Iowa football’s defensive line remains strong, steady

Iowa’s defense has been one of the best in the country to this point, and the defensive line has played a key role in every game.

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Iowa football’s defensive line remains strong, steady

Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tackles Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.

Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tackles Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.

Lily Smith

Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tackles Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse tackles Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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It’s no secret Iowa’s defense is a colossal part of the team’s success and continues to be one of the best in the country, and there is a key cog in every impressive performance: the defensive line.

The unit has enjoyed success as an important piece in the Hawkeyes’ defensive puzzle. With injuries and shifting occurring week in and week out, the defensive line has been the team’s rock.

The defense has gone up against some of the best running backs in the country including Iowa State’s David Montgomery and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, and it is coming off a game against a Maryland team with shifty schemes and one of the Big Ten’s most explosive playmakers in running back Ty Johnson.

Through it all, the Hawkeyes are tied for second in the country in rushing yards allowed per game, a mere 79.57 yards on the ground against some pretty good competition.

“We’re just doing our job — that’s what it comes down to,” defensive end Parker Hesse said. “There’s no way to try to have people overcompensate within any defensive scheme. You need all 11 people doing what’s asked of them … When the defensive line has had opportunities to make plays, for the most part, we’ve done that.”

Specifically, Hesse came up big against the Terrapins with his best conference game of the season.

The senior from Waukon, Iowa, racked up 5 tackles with 2 for a loss — tying his season-high — and 1 sack.1

RELATED: Hawkeye offense shines against Terrapins

Hesse has often been the unsung end for the Hawkeye defensive line, but he continues to produce solid performances and provide important senior leadership.

“Everything he does is just quality and first-class,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a student of the game, works extremely hard on the mental part. He’s an unbelievable leader in the strength and conditioning program and just a guy everybody in our program looks up to, whether it’s a player, coaching staff, support staff. It’s hard to find a flaw with him. He is really kind of the epicenter of our football team.”

Scoring defensive touchdowns also doesn’t hurt when it comes to building a reputation, and that’s just one more thing the defensive line did in its shellacking of the Terrapins.

Maryland quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome fumbled a handoff in a rare appearance Oct. 20, and the ball bounced its way into the end zone. Defensive end Anthony Nelson seized the advantage, pouncing on the ball for his first-career touchdown and Iowa’s first defensive touchdown of the year.

Nelson, who usually has his name called when it comes to sacking quarterbacks, said it was the easiest touchdown of his career, going back to his high-school days.

“That’s the dream,” Nelson said. “Just have one roll in the back of the end zone with basically nobody around and just able to jump on it. That was a good feeling for sure.

“We had a lot of guys doing their job, and we were executing pretty well. Some small things to clean up, but for the most part, we were able to do our job on defense.”

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