All of you people saying "I told you so" about Iowa moving to a nickel defense against spread offenses were smiling Saturday when the alignment worked. Hawkeye cornerback Adam Shada would like you all to relax.
"I don't think it was an accumulation of all of the nickel and dime comments, but the last two or three years, we've always played nickel and dime against Purdue," said Shada, who returned an interception an Iowa all-time best 98 yards for a TD in a 47-17 victory against the Boilermakers on Saturday.
"With the spread offense like (they run), to bring a little pressure and get some more DBs in coverage and get a couple of deep safeties, that helps out sometimes. It helped us out quite a bit to have skill guys on skill guys. Our linebackers do a great job, but when you're going to bring some pressure, it's nice to have some more corners in there."
The obvious question becomes…why didn't Iowa try that against Ohio State last week, when the Buckeyes were running three and four wideout sets?
"It's all down to executing," Shada said. "Coach Norm Parker knows a lot more than any of us, and I would never question anything that he does. With Ohio State, it wasn't a coverage issue. We didn't pursue to the ball very well. We had it a lot of times where they'd make a catch and turn a six-yard catch into a 40-yard gain. That wasn't a pass coverage issue. I just don't think we leveraged the ball very well last week."
The Boilermakers came into Saturday's action atop the Big Ten in passing offense (317.6 YPG). They posted three points in the first half, and those came in the final minute.
In addition to playing nickel and dime packages, the Hawkeyes employed man-to-man coverages, a departure from their favorite cover-2 set. They also used more bump and run technique instead of their usual 5-10 yard cushion.
"We played a little bit more man," said Iowa cornerback Charles Godfrey, who recorded his first career interception on Saturday. "We knew that these guys were fast. We knew we had to get in their face and put a hand on them. We play man all the time in practice."
It allowed for some redemption for a much-maligned secondary, as Iowa picked off three passes on the day.
"People are going to say good things. People are going to say bad things," Godfrey said. "As a secondary, we have seven picks, and we're going to keep on going. People can say what they want. We're going to keep on fighting hard, and we'll see where we are at the end."
Playing against top-ranked Ohio State's high-flying offense did help the Hawkeyes prepare for Purdue's wide-open attack.
"(The Boilermakers) like to get their speed guys in the slot and do a lot of the jerk routes and the slants," Shada said. "It's a lot of the same as what (the Buckeyes) did with No. 11 (Anthony Gonzalez) last week."
Purdue completed just 23 of 48 passes against the Hawkeyes with three interceptions and just one touchdown. The Boilermakers did not have a 100-yard receiver, and Selwyn Lymon, who put up over 200 last week at Notre Dame last week, was held to 60 yards on four receptions.
"It was a good experience," Godfrey said of playing Ohio State. "We went back and we corrected our mistakes. We threw in a nickel and a dime package. Those guys tried to spread us out. We got in their face, running with them and playing man."
Seldom-used Bradley Fletcher served as Iowa's nickel back on Saturday with Justin Edwards working his way in on the dime. Iowa also utilized a defense with three down linemen, one linebacker (Ed Miles) and seven defensive backs. Harold Dalton came in on that package.
"It was great to get in there and help the team," Fletcher said.
Even with the extra defensive backs, the Boilermakers still seemed to throw the way of Shada and Godfrey quite a bit on Saturday. The two first-year starters took another step.
"We've improved fundamentally and in technique," Godfrey said. "We've both got a ways to go. We're improving as the year goes on. Mentally, the transition has gone very well. We've gained a little more composure and confidence, playing a little more relaxed out there and having a little more fun."
Said Godfrey: "We've taken real big steps. We understand each other better. The chemistry is there. That's how it's supposed to be. You're supposed to get better each week."
Both corners, especially Shada, have been criticized for having pass interference flags thrown their way quite a bit earlier in the season. But as you saw on Saturday, the duo has stayed aggressive and attacking in coverage.
"Coach Phil Parker does an awesome job with us," Shada said. "His attitude is very aggressive and competitive. You'd still think he's playing when you watch practice. He's breaking on balls.
"He has such a great attitude that it trickles down on us. He's always said to go out and attack them. If you have to make a play on the ball, make a play on the ball. I don't care if you get pass interference calls. I want you to be aggressive. That's the type of defense we have."
Still, Shada looks for the flag when a play is close.
"Every single time I get a flag, I get upset because that's how I've always played and some of the calls are extremely close," he said. "But that's the way the league has kind of become. Coach just says to wipe it off anytime that stuff happens."
Seeing that aggressiveness and how the nickel and dime packages worked against Puirdue still makes you wonder how things might have gone using them against Ohio State. Would Antonio Pittman run wild? Who knows?
"You can say that it could have helped or if we played it we could have won," Godfrey said. "You can say a whole bunch of stuff. You never know because we didn't do it against Ohio State. I can't predict that if we would have played that we would have won. It's a good package. Now we have it and we can play it when we need to play it."