The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa defense misses Jewell, comes up short yet again

Ben Smith
Iowa’s Ben Niemann signals for an Iowa turnover during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Oct. 21. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

By Courtney Baumann

[email protected]


EVANSTON, Illinois — Iowa fans received some bad news the morning of Oct. 21 before kickoff: both Josey Jewell and Brandon Snyder would sit out the game against Northwestern.


Two weeks ago, Snyder returned to the field for the first time since tearing his ACL during spring camp, and it looked as though the junior would be set to keep his starting position at defensive back.


That was not the case, though, as Snyder missed his sixth game of the season after what could be a knee sprain sustained in practice.


Jewell, on the other hand, missed his first game since 2014 — the senior middle linebacker had started 37-consecutive games before being sidelined in Evanston.


Though the Iowa defense had adjusted in the first few games in Snyder’s absence, it had a huge challenge trying to fill the hole that Jewell left in the middle of the field. Ben Niemann took over for Jewell, but it was a major adjustment from his typical outside-linebacker position.


“It’s a whole different world. Just being in the box and laying against an offensive line, seeing pullers, seeing the path of the back, all that compared to me usually being in space, jamming receivers,” Niemann said. “It’s two totally different positions.”


While the defense remained strong through most of the game, it was the breakout plays the team preaches on stopping that caused the damage — particularly when it came to Northwestern running back Justin Jackson.


Iowa has seen Jackson plenty of times. The senior has played nearly every game since 2014, and although it was the Hawkeyes’ fourth time playing him, they still had trouble containing him.


Jackson rushed for 93 yards and added 38 more through the air, with the most devastating play coming on third and 9 in overtime. Quarterback Clayton Thorson floated a short pass into Jackson’s hands, who then dashed 23 yards to put Northwestern to the 1-yard line.


Niemann seemed to be the player who was supposed to cover Jackson, but the line got shuffled around, and the Hawkeyes lost communication on who would cover whom.


“It was just miscommunication, I was supposed to be lined up where I was originally, and then we just miscommunicated in the back end,” Niemann said. “It was just me and him in open field, and I have to make that play. It was bad communication, but it comes down to me, regardless. I was there, and I just didn’t make the tackle.”


Perhaps the toughest part of it all was the fact that the defense held the Wildcats to just 10 points in regulation but still lost. The tale was so similar to what the story has been during the course of 2017. Iowa’s third loss of the season is also its third loss by a single score.


Defensive end Matt Nelson iterated that the defense needs to work on itself in the last quarter, because so many games have been decided by late-game plays.


“We just need to finish games, finish plays, finish drives. Just be finishers,” Nelson said. “All three losses are on the last possession or [in] one-possession games. We just need to finish the game.”


It is something that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz also noted. He stressed the need to make more plays to close out games as well.


“We’ve had three games where we’ve come up short; two of them were a touchdown, one of them less than that,” Ferentz said. “Those are the things we’re going to have to improve on. We’re going to have to find a way to do a little better and be a little more detailed and find a way to make a few more plays during the course of the game.”

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