Iowa Football

Iowa 13, Iowa State 3: Defense wins Cy-Hawks

It only feels like the Hawkeyes play 15 defensive linemen at a time

IOWA CITY — You’re probably not going to believe this, but defensive linemen like rushing the passer better than playing the run.

As it turns out, that whole “spotlight is on you” moment after a sack is like football potato chips. One isn’t enough and maybe the whole bag isn’t, either.

Iowa’s defense put the Cyclones in a headlock and still might have a couple helmets under their collective arms.

The Hawkeyes (2-0) held Iowa State (0-1) to 188 yards of offense, its lowest output since 174 against Baylor in 2013 (a span of 55 games), in Saturday’s 13-3 victory before 69,250 fans at Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa didn’t need a lot of offense and it didn’t get it. The Hawkeyes got one drive, a nice, muscular 13-play, 83-yarder in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Nate Stanley broke out of a sluggish performance and completed six of eight passes to fuel the drive that made just about everyone unbuckle their chin straps.

The Hawkeyes beat Iowa State for the fourth straight season, the first time they've won four in a row against the Cyclones since winning 15 consecutive from 1983-97.

Running back Mehki Sargent finished it with a 2-yard run with 4:47 left in the game, and it was back to you the defense back in the studio.

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The Hawkeyes have nine sacks in two games. That’s a lot of the reason why they’re 2-0 going into next week’s game against Northern Iowa (0-1).

Iowa’s defensive line has carried the Hawkeyes across the goal line the first two weeks of the season. Last week, the Hawkeyes held Northern Illinois to 211 yards. This week, Iowa allowed its fewest yards in a game since 180 against Northwestern in 2014.

It was “party at the quarterback.” With the Cyclones down 10 points in the fourth quarter — and with senior quarterback Kyle Kemptknocked out of the game with a leg injury in the third quarter — sophomore defensive end A.J. Epenesa racked up two sacks. Defensive tackle Matt Nelson had one. Linebacker Nick Niemann added another.

“It might be a shock to some people, but that is the general consensus,” senior defensive end Parker Hesse said about playing the pass vs. the run for a D-lineman.

It isn’t just the pass rush that the D-line is providing. Iowa had two first-time starters in the inside linebacker spots. Senior Jack Hockaday stuck after replacing Amani Jones last week. Redshirt freshman Djimon Colbert replaced junior Kristian Welch, who was held out because of injury.

“I think those guys are having fun,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “If we can get the other side of the ball to do the same thing up front, we have a chance to be a pretty decent football team.”

Yeah, Iowa only generated 271 yards. For the second week, it had just three points at halftime. It’s averaging just 3.7 yards a carry.

More Breaking rocks, dousing fires - Iowa defense does it all

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The Hawkeyes on offense are tight end T.J. Hockenson’s lip. In the second quarter, the sophomore took a helmet under the face mask and conducted postgame interviews with stitches under his lip.

The offense looks like it’s trying not to fall on its stitches.

“We’re sporadic,” Ferentz said. “We’re hit or miss right now. We don’t have a rhythm. We haven’t showed sustained (drives). We’ll keep pushing. That’s usually the hardest thing to do. Hardest thing to establish.”

For the second week, the offense did enough. If Iowa’s defense keeps coming, the offense can stay on the bus.

The Hawkeyes held running back David Montgomery to 44 yards on 17 carries, Iowa State’s 19 rushing yards was the fifth fewest allowed during the Ferentz era and the Cyclones’ worst since rushing for 10 yards against Texas last year.

“I thought in the reality of it, in the line of scrimmage where games are still won in this sport, they dominated,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said.

Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker pushed the right buttons on blitzes. Kempt, who finished 15 of 21 for 126 yards, got caught from behind by Epenesa and injured his leg.

The defense came up with the stop on third-and-5 from ISU’s 47 to give the offense another chance to do something. It might’ve gotten its biggest stop on a fourth-and-goal from Iowa’s 1 on the Cyclones’ first drive, a 13-play, 66-yard beauty.

A false start penalty on guard Josh Mueller pushed the Cyclones back and they settled for 3 points. That was as close as the Cyclones got to a touchdown on Saturday and maybe as close as they got to the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

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This is what Iowa’s offense saw from Iowa’s defensive line all fall camp. It probably wasn’t a lot of fun for them, either.

“We see it everyday,” Iowa center Keegan Render said. “We know what those guys are capable of. We know exactly what it’s like. We’ve had meetings where we’ve had to talk about them.”

And now everyone is talking about Iowa’s defensive line.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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