116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Joe Evans is J.
Kaevon Merriweather is K.
“We call each other J-K,” Merriweather said. “We always say, ‘Let’s go have a day.”
Pressure generated from J’s position group — the defensive line — has helped K’s secondary get back on track and have quite the day.
“Having that pressure is what definitely creates turnovers and helps us in the back end,” Merriweather said.
Despite a couple key injuries and a midseason cold spell, the secondary — dubbed the “Doughboyz,” referencing money — is back to experiencing the success that earned national praise in the first six weeks of the season.
The Hawkeyes experienced the letter after J and K — L, for losses — at the same time as Iowa’s secondary hit a lull.
In the team’s back-to-back double-digit losses to Purdue and Wisconsin, Iowa’s secondary didn’t have any interceptions. (Both teams have entered the rankings since beating the Hawkeyes.)
“We got our hands on the ball a few times in the Wisconsin game,” Merriweather said. “We just couldn’t come away with it.”
It was uncharacteristic for a defense that grabbed 16 interceptions in the first six games — almost three per game.
Iowa already had so many interceptions, though, that the Hawkeyes remained first in the FBS in the stat after the cold spell.
Then the group grabbed another three interceptions in Iowa’s 17-12 win over Northwestern last Saturday.
The Iowa secondary’s return to the level of production that jolted the Hawkeyes into their highest ranking in the Associated Press poll since 1985 came despite missing a couple key pieces to the group.
Cornerbacks Riley Moss and Terry Roberts have missed time with injuries. Moss has been out since Oct. 9. Roberts has been out since Oct. 30.
Roberts and Moss have been working as “another set of eyes” on the sideline for Merriweather.
“They can pretty much see everything that we can’t,” Merriweather said. “They’ll be like, ‘Hey, you need to watch this,’ if they do something with their hands or if they make a check.”
But it’s still not the same as being on the field.
“They’re definitely itching to get back to the field,” Merriweather said.
Those injuries boosted Jermari Harris, who was previously Iowa’s fourth-best corner on the depth chart, into a starting role.
“Nobody works harder than him,” safety Jack Koerner said. “Now he’s kind of thrown into the fire, and he’s really responded well, and I couldn’t be happier for him and more proud of him.”
Harris, a sophomore, played in eight games before the 2021 season but recorded stats in just one of those games.
He recorded an important stat in last week’s Northwestern win — his first career interception.
“It was really awesome,” Koerner said. “Especially because I got to see it happen in like slow motion.”
That special feeling isn’t new to the Hawkeyes. While most Big Ten teams don’t even have 10 interceptions in 2021, Harris was the 10th different Hawkeye to grab an interception.
“We had the same excitement for every single person that gets a pick on our defense,” Merriweather said.
The secondary will likely have an extra dough boy on the field against Minnesota. A very productive dough boy, too.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday he expects Moss to play “full throttle” on Saturday for the first time in more than a month.
Before suffering an injury near the end of the first half of Iowa’s Oct. 9 win over then-No. 3 Penn State, he led the FBS in picks. Even after missing seven halves of football, Moss is tied for third in the FBS in interceptions with four.
The “Doughboyz” nickname is the envy of the rest of the defense, including the other half of the “J-K” tandem.
“The D-line, we need to figure something out for a nickname for us,” Evans said. “We haven’t gotten that far yet. … We’ll figure something out.”
Ferentz is in favor of the "Doughboyz” name. He was thinking of the wrong dough at first, though. His mind first went to pastries.
“I thought it was like turnovers,” Ferentz said.
He’s happy with the money meaning of “Doughboyz,” too.
“If they're cashing in on NIL, I'm all for it,” Ferentz said. “Good for them. Capitalist society we live in.”
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