Hawkeye defense not affected by injury bug

Linebackers and various other defenders have littered the injury report week in and week out for the Hawkeyes, yet the defense continues to impress.

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Hawkeye defense not affected by injury bug

From left: Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tries to tackle Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

From left: Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tries to tackle Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Katina Zentz

From left: Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tries to tackle Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

From left: Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tries to tackle Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Jordan Zuniga, Football Reporter

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Coming off their successful two-game road trip, most of the stories surrounding the Hawkeyes have been about their stellar offensive play.

Those headlines are well deserved; Iowa averaged 45 points a game, and Stanley threw for 634 yards and 10 touchdowns.

What gets lost in the in the middle of the impressive offensive numbers is how well the defense has played even with suffering through the injury bug; three starting linebackers have spent time on the injury list, along with both starting cornerbacks.

That the linebackers have been relatively unaffected by the injuries has been particularly impressive. Entering the season, all the linebackers on the roster had combined for all of one start, and now, almost all of them have seen significant playing time.

Despite their inexperience, the linebackers have done their jobs in limiting the opponents’ running game. Iowa ranks third in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game with just 81.5.

A typical Iowa “next man up” mentality has been the reason for the Hawkeyes not losing a beat no matter who starts.

“All six or seven of us prepare like we’re going to be starting each week,” Djimon Colbert said. “I think as long as we do that and know that we can be thrown in the rotation, it’s nothing when we do get thrown in.”

RELATED: Injured Hawkeyes headline Week 8 of college football

That mindset has infected the whole defense faster than the injury bug. Even such positions as the defensive line, which has stayed relatively healthy, has had numerous players getting a chunk of playing time.

The versatility and depth of the Hawkeye defense is a large factor in the Hawkeyes being able to sustain significant injuries without missing a beat.

“I think it’s just a testament to the number of good football players we have,” Parker Hesse said. “And how well our coaching staff is doing putting us in positions to be successful. We have a lot of guys who when they get out there they can have an impact.”

That shows in numbers — Iowa is fourth in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed, second in sacks, and first in allowing the fewest points in the conference. All that to go along with being fifth in the country in total yards allowed per game, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

With Stanley and the offense putting up some of the best offensive numbers Iowa has ever seen, it’s easy to forget the identity of this Iowa team, which remains its defense.

Injuries have not changed that. Shockingly, the injuries may have strengthened the defense.

Senior Jake Gervase suggested that injuries may have even tightened the team’s chemistry and given the defense a winning attitude.

“Nobody knows when their number is going to be called,” Gervase said. “I think guys who have been in and out of the lineup have done a really good job of putting the team first and understanding if we all have the same mindset, we’re going to just keep getting better and hopefully win more games going forward.”

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