Iowa’s secondary and defense gave the offense a chance against Michigan

The Hawkeye defense shut down 10 third-down conversion attempts to keep Iowa’s 10-3 loss to Michigan close.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Iowa defensive back Geno Stone attempts to intercept a pass during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes 10-3.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

Going into the Oct. 5 matchup against Michigan, one of the biggest areas of concern for Iowa was its secondary.

But at the end of the day, the Wolverines tallied only 147 passing yards and didn’t score a touchdown through the air. Safety Geno Stone came away with an interception, and the Hawkeyes’ 10-3 loss in Ann Arbor was far from being on the defense. 

Despite allowing a long 51-yard pass, Wolverine quarterback Shea Patterson’s second-longest pass of the year, Iowa held Michigan to its lowest passing total of the season, 112 yards less than Wisconsin allowed Sept. 21. 

“We just did our daily disciplines, stopping the run, and limiting the people in the air and throwing the ball,” Stone said. “We only gave up one big play for real. Besides that, we stopped the run really well and played our Iowa defense, getting three-and-outs a lot.”

Patterson completed 14-of-23 pass attempts, his lowest completion total of the season.

On one of those pass attempts, Stone leaped up to steal the ball out of the air from a receiver that was a few yards behind him. 

“He definitely makes us better,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He does have a knack of doing good things out there, and we’re thrilled he’s on our football team. He’s playing really well for us right now.”

Stone’s success and his drive to stay on the football field despite a few ankle tweaks earlier in the season, along with the injuries Iowa has been riddled with thus far, has created a solid foundation to the secondary. 

“It’s good to have a veteran like that back there that can help out, and I think he’s coming on to it,” Ferentz said.

Stone and cornerback Michael Ojemudia held down Michigan’s receivers on Oct. 5.

Ojemudia was burned in the first quarter, but when Iowa’s secondary faltered, the defensive line stepped up and held the Wolverines scoreless in the final three frames of the game.

Michigan’s offense wasn’t the only one held to low yardage. Nate Stanley and Company were held to 1 rushing yard and relied heavily on the defense to get the ball back.

“We just try to pick everyone up when you see that happening,” Stone said. “Tell the offense we’re going to get the ball back in their hands, get them going, try to get the momentum going on the other side of the ball or even try to get turnovers and get the ball yourself.”

The defense did its job in terms of handing Stanley the ball back quickly. Michigan only converted three third downs out of 13 chances.

The Hawkeye defense left the offense with good field position too, as Michigan punted eight times and averaged 45.6 yards per punt. It still failed to place a ball within the 20-yard line. 

Iowa’s defense will likely only get stronger with the return of players nursing injuries very soon. Julius Brents didn’t start against Michigan but was practicing in the week leading up to the game, signaling a possible return as soon as Saturday against Penn State. 

Pairing Iowa’s defense with an offense that has seen success in both the running and passing games makes it a dangerous threat in the Big Ten, especially going into tests against Penn State, Purdue, and Northwestern before traveling to Wisconsin. 

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