Leaders on Iowa football's defense want Cy-Hawk win to become educational experience
AMES, Ia. — Caught up in the celebratory moments following Saturday’s sensational Cy-Hawk game, Iowa senior Josey Jewell was asked to rate the win against the last two he’d taken part in.
Surely, the star linebacker from Decorah would put the thrilling 44-41 overtime triumph at the top of his personal list, right?
Jewell acknowledged the excitement, but stewed over the performance. One week after an impressive season opener against Wyoming, the Hawkeye defense had allowed 467 yards and 41 points against their in-state rivals, making the trip to Ames an educational experience for the games ahead.
“It was a pretty good game. It was a team victory,” Jewell said. “Otherwise, this one I’ll probably remember a little more, because when you screw up as much as I did and screw up as much as our defense did, you’ve got to remember the things you did wrong in order to improve them.
“I think today was a good learning opportunity for us.”
All three levels of Iowa (2-0) defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s unit walked out of Jack Trice Stadium with obvious areas for improvement. The Cyclones (1-1) ran around and occasionally right through a sizable front seven that controlled Wyoming and NFL quarterback prospect Josh Allen in Week 1.
Jewell received national and Big Ten defensive honors after recording 14 tackles and two sacks in that 24-3 win, but after seven stops in an effort he called, “atrocious,” and admitting to, “getting trucked,” by ISU running back David Montgomery, the captain was shouldering the blame.
“I can become a lot better from this game,” Jewell said. “Tackling-wise, communication-wise, leading-wise. I think this is a game that’s kind of a gut-check for me. I think the defense, too, just to realize we need to play better.”
Iowa State’s offense was fast and efficient in front of 61,500 fans on its home field, running 72 plays with less than 23 minutes of possession against the Hawkeyes. Quarterback Jacob Park picked apart the secondary, with 25 completions going for 347 yards and four touchdowns, including two second-half lobs to a wide-open Hakeem Butler for scores.
Iowa’s inexperienced secondary got strong performances from cornerbacks Josh Jackson and Michael Ojemudia — who appears to have supplanted preseason starter Manny Rugamba with the top unit — and safety Jake Gervase, but Iowa State scored on all five of its red-zone visits one week after Wyoming wasn’t even allowed inside the 20-yard line.
“With better communication we would have done a lot better in the back end,” Jackson said. “It still was still a fun challenge to play in a big game like this. Those receivers are big and physical.”
Jackson was credited with six tackles and three pass breakups in the win. He said Iowa didn’t change its coverage plan to stop the Cyclones after they scored touchdowns on three consecutive series to take a 31-21 lead.
The defensive backs needed to internally dig deeper.
“We just had to stay on our man,” Jackson said. “That was really the only adjustment: Cover better.
“This definitely made us grow up a lot.”
In a well-played game with few blatant miscues, Park’s fourth-quarter interception to Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse stood out. The redshirt junior from Waukon rose for the game’s only turnover and set up a game-tying field goal with 5 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in regulation.
Cy-Hawk takeaways:Hesse's huge play, Boettger's bad injury, a new punt returner
Iowa eventually chose to play defense first in the overtime period and was rewarded with a stop after Hesse’s unit saw receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette and running back Akrum Wadley keep the game alive on offense.
“We kind of drew a line in the sand, like, ‘We can’t play this way. We’ve got to buckle up and win this game,’” Hesse said.
“Ihmir’s touchdown catch, that was an unbelievable play. Akrum’s touchdown in the fourth quarter, unbelievable effort. When you’re on the sidelines and you see effort like that, guys out there leaving everything on the field to help us win, it’s hard to not respond in a positive way on the other side of the ball.”
Iowa’s defense was good on third down, despite the late drama, as ISU converted just 4 of 14 attempts. However, that included a 3-of-4 run the Cyclones reeled off while flipping the score from 21-10 in favor of Iowa to 31-21, Iowa State.
It wasn’t just that gray-clad home team was converting through Montgomery, Butler and Matthew Eaton, but the ease with which they racked up yards. The Hawkeyes had allowed just 236 yards per game since last November’s embarrassing loss at Penn State, but ISU topped that average in Saturday’s second half alone.
With more spread opponents to come, Iowa hopes to find a quick solution.
“There’s no magic potion,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We had a couple of busts today, and their guys made some great plays. We anticipated that. They’ve got good players.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and see what we see on tape and learn to move forward. It’s all about consistency, in every phase, and that’s what we’ve got to try to get to.”
After an impressive season opener against Wyoming, Iowa’s defense was put on its heels by rival Iowa State on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. Here’s a comparison of the output allowed by the Hawkeye defense from Week 1 to Week 2, including: points allowed, first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, yards allowed per play and turnovers forced.
Week Opponent PA FD Rush Pass Total YPP TO
1 Wyoming 3 15 59 174 233 3.3 2
2 Iowa State 41 22 120 347 467 6.5 1