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IOWA CITY — If you want one thing to really, really work for your football team, it might as well be the defensive line.
Through two weeks, that is the Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0). In the opener against Northern Iowa, defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat led the charge with 10 tackles, including three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup. Trinca-Pasat was one of three FBS defensive linemen to record 10-plus tackles and 3-plus tackles for loss in week 1.
In Saturday's heart-hammering 17-13 squeeze over Ball State at Kinnick Stadium, defensive end Drew Ott had a career-high 13 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. His sack and strip of BSU quarterback Ozzie Mann with 25 seconds left sealed that Hawkeyes' victory and allowed the program a collective sigh of relief.
During the week, head coach Kirk Ferentz praised the quiet things that don't end up on the stat sheet Ott does to help the defense. Saturday, the Trumbull, Neb., native made the biggest noise in Kinnick when it mattered the most.
Ott was asked if he's ever had a moment like that on the field. He likely has, because, you know, the math of the eight-man football he played at Giltner High School kind of dictates that.
'I don't exactly, I don't have the best memory,' Ott said. 'I'll have to look that one up.'
Let's try this from a different angle. Simply put, how fun was that?
'It was a good moment,' he said. 'A lot of hard work paid off there. It was an adrenaline rush.'
Wheeling back around to the collective defensive line, yes, the unit has been a shot of adrenaline for the defense and, really, for the team.
As Iowa's offense aimlessly spun its wheels at Kinnick against Ball State — three points until 2:52 left in the fourth quarter, three missed field goals, two fumbles that BSU turned into 10 points — the Hawkeyes' defense spun a web that the Cardinals couldn't wiggle out of.
Iowa held Ball State to just 219 yards of offense. The 3.3 yards a play is the lowest for an opponent in four games, dating back to last season's game against Michigan when Iowa held the Wolverines to 2.77 yards a play.
While the offense bumped into walls, the defense anchored down and, in the end, gave Iowa a chance. A lot of that is the steadiness of the D-line.
'That's probably our best position-wise on the defense, the defensive line,' sophomore cornerback Greg Mabin said. 'Carl [Davis], Louis, Drew, Nate [Meier], Mike [Hardy], all those guys do a tremendous job just making the secondary's job easier.'
The common theme with Iowa's starters on the defensive line is that they've taken hard-earned routes to their spots on the field.
Ott jumped in late his true freshman season and had some tough moments. Davis shed about 30 pounds and didn't see regular playing time until he was a fourth-year junior. Trinca-Pasat nearly quit in 2011 and has now started 26 consecutive games. Meier is an undersized DE trying to grow into a full-service DE. Hardy is an oversized DE trying to make it work on the edge.
Iowa needs continued growth at linebacker and in the secondary. That will take time. For now, the D-line is carrying the weight.
'I think we should be the stone for us the entire season,' Ott said. 'We're the veteran group here. We've been through seasons. We should be able to anchor down for our defense.'
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