Hawkeye secondary ready for Purdue’s passing attack

Iowa’s defense is coming off of two strong performances against Big Ten teams. The unit will be tested in a different way against Purdue this weekend.


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.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iowa defense has looked stout the past two games against Michigan and Penn State despite the team walking away with losses in both games. The unit will see a different type of challenge against Purdue this week.

The Boilermakers are a very one-dimensional offense, airing it out in the passing game. Purdue averages just under 42 pass attempts per game, and quarterback Jack Plummer is expected to test the Iowa secondary this weekend.

“You know they’re going to throw the ball a lot,” defensive back Geno Stone said. “They’re going to take a lot of shots. So as a defensive player — especially in the secondary — you know you’re going to have a bunch of opportunities to get takeaways, and we haven’t been able to do that the past couple weeks.”

Iowa has been the best defensive teams in the country in recent years as far as compiling takeaways, particularly snagging interceptions.

Through the first half of this season, the takeaways have come often.

“Takeaways are kind of like big plays on offense,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You can try to scheme big plays, obviously. For the most part, they’re just a result of playing well, good execution, aggressive play. I think everybody does certain takeaway drills. The bottom line is it’s usually a matter of good preparation, good reaction on the field, playing well. Sometimes being aggressive.”

Purdue’s biggest standout player on offense — All-American receiver Rondale Moore — is questionable for this weekend’s matchup. Even if Moore doesn’t play, there’s plenty of firepower on the Boilermaker offense.

“They are still a really good receiving corps even without Rondale,” Stone said. “Without him, I think their best receiver is probably the freshman [David Bell]. He’s really good. He does a lot for himself, creates space for himself.

“They’ve got one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten in [Brycen Hopkins]. He’s a Noah Fant-type of player, a really tall guy who is fast. They’ve got a lot of talented guys over there.”

Offensive line looks to improve

Quarterback Nate Stanley has been sacked 10 times in the past two games against Michigan and Penn State.

An offense can’t be fully productive when its signal-caller is getting picked up off the turf after almost every play. The offensive line is emphasizing keeping Stanley safe in the pocket against Purdue.

“I love Nate a lot and felt really bad because it’s on the offensive line to keep him clean,” offensive tackle Alaric Jackson said. “We didn’t do it for him, so that’s on us.”

The running game hasn’t been pretty in this two-game stretch either. Iowa only rushed for 71 in two games against the Wolverines and Nittany Lions. Part of that inability to establish a rushing attack stems from a revolving door of players getting time at offensive guard due to injuries.

“I’ve been out for a few weeks, so chemistry is not as tight,” Jackson said. “But it’s getting back to that way now that I’ve been back the past two weeks. We’re communicating better. Now, it’s just focusing on doing the little things right.”

Big Ten West hopes still alive

After dropping consecutive games, Iowa sits at 4-2 overall with a 1-2 mark in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes currently sit in fifth place in the Big Ten West, although they will have plenty of chances to improve upon that ranking.

Iowa’s remaining six games are against Big Ten West opponents, which means conference title hopes are still alive.

“Obviously, we can’t go undefeated; we knew that two weeks ago,” Stanley said. “But fortunately, all of our goals as far as the Big Ten West are still attainable. We know that goal is still out on the table. To be able to accomplish it starts this week. We have to be ready to play. No game in the Big Ten West is easy.”

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