Iowa Football

Iowa defense knows it must be better this year against Iowa State and its offensive weapons

Iowa State running back David Montgomery runs as Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell makes the tackle at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa State running back David Montgomery runs as Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell makes the tackle at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — They don’t have much tape from this season to watch. Five plays, to be exact.

But members of the Iowa defense have plenty from 2017 available of Saturday’s opponent. One game, in particular, might have been played on a loop this week.

Let’s just say it was not the best of performances for the Hawkeyes defensively in last season’s 44-41 overtime win at Iowa State. It was perhaps their worst.

The point total was the most Iowa allowed in a game. The yardage total of 467 was second most.

These guys were exposed, they know it and vow not to have it happen again.

“We gave up more points and big plays than we wanted to,” said Iowa safety Jake Gervase. “Fortunately, our offense picked us up. We’re excited for the opportunity to kind of play a better defensive game this year. They’ve got a challenging offensive pace, but we’re excited for the opportunity.”

Iowa State’s Jacob Park passed for 347 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s thriller. Hakeem Butler caught five passes for 128 yards and two scores.

Park left ISU in the middle of last season and was replaced at QB by Kyle Kempt. Iowa doesn’t have any first-hand knowledge of his abilities but what it has seen on tape has impressed it.

“His patience,” Iowa safety Amani Hooker said. “He understands the offense, knows where he wants to go, who he wants to get the ball to. He has receivers that go up and get it when he throws it up. He’s a good quarterback.”

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Butler, on the other hand, is a different story. At 6-foot-6, he is a defensive back’s nightmare.

The Hawkeyes definitely know that.

“We just have to trust our guys,” Gervase said. “They’ve got bigger-bodied receivers that can block on the perimeter and can go out and make plays in the passing game. We just have to trust in our preparation and trust our guys who are out there covering them. If everyone is doing their job, we’re going to be all right.”

Then there’s this guy named David Montgomery. The junior running back had 112 yards rushing and a touchdown last year and caught five passes for 53 yards.

He’s a problem ... for every ISU opponent.

“I told our guys, I don’t know that we’ll see a better back this season,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I don’t know who’s out there, but we’re going to see good players. We always do in our conference. But he’s as good a back as you’re going to face anywhere in the country. It starts with him. First thing about him, he’s tough. He’s a tough, competitive guy, runs extremely hard, and I thought last year when it really counted, that’s when he was at his best. He really kind of, I don’t want to say carried the team, but he sure impacted the game in a really positive way.”

Ferentz said trying to get Montgomery running sideways would be optimal. Iowa players said getting multiple hats to the football when he’s running with it is a must.

The guy is very difficult to bring down solo.

“He is an extremely competitive player. He’s always fighting,” said Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse. “So anytime we can stop him before he really gets started on us, up front on the defensive line, slow him down, get hands on him, get guys to the ball, that’s going to be good for us to try and slow him down.”

“I think one of the things we didn’t do well last year was tackle,” said Iowa defensive tackle Sam Brincks. “Then their running back was really good at breaking tackles. I think getting to the ball is going to be an emphasis for us.”

As mentioned, Iowa State ran five plays last Saturday in its opener against South Dakota State before the game was delayed and eventually canceled by storms. That’s not much to go on.

But these Iowa defenders remember last year ... vividly.

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“We’ve got five plays to look at, but I feel like they’re going to come back with some things they got us with last year,” Hooker said. “We’ll keep watching last year’s film.”

“They had a lot of explosive guys last year and still do, have a lot of them back,” Hesse said. “It comes down to just playing team defense and paying attention to details. There were times where we didn’t do that in that game last year, and, fortunately enough, we were able to come away with a win. This year, we’ve got to be on top of it each and every play.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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