IOWA CITY, Ia. — Phil Parker isn’t just talking a good game, he’s backing it up with numbers.
The defense was supposed to be a bedrock of the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1 in the Big Ten Conference), and so far it’s lived up to billing.
The key question: How will Iowa fare as it enters the heart of its schedule?
Iowa’s defensive coordinator met with reporters Tuesday to assess the performance of his unit at the midway point of the season.
First, the good stuff.
Parker pointed out Iowa ranks No. 11 nationally in total defense (allowing an average of 290 yards) and No. 8 against the run (88.5 yards).
He also could have mentioned the Hawkeyes are in a virtual tie for 18th in scoring defense (allowing 16.8 points).
Iowa’s improvement can also be measured by intangibles.
“I feel good about the group, how close they are, the chemistry,” Parker said. “I think we have more depth.
“I think there are more guys who are capable of going out on the field and performing at a high level.”
Of course, some statistics are more impressive than others.
Through six games, the Hawkeye starters have not given up a running play longer than 15 yards, and no opponent has scored a rushing touchdown.
On the other hand, Iowa has been burned for 16 pass plays of 20 or more yards.
“If you calculate that (for an entire season), it would be 32,” Parker said. “And if we do that, we’re well below the big plays we gave up last year.”
In other words, the pass coverage may be spotty, but it’s progressing.
The concerning stuff involves Iowa’s upcoming opponents.
After an off week, the Hawkeyes visit Ohio State on Oct. 19. The Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s top scoring team, with 46.8 points per game.
“I think they’ve just got a good system and they believe in their system,” Parker said. “I think the players help them finish it.”
After that, Iowa will host Northwestern (39.0 points per game) and Wisconsin (37.6).
One of the most troublesome images from last weekend’s 26-14 loss to Michigan State was quarterback Connor Cook looking comfortable in the pocket, with little pressure.
Parker balked at the notion he’s blitzing more this season.
By his count, Iowa has blitzed 59 times out of 384 snaps (15.4 percent).
Cook eluded one of those blitzes Saturday before throwing a 46-yard touchdown pass.
That’s a cause for concern in coming weeks.
But it doesn’t erase what Parker and his defense have accomplished thus far.
“Obviously, last week was a challenge for us and we’d like to have that one back,” Parker said. “I just think we’re very comfortable with the guys we have, and I think they’re playing at a high level.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football