Iowa football’s offensive line blocks with friendship

Iowa’s offensive line has been one of the best in the country this year thanks to its strengthened friendship.

Iowa+offensive+lineman+Keegan+Render+waits+at+the+line+of+scrimmage+during+the+Iowa%2FMaryland+homecoming+football+game+at+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+20%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Terrapins%2C+23-0.+
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Iowa football’s offensive line blocks with friendship

Iowa offensive lineman Keegan Render waits at the line of scrimmage during the Iowa/Maryland homecoming football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Iowa offensive lineman Keegan Render waits at the line of scrimmage during the Iowa/Maryland homecoming football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Lily Smith

Iowa offensive lineman Keegan Render waits at the line of scrimmage during the Iowa/Maryland homecoming football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa offensive lineman Keegan Render waits at the line of scrimmage during the Iowa/Maryland homecoming football game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Jordan Zuniga, Football Reporter

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It doesn’t take a genius to notice that the No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes are a good team.

One glance at the last three games, in which the Hawkeyes outscored their opponents, 113-47, and clicked in all three phases, says it all.

The offensive explosion has been the story, with Nate Stanley and the passing game getting it done when it needs to, and Ivory Kelly-Martin and the other running backs picking up any slack left behind.

What probably goes unnoticed by many is the stellar play of the offensive line throughout the season.

It’s a veteran group in the middle, with seniors Ross Reynolds and Dalton Ferguson as guards and Keegan Render snapping. On the outside, the line is younger, with sophomores Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson as tackles.

All of them played large chunks of last season, but this season, they’ve blossomed into one of the better lines in college football.

“The offensive line is playing extremely well,” quarterback Stanley said. “I think that goes back to the work that we put in in the offseason.”

The work in the offseason that has helped the most this season didn’t come from inside the weight room but from food runs and movie nights.

“In the offseason, we tried to focus on being a more cohesive team,” Ferguson said. “In years past, we were good, but we weren’t all best friends, and we weren’t all hanging out with each other. I think that’s paid off for us.”

In years past, Iowa’s offensive line has led the way to terrific rushing offenses.

The line showed its ability to do that in the last game, against Maryland, in which the offense put up 224 rushing yards while holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes.

While that game was indicative that the offensive line is perfectly capable of opening up rushing lanes when it needs to, this season has been more about its ability to protect Stanley.

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The Hawkeyes rank first in the Big Ten in fewest sacks allowed, allowing just 6 so far this season, which is almost half as much as the second-best team, Wisconsin, which has allowed 11.

According to Football Outsiders, Iowa ranks ninth in the country in sack rate on passing downs, allowing a sack just 2.6 percent of the time.

Given that, it’s no wonder Stanley has had such a great year for the Hawkeyes.

For an underappreciated unit that has been excellent this season, one might think if given the chance, the linemen would hype themselves up a bit.

RELATED: Notables from Week 8 in the Big Ten

However, that is not the case, and that is probably another reason this group has enjoyed so much success.

“There’s plenty of room that we can improve on,” Reynolds said. “Those fourth downs — we should be converting on third down in most situations.”

This upcoming week will be a tough one for the big men up front; they will face a Penn State team that is third in the country in sacks per game with 3.57 and have totaled 25 sacks this year.

“Penn State’s defense starts up front,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They’ve got a lot of guys that are challenging to block; it’s going to be a challenge for us, [but] I like the way we’re moving right now.”

 

 

 

 

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