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A list of who the Hawkeye football team will face this season. Tyler Davis/The Register

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s base defense was too much for Northern Illinois to handle Saturday.

Way too much.

From the beginning of the game — when forced onto the field after a blocked punt left the Huskies at Iowa’s 23-yard line — to the end — when the Huskies seemed eager to get off the field with all their limbs intact — the Hawkeye defense dominated. And got better as the game wore on, until being replaced by second-stringers who gave up a late touchdown.

It should have been the 10th shutout of coach Kirk Ferentz’s 20-year tenure. Instead, it was a 33-7 win before an announced crowd of 67,510 at Kinnick Stadium. It was Ferentz’s 144th victory as leader of the Hawkeyes, moving him past Hayden Fry for the most in program history.

The defense carried the day the way it often has — by sticking to the basics and simply performing them so well that an opponent slowly lost its will to compete.

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Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker made only one significant change in his personnel — benching starting middle linebacker Amani Jones in favor of senior Jack Hockaday early on. He rotated six defensive linemen, and they produced four sacks. He never used a nickel package in passing downs. There was no need.

Iowa’s offense was much slower to find its footing. So the defense kept giving it shorter and shorter fields to work with in the second half.

The Hawkeye touchdown drives consumed 58 yards, then 46, 26 and finally 35. That’s a luxury any offense would enjoy.

The big question leading into the 2018 season centered around Iowa’s linebacking corps. Starters Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower all graduated, leaving a massive void.

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It was thought that Jones would be the new leader of a new group. Instead, the junior had some rough moments early on Saturday, especially in run defense. Hockaday, the forgotten man among Iowa linebackers, came in and steadied things.

Flanking him, Kristian Welch and Nick Niemann each had outstanding games. Welch had a team-high 11 tackles before losing his helmet on one play and having to leave the game. He also broke loose for a free shot at Northern Illinois quarterback Marcus Childers, who bounced backward out of Welch’s grasp, but then dropped the football and fell on it. It was a feeble exercise that epitomized the Huskies’ offense on this day.

Amani Hooker, Iowa’s strong safety, had an interception to snuff out one drive. He recorded a fourth-quarter safety. Free safety Jake Gervase was excellent against both the run and pass.

Up front, defensive end Parker Hesse delivered two sacks. Anthony Nelson had another. A.J. Epenesa jarred Childers so violently that the football squirted loose and was leapt on by Chauncey Golston.

Parker dialed up a few linebacker blitzes. Otherwise, he just sat back and let his defense go to work.

And the Hawkeyes did. They were basically perfect.

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