Defensive gaps lead to loss against Northwestern

Iowa’s defense was once the most dependable area of the team, but after faltering two weeks in a row, it’s time to make major adjustments.


David Harmantas

Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse (40), Iowa defensive end Matt Nelson (96), and Iowa defensive end Sam Brincks (90) look back towards their bench during a game against Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Kinnick Stadium. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 14-10.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa’s defense turned leaky for the Northwestern running game, and that ultimately led to a momentum shift in the wrong direction for the Hawkeyes in Kinnick on Nov. 10.

The defense was strong in the first half, keeping the game close and maintaining a 3-0 lead. Going into halftime, Northwestern had merely 75 yards of total offense.

The Hawkeyes had expected a heavy pass scheme from the Wildcats, but in the first half, quarterback Clayton Thorson threw only 10 times with 5 completions.

In the running game, Isaiah Bowser collected 46 yards on 9 carries, but Thorson lost 12 yards on sacks by Amani Hooker and Chauncey Golston.

In the second half, things shifted, and Northwestern took control of the Iowa defense.

“They had some good scheme plays against our defense,” safety Jake Gervase said. “We knew coming into it they were a solid offense in both the run and the pass game. They had some good plays schemed up that hit us with some big yards here and there.”

A shift in the Wildcats’ game plan gave them a big advantage out of the halftime gate. They almost doubled their passing yards and had 150 rushing yards in the final 30 minutes.

Two interceptions in the third quarter proved that Iowa’s defense was locked in on Northwestern’s passing game, but the running game was a different story.

Bowser alone had 165 of those yards, including a big 34-yard, momentum-shifting run through the middle of Iowa’s defense that resulted in 7 points.

“There are just a few plays in the game that decide it, and you never know which one it’s going to be,” defensive end A.J. Epenesa said. “We’ve got to show up and play every play like it’s [that one].”

Defending Northwestern’s game was all about sticking to the coverage they had planned for the Hawkeyes and adjusting when it mattered most.

But the “little” mistakes, such as allowing Bowser to run through the middle of the defense for the touchdown, determined the game.

“We had a couple gaps on cover a couple times, and their guy ran, the kid ran the ball really hard, guys up front did a good job,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And they stretch it out a little bit, so you got to make some choices on how you want to fill those gaps. But when we did leave one open, they hit it pretty well.”

Northwestern’s advantage came from being able to move downfield quickly by taking advantage of the holes in the defense.

“We practiced with everything they had,” Epenesa said. “I know I got caught in a spot where I was kind of stuck in the middle when I should have had the quarterback. I got there late, but they got the first down. We’ve got to finish, and that’s an example of me not finishing and doing my job.”