Can Hawkeyes' shoddy rush defense be fixed?
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the second straight week, Iowa's defense was smashed and gashed on the ground.
And don't let Saturday's final score – Maryland 38, Iowa 31 – fool you into thinking it was close.
The Terrapins rushed for 212 yards, enabling them to seize control of the game even with starting quarterback C.J. Brown missing much of the second half with an injury.
"I feel like we tried hard," defensive tackle Carl Davis said, "but it wasn't hard enough."
The Hawkeyes gave up an eye-popping 316 rushing yards the previous week in a 45-29 win over Indiana.
So if you're keeping track, that's 528 total yards at an average of 6.2 yards per carry the past two Saturdays.
"One game was a concern, but now two," coach Kirk Ferentz conceded, "I'm not going to call it a crisis, but we're not going to win moving forward if we can't stop the run."
What may be most alarming is Iowa's shoddy tackling.
Brown made a habit of shaking off sacks and then scurrying upfield to pick up first downs.
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound senior finished with 99 rushing yards.
"I feel alright," Brown said. "A little sore, a little beat up. But it feels better after getting that win."
The Hawkeyes were trailing 17-14 early in the third quarter when Brown took a hit from cornerback Desmond King.
"It scared me," said Brown, who returned in the fourth quarter. "The whole right side of my back tightened up and locked up."
He was replaced by Perry Hills, who had not played in two seasons.
"I'm a little rusty, but I should have prepared better," Hills said. "Two years is a while, but it's like riding a bicycle."
The Hawkeyes were sort of let off the hook when the Hoosiers lost their starting quarterback. That wasn't the case Saturday.
Hills found his grove on a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, pushing Maryland's margin to 24-14.
"I got some real key blocks," said Diggs, who finished with nine catches for 130 yards. "(Linemen) got out to make some key blocks in my favor."
It was a pivotal moment, and Iowa's defense failed to seize it.
Not only did they relinquish an early 14-0 lead, the Hawkeyes missed a chance to rally during Brown's absence.
"We're a quality defense when we want to be," safety John Lowdermilk said. "Today, we just didn't show up."
Davis echoed that sentiment.
"It's just little things, being out of place," he said. "Just not executing what we need to do.
"We've got to be more physical up front, get off blocks."
Can the problems be fixed?
Iowa gets this week off before hosting Northwestern on Nov. 1, with run-heavy Wisconsin and Nebraska set to visit Kinnick Stadium later in the month.
"I think it's a focus thing," said Lowdermilk, who finished with nine tackles. "Know where your leverage is, and where you're help is coming from."
Davis added a blunt bit of insight.
"Tackling is attitude," he said. "We've got to make sure we're wrapping up and putting a hit on people."