Hawkeye defense dominating in Terrapin shellacking

Iowa's defense did it all against Maryland on Oct. 20,, shutting out the Terrapins and setting season-best marks.


Katie Goodale

Anthony Nelson recovers a fumble and scores a touchdown during the Iowa vs. Maryland game at Kinnick stadium on Saturday Oct. 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

Backed up at his own 10-yard line, Maryland backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome took a snap. One of his receivers had gone into motion seconds before and collided with the Terrapin signal caller. The ball rolled into the middle of the end zone, and Iowa defensive lineman Anthony Nelson recovered for a quick 6.

It was that kind of day for the Maryland offense.

The Terrapins ran just 39 plays — the fewest allowed by Iowa in the Kirk-Ferentz era — and held the ball for just 19:05, meaning the Hawkeyes had the ball for almost 41 minutes, which is the largest time-of-possession differential under Ferentz.

Oh, and the Hawkeyes pitched a shutout.

“We definitely [wanted] to keep the zero up there,” defensive lineman Parker Hesse said. “That’s something that’s kind of a feather in your cap.”

Iowa’s defense is good. There’s no way around it.

Maryland’s 0 points are (unsurprisingly) a season-low. That’s the fourth time this season in which an Iowa opponent scored its season-low point total against the Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes allowed just 115 yards of total offense on Oct. 20, the fewest they’ve given up not only all season long but the fewest by a Big Ten opponent under Ferentz (fourth-fewest all-time during his 20 seasons, too). Prior to the Maryland game, Iowa’s fewest yards allowed came against Iowa State.

Maryland managed just 47 passing yards. The Terrapins don’t throw the ball often — they went into Iowa City averaging just 17 attempts per game from starting quarterback Kasim Hill, but Iowa’s defense never gave up any sort of space through the air.

Maryland’s bread and butter is the running game, but apparently the bakery and the dairy were closed. The Terps’ ground game had barely any room to breathe in Kinnick.

“They throw a lot at you,” linebacker Kristian Welch said. “They have three really good backs, and you have to prepare for that and know what kind of personnel is in the game.”

Maryland’s 68 yards on the ground were the fourth-highest (or fewest, depending on your outlook on life) allowed by Iowa this season. Previously, the Hawkeyes allowed 6 against Northern Iowa, 19 against Iowa State, and 67 against Indiana last week.

Many of the players on Iowa’s defense credited the success to the coaching staff’s game plan, but almost all attributed the scout team as one of the main reasons for their ability to come into the Maryland game with an excellent idea of just what exactly the Terrapins were going to throw their way.

“The whole entire scout team does a good job … the reason we win games and the reason we play well is because of the scout team,” defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa said. “They have a job, and they embrace it.”

And just as the scout team embraced its role, so did the Hawkeyes stepping up for their injured teammates. Linebacker Nick Niemann returned after missing time following an injury he suffered against Wisconsin, but freshman cornerbacks Riley Moss and Julius Brents started for the third game in a row in the stead of injured Michael Ojemudia and Matt Hankins.

For Iowa, the next-man-up mentality keeps the defensive unit energized for new challenges every week.

“We stole the term ‘next man in’ from the Broncos when Mike Shanahan was coaching … so it’s hardly unique or new, but that’s really what football is about,” Ferentz said. “… So for the guys to jump in and it doesn’t seem like it affects anybody else, that’s a big thing. Other guys aren’t worried because so-and-so is not in there, we’re just playing, and we’re playing together, and they help each other out. It’s gratifying to watch that taking place.”

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