Hawkeyes gear up for a battle in the trenches against Northwestern

After impressive rushing performances from both Iowa and Northwestern last week, tomorrow’s game could be decided upfront.


Katina Zentz

Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon prepares to tackle during the Iowa football game against Miami (Ohio) at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, August 31, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Redhawks 38-14.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Northwestern’s offense left a lot to be desired last season as Chicago’s Big Ten Team averaged just under 300 yards of total offense in 2019, and the Hawkeyes shut out the Wildcats 20-0.

A lot has changed since then.

In the team’s first game of the new decade — a 43-3 drubbing of the Maryland Terrapins last Saturday night in Evanston — Northwestern accumulated 325 rushing yards and 212 through the air added up to a whopping 537 total yards. Although Maryland is far from the Big Ten’s best, a 40-point win is substantial in conference play.

Drake Anderson and Isaiah Bowser shared the bulk of the carries for the Wildcats as Anderson averaged over 10 yards per attempt, breaking through for 103 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Bowser totaled 70 rushing yards and found the end zone once on 23 carries.

While the running backs toted the ball, Northwestern’s offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the impressive rushing performance.

“Those guys are really big, and they like to turn out people and position block a lot,” Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon said. “Our goal is to make sure we’re not getting knocked off the ball, great pad level, things like that. Just making sure we don’t get turned out, have a chance to make a play on the football up front.

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Iowa’s defensive line had a lot of success in last year’s meeting with Northwestern. The Hawkeyes only allowed 64 yards on the ground as the defensive unit pitched a shutout.

Even though Northwestern moved on from long-time offensive coordinator Mick McCall this offseason, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes’ starting free safety Jack Koerner didn’t see much change in Northwestern offensive scheme from the film of their Week 1 performance.

“They like to get into those bunch formations,” Koerner said of the Wildcat offense. “Get a wide back, get force strong and we know how to play against that. We’re trying to get back to the things we were able to do well last year and correct the things that they hurt us on.”

Northwestern’s veteran defensive front also made a strong impression against Maryland. The Terrapins only mustered 64 rushing yards and the Wildcats racked up five tackles for loss, 3.5 of those coming from members of the defensive line.

Iowa’s rushing attack was a bright spot for the Hawkeyes last weekend—apart from the fumbles— and Ferentz knows his team will have a challenge running the ball this week.

“We’ve played each other so much,” Ferentz said. “One of the things they’ve done, they’ve really got an identity defensively. They know who they are, they know what they believe in and they are so sound. The guys up front, you have to block them and they make you work every play. Nothing is easy and nothing’s clean, you just don’t get clean plays against them. Whatever we do on Saturday, we’re going to have to really earn it.”