Last week's game against Minnesota was one of the better defensive games I've seen from Iowa, this year especially. They did a great job making things hard for Mitch Leidner, who didn't complete a pass until about the middle of the second quarter. They did a great job bottling up one of the better running back tandems in the Big Ten in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. But most of all, I liked that they did away with the bend but don't break strategy.
It seemed as though in the two weeks prior they were playing decent defense, but were staying on the field entirely too long. In the game against Minnesota, they forced a lot of three and outs, especially early on so they could stay fresh as the game got older.
They really just had one bad drive in which they were dominated at the line of scrimmage and at the point of attack, which was the drive the Gophers scored on.
So, Iowa's defense shows up for a second straight week, fact or fiction?
DEREK: Fact. I would be very surprised if they did not show up the same way they did last weekend against Minnesota. This looked like a defense that finally figured it out and confidence is soaring high in that locker room right now. And it wasn't like they had some terrifying issues. They just needed to become more consistent against the run.
They were still having success against the run for stretches at a time but then they would surrender it all by allowing a big play. It is about mitigating the big play and avoiding the chunk runs they were giving up. A lot of that goes away just by tackling better which shouldn't be a difficult fix.
One of the main differences a week ago was also the increased penetration from the three defensive tackles; Jaleel Johnson, Nathan Bazata and Faith Ekakitie. Now is that perhaps a product of the Minnesota offensive line being a tad overrated? I would lean towards yes. Now Iowa is in a good spot mentally and feeling good about themselves and a lot more confident.
Purdue might be better than they were a year ago but it's still not like facing the offensive line at North Dakota State. I think they find success once again this week because they're improving and figuring it out, they feel much better about themselves as a team, and Purdue is probably overmatched at the line of scrimmage.
DYLAN: I'm going to agree with Derek here and say fact. This was one of the first times they really looked good. Sure, they were good against Iowa State and solid against Rutgers, but this just felt like it was different. They dominated at the line of scrimmage and like Derek alluded to, most of that was due to the defensive tackles.
Johnson led the charge for a majority of the game, but definitely overshadowed some good play from guys like Bazata and Ekakitie. Josey Jewell was once again a menace, but that is something we are accustomed to seeing every Saturday for Iowa. I thought Bo Bower really played well, which he hadn't in the few games prior.
You usually know what you're going to get out of Desmond King and Greg Mabin, which they were both terrific not letting Minnesota complete a pass in the first quarter and a half. Even King's backup, Manny Rugamba was stellar on Saturday notching his first interception in a Hawkeye uniform.
The safety play was better, but the missed tackles still continue to be an issue.
The Boilermakers have a couple of decent running backs like Minnesota to go along with a passing attack that is improving, so Iowa will have another tough task ahead of them, but they already know that. I think this defense has woken up and we'll be seeing them from here on out every week.