IOWA CITY — Yes, the longer that zero hangs on the scoreboard during games, the more it gets the attention of the defense.
After a day the opponent ran two plays on their side of the field, with one of those being an interception, the No. 22 Hawkeyes still got weird about that zero late in Saturday’s 23-0 victory over Maryland.
“We always want to close the door,” said safety Amani Hooker, whose second-quarter interception washed out the Terrapins’ best push on the Hawkeyes. “We don’t want to let anyone score. If they don’t score, we usually win the game. That’s our goal.”
It wasn’t a matter of “if” that zero was going to stick. Defensive superlatives flowed out of this one like the keg at your tailgate.
Maryland gained just 115 yards, the fewest Iowa has allowed against a Big Ten opponent during head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons. Maryland’s 39 plays were the fewest plays against a Ferentz team. This was Iowa’s 10th shutout of the Ferentz era.
“Again, I think it’s all about the approach,” Ferentz said. “The guys are taking a good approach, and they’re hungry to do well.”
Maryland brought a tricky rush attack to Kinnick Stadium. With a wind that gusted to more than 20 mph and a passing offense that wasn’t much to begin with, the Terps were barely one dimensional.
They did break the 100-yard mark until a meaningless drive in garbage time.
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“We have a lot of confidence and that’s coming from preparation during the whole week,” Hooker said. “If you have a good week of practice, that adds up. Then, Saturday is the one day you can have fun, just play around and fly around.”
The Hawkeyes held Maryland to three three-and-outs. One side benefit of all this was fantastic field position for the Hawkeyes, obviously something for Iowa to lean on with Saturday’s wind.
The 115 yards also was the fewest allowed by Iowa since Ball State managed just 112 in a 2010 Iowa victory.
Does the defense get extra dessert or something for a shutout?
“I don’t know, but I will definitely let you know,” said defensive lineman Parker Hesse, who had a sack among his two tackles for loss. “I guess we haven’t had a shutout this year, so I don’t know.”
This was Iowa’s first shutout since a 28-0 victory at Illinois in 2016.
And just so you know, the answer is yes. When the defense has a zero on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, yes, of course, the defense wants to land that plane with the zero.
“Absolutely,” said defensive end Anthony Nelson, who recovered a fumble in the Maryland end zone for his first career TD with 3:31 left in the third quarter. “First and foremost, we want to win the game. But if we can shut them out, that’s just a good feeling, a big boost for our defense. It’s a result of playing well and getting after it.”
So, the answer is yes. When you see a defense still sweating into the fourth quarter with a lead and a zero on the scoreboard, it is very much about preserving the shutout.
“I don’t want to say it’s not a goal,” linebacker Kristian Welch said. “It’s kind of a byproduct of playing well. It’s not the focus, but if it ends up at the end of the game and they have no points, I guess we did our job.”
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