Defense leads Iowa in rivalry win

Hawkeye defense sends a battered Cyclone offense back to Ames.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa defensive players celebrate a stop during Iowa's game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, September 8, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones 13-3.

Lucy Rohden

Jordan Zuniga, Football Reporter

Last season, Iowa and Iowa State traded offensive blows, putting up gaudy numbers, ending in a 44-41 overtime victory for Iowa.

In this season’s Cy-Hawk game, the defenses got their revenge — the Hawkeye and Cyclone defenses smothered the opposing offenses, with the Hawkeyes coming away with a 13-3 win.

While motivation is easy to find in a rivalry game, the performance last season was certainly in the back of the Iowa defensive players’ minds.

“They kind of stuck it to us last year on the defensive side of the ball,” Matt Nelson said. “So we wanted to go out and make sure that we went out and got 11 hats to the ball. It was kind of an extra emphasis this year.”

But it didn’t start well for the Hawkeye defense; the Cyclones stormed 66 yards down the field on the first drive with ease all the way to the Iowa 1.

A false start forced Iowa State to kick a field goal, but the air in Kinnick was nervous, anxious about a repeat performance of last year’s game.

That turned out not to be the case; from that first Cyclone drive on, the real Iowa defense stood up.

After the initial drive, the Hawkeye defense held Iowa State to just 122 yards of total offense the rest of the way.

A lot of the turnaround defensively came from the Iowa front seven.

Last season, Cyclone running back David Montgomery exposed the Hawkeye defense with 166 yards of total offense; he racked up a paltry 59 yards on Sept. 8.

Stifling the ground game helped force the Cylcone offense into a lot of third-and-long situations, which Iowa took advantage of, holding Iowa State to 4-of-14 on third downs.

Missed tackles were the story of last year’s game for the Hawkeye front seven, which made that the focus heading into this season’s contest.

“We put a lot of emphasis on tackling,” A. J. Epenesa said. “Wrapping up and bringing [Montgomery] to the ground. One of the basics of football is tackling, and that’s what we had to do tonight.”

Montgomery wasn’t the only Iowa State player to be terrorized by the Iowa front seven — the Hawkeye D kept Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt hearing footsteps all game long.

He was sacked three times before exiting the game, and Epenesa had a strip-sack on Iowa State backup Zeb Noland to seal the game.

Even when the Hawkeye front seven failed to get to the quarterback, it was effective in helping shut down the talented Iowa State receivers.

“When they’re applying pressure, it makes it way easier for us in the backfield,” Amani Hooker said.

The terrific defensive performance from the Hawkeyes was certainly something to get Iowa fans excited, but it also sparked confidence in the offense.

“They’re playing extremely well,” Nate Stanley said. “Having that defense play the way that they did gives us a lot of confidence that we’re playing team football and that everybody has each other’s back.”

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