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Hawkeye defense feels pressure to improve against Indiana

[ 0 ] November 2, 2012 |

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – One week, Penn State amasses 504 yards, and a week later it’s Northwestern totaling 433.

That’s consecutive Iowa football losses in which opponents combine for over 900 yards — and that’s a problem heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against an Indiana team with a Big Ten Conference passing attack second to only one.

James Morris (44) and the Hawkeyes must split their remaining four games just to guarantee a six-win season, the NCAA’s minimum postseason eligibility requirement. (Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE)

“We’ve got to do what we do, but do it better,” linebacker James Morris said after last Saturday’s 28-17 loss at Northwestern made a fifth consecutive bowl appearance that much tougher.

The Hawkeyes must split their remaining four games just to guarantee a six-win season, the NCAA’s minimum postseason eligibility requirement.

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With games at home against Purdue, at Michigan, and at home against Nebraska still to be played, that’s why Saturday is so important.

“We need to play smarter,” Morris said.

That’s true on both sides of the ball, but he was referring to a defense against which Penn State passed for 289 yards two weeks ago, and against whom Northwestern rushed for 349 yards last Saturday.

The result was the most passing and rushing yards against an Iowa defense in a two-game swing since Penn State and Purdue combined for 960 in 2002. Ironically, Iowa won both those games.

“It’s going to be more of what we saw last week,” defensive tackle Steve Bigach said of Saturday’s opponent. “They’ve put up a lot of points against good teams.”

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The 3-5 Hoosiers scored 49 points in a 3-point loss against unbeaten Ohio State. They averaged 34.0 against their four conference opponents – behind only the Buckeyes.

They have the second-best passing statistics in conference games, and they have talented and athletic receivers.

Translated?

“It’s another high tempo group for the third week in a row,” coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Iowa will counter Indiana’s passing with extra defensive backs, which means cornerback B.J. Lowery could see considerable snaps.

“Passing teams – that’s what we like as defensive backs,” Lowery said. “We get up for teams like that. It’s what we do back there.”

Also in pass coverage will be true freshmen Sean Draper and Kevin Buford.

“Those guys don’t play like they’re freshmen,” veteran cornerback Micah Hyde said. “I’ve been impressed with them since the first time I saw them.”

How much Iowa’s defense plays is up to the offense – specifically tailback Damon Bullock.

Iowa tailback Mark Weisman isn’t playing Saturday because of a hip injury suffered against Northwestern last week. (David Scrivner / Press-Citizen photo)

With the Hawkeyes’ passing game still searching for solutions, the best way to score is on the ground.

Top tailback Mark Weisman isn’t playing because of a hip injury suffered against Northwestern, so Bullock gets his first start since leaving Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa with a concussion.

He rushed 22 times for 107 yards against Northwestern. He averages 4.4 yards per carry – and he has more padding inside his helmet.

“I’m growing my hair out, too, so I should be good,” Bullock said this week. “I was a little rusty last week after not playing for five or six weeks, but whatever rust there was has been knocked off.”

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He’s confident. Morris is confident.

“There’s a million different defenses out there,” Morris said. “All of them work, but when you break them down, it comes down to virtually the same things—blocking, tackling, understanding leverage, and gap responsibility. I have complete confidence in what we run.

“We just need to do it better.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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