Iowa has reached the bye after eight games this season. After starting 2-0 and soaring to No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, the Hawkeyes sit 5-3 overall — 3-2 in Big Ten play — and have fallen out of the national spotlight. Iowa travels to Penn State on Nov. 5. It’s a good time to review and grade the Hawkeyes’ season to date.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Iowa defense was to be anchored by the return of defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, middle linebacker Josey Jewell and cornerback Desmond King. All three enter the bye playing like Iowa expected its stars to play. It was an up-and-down start to the season, but the defense found its identity recently.
Here is a look at Iowa’s defensive stats entering this past weekend’s games.
|Stat||Number||Big Ten Ranking||National Ranking|
|Points per game||18.9||5th||19th|
|Passing yards per game||223.6||12th||62nd|
|Rushing yards per game||153.8||7th||57th|
|Yards per play||5.2||7th||37th|
|Turnovers created||12||tied 5th||tied 53rd|
|Opponent third down percentage||34.7%||8th||32nd|
Defensive line grade: B
The development of Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson provided two of the biggest surprises for Iowa since last season. They’ve made their mark by getting into the backfield. Each recorded 5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. They’ve combined with returning starter Parker Hesse to make defensive end a strength.
Johnson was the best Iowa defensive lineman in the first eight games. He leads the D-line with 32 tackles and is tops on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Johnson and defensive tackle Nathan Bazata struggled stopping the interior run in losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern, but have turned around their play the last three weeks.
The play of the rush defense kind of mirrors that of the defense. It’s either locked in and dominant or a big enough problem to cost Iowa a game. The defense allowed 9 points or less 4 times and 35 points or more 2 times.
Linebacker grade: B
This grade needs to be broken down into two parts — Jewell and everyone else. Jewell is one of the Iowa’s most consistent players. He leads the team with 77 tackles and made a series of big plays in the first eight games, most notably the goal-line stand at Rutgers where he nearly single-handedly stopped the Scarlet Knights with tackles on four straight plays. Here is the third-down play from that series.
Linebackers Bo Bower and Ben Niemann have combined for 101 tackles and three interceptions, but playing in space and missed tackles were problems. North Dakota State and Northwestern found rushing success by trying to isolate and attack Iowa on the edges at the second level of the defense.
Secondary grade: B-
The secondary is a lot like the linebackers. There is Desmond King, who picked up where he left off after winning the Thorpe Award last season. Opponents aren’t throwing in his direction much, but he’s making an impact when they do. He leads Iowa with 6 pass breakups and added an interception, a 41-yard touchdown return against Purdue.
Safety play is not where Iowa needs it to be entering the bye week. Brandon Snyder has a knack for making big plays as he forced and recovered the fumble that set up the winning touchdown at Rutgers.
But safety Miles Taylor and Snyder were exposed in space too many times for Iowa’s liking and big plays, especially in the passing game, were a result.
Cornerback Greg Mabin made a great play to keep Minnesota from scoring the tying touchdown at the end of regulation. It was a long way from the beginning of the season, when opponents found success throwing to his side of the field.
True freshman cornerback Manny Rugamba found a home as the third cornerback. His first eight games showed plenty of promise.
Overall Grade: B
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