Iowa secondary prowling for picks

Iowa hasn’t been forcing many turnovers this season, but that could change against Purdue on Saturday.


Katie Goodale for The Daily Iowa

Iowa DB Michael Ojemudia attempt to tackle Penn State QB Sean Clifford during the Iowa football vs. Penn State game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor


Iowa’s used to finding itself on top of the national leaderboard when it comes to interceptions.

The Hawkeyes have finished in the top 10 in the FBS in interceptions in three of the past four seasons, ending 2017 in first (21) and 2018 tied for second (20).

But those days are gone for now.

After six games of the 2019 season, Iowa ranks tied for 72nd in the country with four picks. At this point last season, the Hawkeyes had racked up a total of eight interceptions.

“We haven’t been getting as many turnovers as we wanted,” Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia said. 

That can all change this weekend.

When the Hawkeyes take on Purdue on Saturday, they’ll be faced with an offense they haven’t faced all season.

The Jeff Brohm-led Boilermakers enjoy airing it out against opponents, putting up explosive plays along the way. 

Purdue averages only 2.3 yards per carry, so it’s pretty much forced to test what it can do through the air.

On the flip side, the Boilermaker offense features five healthy players who average at least 10 yards per catch.

“These guys throw the ball as deep as anybody we played, in my opinion, over the last two years,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They did it Saturday, threw the ball down the field well. I’m even more focused on our deep zones than I am our underneath zones.”

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The fact that Purdue feels so comfortable taking shots downfield bodes well for Iowa and its defensive backs who are hoping to add to their turnover numbers.

“It starts with them taking shots,” Stone said. “No one’s really been taking shots on us, so whenever they start taking the shots and throwing down the field more, [we’re] definitely going to have to start getting more turnovers. Even if they run the ball, try to get more forced fumbles.”

Iowa’s secondary still boasts the players who can make game-changing plays at any point.

Ojemudia has been an anchor on the outside for the Hawkeyes, locking down his side of the field even when the rest of the unit faced injuries.

He has picked off a team-high two passes this season.

At safety, Stone has made his presence felt with a few NFL-caliber plays. His interception at Michigan came at a time when the Hawkeyes needed a way to get back into the game.

Outside of that duo in the defensive-back room, only linebacker Djimon Colbert has recorded an interception, which came against Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ 47-yard passing performance Sept. 7.

Excluding Stone’s interception of Shea Patterson in Iowa’s 10-3 loss to Michigan Oct. 5, the Hawkeyes’ last pick came almost a full month before the game against Rutgers.

In the past two seasons, Purdue has thrown for 562 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions against Iowa, winning both games.

Because the Hawkeyes have been burnt by the Boilermaker air attack, Iowa will be on alert.

“I heard a fact that with their coaching staff, they’re 2-0 versus us,” Ojemudia said. “It’s definitely going to be a real bounce-back game for us coming off two losses. There’s some down vibes around, and we just have to prove people wrong.”