Hawkeye football defense proves dominant nationally

The Hawkeye defense finds itself near the top of a lot of statistical categories early in the season.


Nick Rohlman

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

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

If the first two weeks of Iowa football have shown anything, it’s that the Hawkeye defense is pretty good.

Through the first two games, the defense allowed just 10 points, an average of 5 points a game, good for second-best in the country.

A field goal and a touchdown is all that has gotten through the Iowa defense, and the touchdown was a bit deceptive, given that it occurred in garbage time in the Northern Illinois game against the second team.

Regardless, it’s a pretty spectacular start to the season.

Sure, the first opponent was Northern Illinois, but the Huskies are better than people give them credit for. The Hawkeyes’ second opponent, however, might have the best offense the Hawkeyes will face all season.

Iowa State hung 347 yards on Iowa in 2017, and despite most of those key players returning (and an improvement at quarterback), the Hawkeyes held the Cyclones to just 188 yards of total offense.

What has made the Hawkeye defense so dominant is its success at stopping opponents on both the ground and through the air.

Iowa has allowed just 279 passing yards, which ranks 17th in the nation, and on the ground, it’s allowed a paltry 120 yards, good for seventh in the country. Those two average out to 399 total yards allowed by the defense, and that’s good enough for top five in the country.

It’s been one part of the defense feeding off of the other. The Hawkeyes have done a terrific job on the first few downs smothering the run, which forces their opponents into third-and-long situations. With Iowa’s opponents in bad spots on third down, it’s no wonder the Hawkeyes have also turned a large percentage of those third downs into fourth-down punts.

Iowa ranks 23rd in the nation in opponents’ third-down conversion percentage, holding opponents just 27 percent conversions. That has helped the Hawkeye defense keep drives short, and it also allows the defense to get off the field as quickly as possible to stay fresh.

A fresh defense means a fresh defensive line, which has been arguably the best part of this Iowa defense so far this season. The Hawkeye defensive line has savaged opposing quarterbacks, compiling the second-most sacks in the country with 9.

Perhaps the most impressive part about the sack numbers is that it isn’t just one player that has racked them up; everybody has gotten involved. Six Hawkeyes have each recorded a sack, and they’ve been led by A.J. Epenesa, who has 3 (2 against Iowa State).

While most areas of the defense seem to be clicking on all cylinders, there is one area that could use some improvement.

Through two games, Iowa has only forced 3 turnovers, which isn’t necessarily a bad number, but it puts the Hawkeyes far behind the pace they set last year, when they forced 26 turnovers.

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