In Defense of the Hawkeye Defense

Marc Morehouse laid out some pretty ugly stats on the Hawkeye defense in his article In the end, Iowa will be its defense.  You really can’t deny the numbers so far,

Through seven games, Iowa allows 161.6 rush yards a game. That would be the most for an Iowa defense since 194.3 in 2000. The 23.3 points allowed per game is the highest since 2000 (27.5). The 406.7 yards Iowa has allowed through seven games is the most since, you guessed it, 2000 (440.9).

Since 1933, Iowa defenses have allowed 400-plus yards a game just three times. You can probably throw in the 1998 defense, which allowed 398.9 yards.

The collective records of those teams is (1971, ’98, ’99 and 2000) is 8-37.

I had my concerns about the defense before the season.  We have been loaded and quite frankly spoiled on D for so long.  I can tell you exactly when the run of really good to great Hawkeye D’s started.   It started with group that had very similar statistics to where the Iowa defense stands today.  It was the seventh game of the 2002 season that the Hawkeye defense found an identity that lasted for the better part of 8 seasons.  Leading up to a game against Charles Rogers and MSU, the Iowa defense was soft particularly against the pass.  ISU had exposed a secondary without Benny Sapp, PSU scored 3 TDs in the final 7 minutes and Purdue had over 500 yards of offense.  The Iowa defense was given up over 25 points a game through the first 6 games.  Think about that, Bob Sanders, Derek Pagel, Howard Hodges, Matt Roth, Colin Cole, and Jared Clauss on pace to basically stink.    The ’02 MSU game was one of three fairly recent games that come to mind where a lot of Iowa fans kind of gave up on the Iowa defense before the game even started (’00 Northwestern, ’02 MSU and ’07 Illinois).  I remember before the game, Hawkeyes fans talking about Rogers getting 250 yards against DJ Johnson.  In the end, the whole MSU team had 249.  From that point on, defense became an asset at the University of Iowa.

So what does any of that have to do with the current Hawkeye team?  Nothing really.  However, we are not a bad defense.  This is the third week in a row of playing a team with a bad defense.  So we should know what it looks like. There is only one team left on the schedule that has obviously better defense, MSU.  The Iowa Hawkeyes are currently middle of the pack to below average.  Not Minnesota bad, not Michigan ’09 bad or even ’99 Iowa bad.  The one area the Hawkeyes remain good to above average is scoring D (43rd). With Minnesota this weekend, they can’t really prove anything positive, but they can improve their numbers.   It really starts with getting off the field on 3rd downs.

I don’t think a Bob Sanders or Matt Roth will emerge from the current group, but it still has talent.  They have done their job in the sense that they gave the offense a shot in every game.  Kind of a role reversal of years past.  If the ’04 Hawkeyes can win with historically low rushing production on offense, why not a 10-2 +400 Club Defense.

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