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Home / Team meeting time for Iowa defense
IOWA CITY - The tried-and-true 'team meeting” happened this week with the Hawkeyes.
On Monday, defensive players met, watched game film and tried to reacquaint themselves with the idea of team defense. You can scoff at the notion of the 'team meeting” and the cliche that it's become in sports, but if you follow Iowa, you saw last weekend and you're not rolling your eyes at anything.
'It was ‘hey look, we need to go through these calls, whoever can make it, make it.' People have class, so ...,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said Tuesday. 'We just want to correct some things. We have high aspirations for this season. We want to fix what's broken.”
Last weekend's 51-14 loss at Minnesota triggered the hour-and-a-half meeting. It was the third time in four games that the Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) allowed more than 400 yards of offense. They don't want that streak to grow this weekend at Illinois (4-5 1-5), which, like Minnesota, is coming off a bye and will have schemes especially tailored for the Hawkeyes.
This, by the way, will be the fourth consecutive team coming off a bye week that the Hawkeyes have faced.
'We seem to be the object of quirks, I guess,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, referencing the fact that Iowa has started its Big Ten season on the road 12 times in Kirk Ferentz's 16 season as head coach. 'But we're not the lone ranger. It's like anything, if you want to use that as a crutch, you can use it, but it still gets down to who plays the best Saturday.”
That's what Monday's defensive meeting was about. Usually, the defense breaks down into the line, linebackers and secondary to breakdown film. All three groups met together Monday afternoon. Iowa plays a strict team concept on defense and Monday was the time to make sure each of the pieces knew what the other was doing.
'It was good to hear what the D-line kind of talks about when they watch it, what the linebackers talk about when they watch it and they heard what we kind of talk to each other about,” strong safety John Lowdermilk said. 'I think it was good and we all worked well together.
'We don't always know what the linebackers are going to do in certain situations and so I think it was good for us to hear what they're sort of thinking certain things and for them to hear what we kind of see. It kind of clicks on the field.”
Iowa's defense forced just two three-and-outs against the Gophers, tying its lowest mark of the season. The Hawkeyes stopped Minnesota three-and-out on its second possession and then didn't force another until 2:37 left in the fourth quarter.
Also, it was the fifth time that Iowa allowed 400-plus yards of offense. Last season, that happened just three times. It was the sixth time this year Iowa allowed an offense to gain more than 5.0 yards per play. Last season, that happened five times in 13 games.
Of course, last season Iowa had three senior linebackers who ended up in the NFL in Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris. This year, the linebackers are new. Quinton Alston is a first-year starter as a senior. Bo Bower is a former walk-on and a redshirt freshman. Josey Jewell, who will get his first career start against the Fighting Illini, also is a redshirt freshman.
'We're not as good at linebacker as we were a year ago,” Ferentz said. 'We knew that in August. We knew it in January. And so that's part of the deal. We're probably a little bit better up front, so that's college football. You're always having change and evolution, if you will. We still have an opportunity to play good team defense and that's what we have to do.”
Of course, the quick thought is how much yelling was done? No yelling, it was more of a refocusing.
'The reason we did it was to make sure everyone was on the same page and we're all together,” Alston said. 'We don't want a group of people over here who are just within themselves and another group over here. We have to make sure everyone is together, especially in times like this. In adverse situations, you can't have groups of people going in each and every direction. We need everyone going in the same direction. We wanted to make sure everybody doesn't stray.”
If the defense needed a team meeting, what did the offense need? A seance? It was just as bad at Minnesota and has just as much if not more proving to do this weekend in Champaign, where Iowa will meet Illinois for the first time since 2008.
The Hawkeyes' 2.8 yards a carry against the Gophers was a season low. The 121 passing yards was Iowa's lowest since 92 in the 2012 season finale against Nebraska. For the second time this season, the Hawkeyes allowed four sacks and Iowa QBs Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard were hit many more times.
This could be a problem against the Illini, a team that, Ferentz said, uses blitzes a high percentage of plays.
To be successful you have to protect,” Ferentz said. 'You've got to give the quarterback time to get his feet set and go through his reads and progressions, if there are some. It all goes together. We've got to run better routes, get free better and catch the ball when it's there.”
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