IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa knows what’s coming. There is no big secret with Wisconsin. The Badgers are as blunt as a Donald Trump quote.
They want to run the football.
Wisconsin is the ultimate test for the Iowa rush defense that believes it has gotten better. The Hawkeyes must prove that’s the case and stop Wisconsin running back Corey Clement if they’re to upset No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN).
“That’s really what we focused on the last two weeks and it showed up in the game,” Iowa defensive tackle Nathan Bazata said. “Hopefully, this week we can take another step forward.”
Any forward momentum will come against a 5-foot-11, 219-pound human bowling ball who likes to move defenders backwards. Clement is the latest in a long line of playmaking Wisconsin backs, rushing for 483 yards and five touchdowns in five games.
His speed, vision and quickness allow him to break big runs, but it’s his bruising style that sets the curve for the Wisconsin power rushing attack.
“He adds that little bit of oomph to it if you know what I mean,” Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said.
Clement amplifies what Wisconsin already does so well. Johnson is still in awe of a run Clement made three weeks ago when he shrugged off two Michigan State tacklers and moved the chains for a first down.
“If you take a play off it’s going to be a bad day for you,” Johnson said.
The team that struggles stopping the run in this series tends to get failing marks for the day. The last three Wisconsin wins saw a running back carry the Badgers to the Heartland Trophy.
|2014||Melvin Gordon: 200 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns||Wisconsin 26-24|
|2013||James White: 132 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns||Wisconsin 28-9|
|2010||John Clay: 91 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns||Wisconsin 31-30|
The Hawkeyes know what’s coming. Facing Wisconsin is a slugfest.
The Badgers will use motion to try to confuse defenders. Then their massive offensive line will look to maul their way down the field as Clement finds the end zone.
“I”m looking forward to it,” Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse said.
This is the test Hesse and the Hawkeyes were waiting for. They bombed a few early quizzes with North Dakota State and Northwestern. The run defense did ace its more recent work, allowing only 149 combined rushing yards to Minnesota and Purdue.
But Wisconsin is a different beast. This is the midterm and it consists of one question.
Can you stop Clement?
“They have their game plan,” Bazata said, “but we are expecting them to run it right at us. It’s going to be a fistfight.”
One that will likely go 15 rounds and will come down to discipline. When the Hawkeyes are in the right spot and take care of their assignment the rush defense resembles a brick wall. When it’s not, there aren’t enough plugs to fill the holes in the levee.
“Our main goal is to do your job, just do your job, do your job,” Johnson said. “If you do that we’ll be successful.”
The Hawkeyes understand what’s coming. That doesn’t make it any easier to stop.
“You don’t have to know anything about their season to know this is going to test your running game,” Hesse said.
Saturday, Iowa will find out if it’s getting a passing grade.