Column: Defense is a Hawkeyes thing again

Hawkeyes elude Northwestern with timely, tough 'D'

Iowa LB Anthony Hitchens sacks Northwestern's Kain Colter (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)
Iowa LB Anthony Hitchens sacks Northwestern's Kain Colter (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

This was a museum piece, a defensive football game that dated to before Nile Kinnick set foot in the Iowa stadium that would one day be named for him.

This was something unearthed from a college football time capsule, generations before the way the game is now played by Oregon and Baylor, Johnny Football and Famous Jameis.

This was Iowa’s defense carrying the Hawkeyes to overtime and then finishing the job.

Iowa’s 17-10 win over Northwestern was no prettier than a billy goat, but there were no goat horns protruding from Hawkeye helmets this day. As good as Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter was at times, he and his team’s offense couldn’t do what it did to Iowa last year. Not even close.

The role-reversal is complete from an autumn ago. Northwestern has lost four straight games and is sideways. Iowa is 5-3 and still in pursuit of a satisfying season.

“Everyone was just yelling, throwing people around,” said Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens about the postgame scene in his team’s locker room. “It was crazy.”

That would have been an apt description of how he and his teammates defended. Six sacks. Six other tackles for losses. A forced fumble and an Iowa recovery on Northwestern’s last real possession of the fourth quarter to stop the Wildcats at the 50.

And, the salty four-play stand that stopped the ‘Cats from matching Iowa’s overtime score, a gutsy 8-yard TD pass from Jake Rudock to C.J. Fiedorowicz on 3rd-and-7 as Wildcat safety Ibraheim Campbell was zooming right at him on a blitz.

“Jake was about to get hit really hard,” marveled Iowa linebacker James Morris, who had two sacks and a fumble-recovery. “That (play) was great.”

But most of the great plays this day were defensive. The last one was Iowa defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat swinging and missing at Colter on a bull rush, and falling down, then Colter eluding linemen Ott and Carl Davis.

OK, that part wasn’t great for Iowa. But then Trinca-Pasat got back up and chased down Colter for a sack to end the game.

What also was great was a pass-breakup by first-year freshman cornerback Desmond King on the next-to-last play. Colter’s throw to Desmond Buckley looked like money momentarily, but King played it like a pro to force 4th-and-8 instead of allowing a 1st-and-goal.

As a first-year player, King can’t speak for himself per Coach Kirk Ferentz’s rules. So some of his teammates spoke for him, or rather, they raved about him.

“I feel like he could play both ways, defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “I’ve watched him run routes this summer. He’s very athletic, very quick, and I know he can cut on a dime.”

Receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said he knew King had the goods “from the first practice I saw him. He was smart, athletic. He just has a hunger to him. I saw that just the way he moved around, the attitude he played with, the confidence he played with.”

King gave a verbal commitment to Ball State. Then Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker went to King’s Detroit high school to persuade to visit Iowa. In a meeting with Ferentz, King quickly got the idea he wouldn’t collect much rust if he joined the Hawkeyes.

“He asked how I would feel starting as a true freshman,” King told last winter. “I just told him that I wanted to contribute to the program as soon as possible. He said I had an offer.”

Without that one addition to the lineup, who knows if Iowa stops that pass and ends up keeping Northwestern out of the end zone to force a second overtime? Who knows if Iowa wins this game? Who knows what happens to this season?

No, this game wasn’t pretty and won’t be put in any time capsules. But …

“You can’t get losses back,” Martin-Manley said, “and you also don’t have to redo wins.”

Here is the game's final play:

Here's Iowa's overtime touchdown:


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