Depth in trenches an asset for Iowa football

Iowa’s offensive and defensive lines were dominant in the Hawkeyes’ 34-6 win over Indiana at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City Saturday.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa defensive linemen Zach VanValkenburg rushes the passer during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Iowa football won the war in the trenches in its 34-6 victory over Indiana at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City Saturday.

The Hawkeyes’ offensive line surrendered just two sacks and helped Iowa’s backs rush for 185 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon.

Despite that, Hawkeye center Tyler Lindebaum thinks there’s still room for his unit to improve.

“I think we need to improve our consistency,” Linderbaum said postgame. “Our communication on the sideline was good on the stuff we were seeing. But, at the end of the day, we need to play just a little bit better to just to get that run game going a little bit better — protect a little bit better, try to eliminate those sacks. But for the first game, you know stuff like that is gonna happen.”

“Just keep improving week by week,” Linderbaum added. “We’ve got a great group of guys. [Hawkeye offensive line coach George Barnett] has done a tremendous job with us, and I’m excited to keep improving.”

During Saturday’s contest, Linderbaum sustained an injury as junior quarterback Spencer Petras scored a nine-yard touchdown on a designed draw play. Linderbaum laid in the end zone for a short time while the Hawkeyes’ athletic training staff checked on him.

Eventually, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound junior walked off the field and into Iowa’s medical tent, unassisted. When he reemerged from the tent, Linderbaum hopped on an exercise bike for a few minutes and then reentered the game.

Linderbaum told reporters postgame that a helmet hit him in the thigh as Petras scored, and that he expects his injury to heal quickly.

While the inner portion of Iowa’s offensive line is anchored by familiar faces like Linderbaum’s, the exterior is less experienced.

Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz inserted redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mason Richman into his starting lineup prior to kickoff Saturday. Throughout the offseason, Richman battled junior Jack Plumb for Iowa’s starting left tackle job. 

Ferentz said the competition between Plumb, Richman, and freshman Connor Colby was tight. Richman ultimately started because he looked the best in practice, according to Ferentz.

On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeyes’ defensive line proved that it is a force to be reckoned with Saturday. While Iowa’s defensive line only recorded one sack, it hurried Hoosier quarterback Michael Penix Jr. six times.

In total, eight Hawkeyes rotated through Iowa’s defensive line Saturday, including the likes of senior Zach VanValkenburg, junior John Waggoner, and redshirt freshman Lukas Van Ness.

“It’s definitely nice to have some depth and be able to rotate in there with guys and stay fresh,” Waggoner said. “I think we have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys, so I think that’s definitely a positive.”

Next week, Waggoner and Iowa’s defensive line will be tasked with slowing an Iowa State offense that averaged nearly 200 yards on the ground and 242 yards in the air per game last season.

The Hawkeyes’ offensive line will have to stop a Cyclone pass rush that produced 29 sacks in 12 games a season ago.

Kickoff between Iowa and Iowa State is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium Sept. 11. The game will air nationally on ABC, and ESPN’s College GameDay will broadcast live from Ames at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.