Iowa defense’s young players step up

Dillon Doyle, Jack Campbell, Dane Belton, John Waggoner, and Riley Moss all played key roles for the Hawkeye defense in its win over Purdue.


Katie Goodale

LB Dillon Doyle celebrates during the Iowa football vs. Penn State game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

When Iowa’s defense took the field against Purdue on Oct. 19, No. 34 was nowhere to be found.

Despite Kristian Welch getting listed as a captain earlier in the week, he didn’t step on the Kinnick field against the Boilermakers.

Instead, freshman linebacker Dillon Doyle took his place.

Doyle was joined by a plethora of young players on the defensive side of the ball, including true freshmen Jack Campbell and Dane Belton, redshirt freshman John Waggoner, and sophomore Riley Moss.

All four played key roles as Iowa did enough to capture a 26-20 win over Purdue.

“I think all of us young guys are pretty good about being ready,” Waggoner said. “Next snap, next guy in, whatever.”

Their preparedness showed.

RELATED: Smith, Welch left off Iowa football’s depth chart

Waggoner recorded the first sack of his young career for Iowa’s only sack of the game, Moss picked off a Jack Plummer pass in the third quarter to set up the Hawkeyes’ first touchdown, and Campbell and Doyle combined for five tackles.

It was Moss’ interception, though, that gave Iowa the biggest boost.

The Hawkeye secondary entered the game with a goal of creating more turnovers against a Boilermaker offense that spreads the ball around through the air.

That’s exactly what Moss did, as Plummer targeted the young cornerback guarding David Bell, Purdue’s best healthy option in the passing game.

Unlike the other young players who saw playing time against the Boilermakers, Moss can compare his performance to last season.

It worked out for him and the rest of the defense.

“I can see that I’ve made progress from last year,” Moss said. “That’s what I want to do each and every week, and as a team, that’s what we want to do each and every week.”

Like Moss, Waggoner has been in the program for a year, although he didn’t see as much playing time.

The experience he garnered in his first year in the program paid dividends when he took Plummer down deep in Boilermaker territory on second down in the second quarter. The play led to a three-and-out and led to a Keith Duncan field goal on the other side.

“You’re still young, but once you’re in there, there’s no drop-off of the standard that was set,” Waggoner said. “We still got to play the same way we always do.”

Doyle redshirted in his first season on campus, just as Waggoner did, but he’s been around the program a lot longer. His father — renowned strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle — has been a key piece of the Hawkeye program and culture for 21 years,

After a stellar prep career at Iowa City West, Doyle finally made his first start against career, and it helped the Hawkeyes end a two-game losing streak in front of his dad.

“This is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time — me stepping on the field at Kinnick and starting a game,” Doyle said. “I have played on special teams this year, and this is just another step in the process, I think.”

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