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Reeling Hawkeyes defense faces another tough foe

[ 0 ] October 22, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – The Iowa defense once had a swagger.

Now, it seems to be staggering.

Ohio State never punted in last weekend’s 34-24 victory. Two weeks earlier, Michigan State held the ball for 37:13 en route to a 26-14 win.

Up next is the always pesky Northwestern offense, which rushed for 349 yards a year ago against the Hawkeyes. Game time is 11 a.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium

“We’ve felt like we’ve played well at times,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “For us, it’s just a matter of staying improvement-driven — put play after play after play together.

“If we’re making strides in that direction, the results will take care of themselves.”

The results mostly were good through the season’s first five weeks.

Opponents were averaging 15 points, 79.2 rushing yards and less than 25 minutes of possession.

The Hawkeyes also were doing a decent job of harassing quarterbacks.

“We’ve had stretches where we’ve played really good football,” safety Tanner Miller said, “and we’ve had some others where things didn’t go as well as we needed to.

“Those are things we need to clean up.”

It’s a complex mess. But there seems to be a clear starting point for Iowa’s struggles.

The Hawkeyes were keeping Michigan State off-balance in the second quarter. Then, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook eluded a blitz and threw a 46-yard touchdown to Macgarrett Kings.

It may be an oversimplification, but things haven’t been the same since that play.

Cook, who was part of a Spartans quarterback controversy, seemed to find his comfort zone in the second half.

Ohio State’s Braxton Miller widely was regarded as the Big Ten’s best quarterback well before he baffled the Hawkeyes.

In a span of six-plus quarters, Cook and Miller went a combined 35-of-52 passing for 356 yards and three touchdowns.

The Spartans converted on two fourth downs, including a fake punt. The Buckeyes were successful on 10-of-14 third-down chances.

“Those were two totally separate types of offenses,” Tanner Miller said. “But both teams had good athletes at every position.

“Nothing is really going to change this week (against Northwestern).”

The Wildcats are hobbling into Iowa City. Quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark are dealing with sore ankles, but Colter seems to have the better chance of playing against the Hawkeyes.

Meanwhile, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz seems confident his defense will recover.

“They’ll bounce back,” he said. “You have to, because we have five tough games in front of us.

“You’ve got to get ready for the next challenge. They will. We’ve got quality guys.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 15 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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