What Saturday's victory tells us about the Iowa defense

Andrew Logue
Iowa's Louis Trinca-Pasat sacks Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian in the first half Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – The intangible benefits of Iowa's defensive dominance will extend beyond Saturday.

If the Hawkeyes ever need a pick-me-up, they'll get a psychological lift from their 48-7 rout of Northwestern.

"Now that we've been there, if things ever start going south, we can sort of reflect on this moment," defensive end Drew Ott said. "Hopefully, that will bring us back."

It was a statistical performance worth remembering.

Iowa, which improved to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten, allowed 55 total yards in the first half.

At one point, the Hawkeyes had more touchdowns (five) than the Wildcats had first downs (four).

And while the defense was recording eight tackles for loss, Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian completed just eight of his 18 passes for 68 yards.

RECAP:Joy returns to Kinnick as Iowa routs Northwestern

"This is the real Iowa defense," linebacker Quinton Alston said. "We went back, straight to the fundamentals. I felt like that bodes well for us."

The Hawkeyes were gouged in their previous two games, allowing a total of 528 rushing yards and 67 points.

Northwestern ran for a modest 105 yards, averaging 2.4 per carry. The Wildcats' only touchdown came after a mishandled snap by punter Dillon Kidd gave them possession at Iowa's 18-yard line.

"I thought we were playing hard as a team," Ott said, "and everybody was doing their job."

Of course, even a mauling needs some sort of context.

Let's not forget Northwestern's offense ranked 13th (second-to-last) among Big Ten schools with 351.4 yards and 20.9 points per game.

Siemian lacks the mobility of past Wildcats passers, and his teammates have lost their mojo.

"I think it's a multitude of things," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We've got to win one-on-one battles. We've got to win on the outside.

"We have to do some more things schematically, situationally to try and get guys open."

In other words: The Wildcats' offense is a shambles.

So, what did Iowa really learn about its defense?

"You learn about your team no matter what the situation is, good, bad or indifferent," Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I thought today we retained our focus and kept thinking about the right things in the second half."

Tackling was an emphasis the past two weeks. And for the most part, Iowa did a better job of corralling, covering and keeping a grip on speedy perimeter players.

"We haven't been performing lately how we should be," safety John Lowdermilk said. "But today we really stepped it up and tackled a lot better."

They also received a boost from linebacker Travis Perry, who started in place of Reggie Spearman, who was suspended after being charged with OWI last weekend.

Perry finished with five tackles. Freshman linebacker Josey Jewell made six.

"I think they were hungry," Ott said. "They were hustling to the ball. They were making plays.

"Hats off to them."

It's now a matter of maintaining that hunger, starting with this week's trip to Minnesota.