-5, 1-3) for a 2:42 p.m. kickoff today, Iowa has dropped to 30th and 39th and are in danger of falling further against one of the Big Ten’s most dynamic offenses.
“We still have a shot at this,” junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We have to get better.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t put his finger on any one reason the Hawkeyes couldn’t stop the Wildcats.
Instead he focused on how impressive Micah Hyde was running down Venric Mark and holding him to a 72-yard gain, instead of a 99-yard touchdown.
“That was unbelievable,” Ferentz said. “Great effort on his part.”
Take away the team rushes, and Northwestern averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Take away the one big carry from Mark, and the Wildcats still averaged 6.8 yards per carry.
“It still get down to playing good team defense,” Ferentz said. “Everybody playing better technique and being where they need to be and trusting each other that the guy next to him’s going to be right there.
“Just having a little better understanding and a little trust there.”
Having 11 players on the same page was a thought that was repeated by Bigach.
“I think the way we play defense, its important to have all 11 guys on the same page doing their job,” Bigach said. “I think its been unfortunate circumstances. We’ve had 10 guys doing their job and one guy not.
“Its not one particular guy. Its happened to everybody, myself included.
“We just need to really focus on doing our jobs, trust the guy next to us and trust our scheme.”
Hitchens said Northwestern unveiled some blocking schemes that the Hawkeyes had not seen before. He added that communication was poor as well.
“Guys were just splitting; reading the wrong things,” Hitchens said. “We actually move our linemen one way, they ran the other. In order to win the play, we have to win 1-on-1 battles.”
Penn State attacked Iowa on the ground and through the air. Matt McGloin looked like an all-Big Ten quarterback, throwing for 289 yards to nine different receivers.
The Hoosiers are a pass-first team and feature two quarterbacks — Cameron Coffman has thrown for 1,384 yards and Nate Sudfeld for 541 yards.
While different from Penn State and Northwestern in style, Indiana uses the same up-tempo offense those two teams unleashed on Iowa.
“They run a lot of plays,” Hitchens said. “The quicker we get them off on third downs, the better. Because if they get going, we could be on the field the whole 80 yards, the whole 90.”
Part of that responsibility falls on the Iowa offense. The Hoosiers want to get into a track meet on grass, moving the ball u-and-down the field quickly.
“I don’t think we’re into track meets,” senior quarterback James Vandenberg said. “That’s not our style. I don’t think it was ever been.
“We just need to make sure that when we get the ball on offense, we need to do things with it. We need to move the ball, take some time off the clock, and most importantly put some points on the board.”
Iowa is hoping to set the tone on both sides of the ball.
“We’ll try to make it physical,” senior tackle Matt Tobin said. “That’s Iowa football. Physical and wear them down.”
How well Iowa can impose its style and will on the Hoosiers will be a big key today. The defense has to batten down the hatches as well.
“We haven’t been sound with our responsibilities the last couple weeks,” Bigach said. “If we can turn that around this week, we can put together a good performance.
“This defense has worked. It’s worked for years. We’ve just got to execute.”
Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT INDIANA
1. Indiana has scored at least 24 points in every game this season and have already scored more points (274) than they did all of last season (257).
2. Quarterback Cameron Coffman is a junior college transfer from Arizona Western who took over when Tre Roberson went down with a season-ending injury. He is 137-of-216 (63.4 percent) for 1,384 yards.
3. Indiana has 15 touchdown drives under 90 seconds, nine of which covered at least 70 yards.
4. Indiana leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 60. Seven TFL each for middle linebacker David Cooper and defensive tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black.
5. Former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El (1998-2001) will be inducted into the Indiana Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend. He had a 3-1 record against the Hawkeyes. Indiana is 8-18 against Iowa overall since 1980.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football