Iowa football notebook: Hawkeyes preach preventing big plays against Terrapins

Maryland is the Big Ten’s top passing offense through the first four weeks of the season.

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Jerod Ringwald

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell tackles Kent State running back Marquez Cooper during a football game between Iowa and Kent State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Flashes 30-7. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor


Iowa’s defense is accustomed to extinguishing the opposing team’s momentum.

A forced fumble at the opposing 6-yard line when the Hawkeyes trailed by seven in the third quarter of last weekend’s win over Colorado State was the latest example of that.

“It’s kind of a little joke that we’re like firemen,” Iowa safety Jack Koerner said. “We put the fire out anytime there’s a tough situation. We don’t care how we got there, what yard line we’re on, we’re going out there to do our jobs.”

Iowa (4-0) hopes there isn’t a fire that needs to be put out in its Week 5 Friday night matchup against Maryland (4-0) in College Park. Because if the Terrapin offense gets going, the flames may be too much for the Hawkeye defense to handle.

Maryland is the top passing offense in the Big Ten through four games, and the No. 3 scoring offense. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa leads the conference with 335 passing yards per game and 10 touchdowns — compared to only one interception — this season.

“He’s looking down the field when he gets out there,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said of Tagovailoa. “He will run it, but he’s trying to make a play, and that’s really scary.”

The Terrapins already have three wide receivers with over 200 receiving yards this season, including Dontay Demus, who leads the team with 24 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns.

Koerner noted that Maryland is aggressive and frequently throws the ball deep down the field.

“They like the big play,” Koerner said. “They’ve got some good athletes, and a good athlete at quarterback too. It’s all about limiting big plays, and that’s been our bread and butter since this staff got here.”

Deep passing plays may open up running game

One week after Tyler Goodson ran for a career-high 153 yards and three touchdowns against Kent State, the Colorado State defense held him to 66 yards (3.2 yards per carry).

Iowa only ran for 54 yards in its 24-14 win in Week 4.

“I think guys are gonna stack the box against us because we’re known for running the ball. It can get frustrating, but I’m not going to let it get that far for me,” Goodson said. “I know not every game as a running back is going to be a good game. Not every play is going to be a long run. It’s just about getting the little yards and getting stronger and stronger throughout the game, so when that big hole does open up, I’ll be ready for it and hopefully break it for a touchdown.”

The Hawkeyes did accomplish something against the Rams that had been missing this season, though — completing passes deep down the field. Quarterback Spencer Petras connected on five passing plays that went for more than 20 yards on Saturday — the most of any game this season — including two to freshman Keagan Johnson.

Petras and Iowa’s offense has faced stacked eight-man boxes this season because of the team’s reputation for running the ball.

Goodson hopes that Petras showing off that he can make throws down the field forces defenses to account for that in their schemes and take players out of the box. Center Tyler Linderbaum added that better communication and staying on blocks for a couple seconds longer could be the difference in making the running game more consistently productive.

Injury update at right guard

Here’s yet another update on Iowa’s right guard situation.

Justin Britt, the starter at that position, couldn’t play against the Rams because of an injury. And Kyler Schott, the starter coming into the season, still isn’t in full game shape after missing the first two games of the season with a foot injury he suffered while baling hay over the summer.

So, first-year offensive lineman Connor Colby was thrown in for his first career start. And he wasn’t necessarily impressed with the results.

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“There’s definitely a lot of things I need to work on,” Colby said. “Overall I think that game was pretty rough for me. But it’s good to come out of it with a team win.”

Britt is listed as the starter at right guard on the Week 5 depth chart, with Schott right behind him. Colby is down as the team’s No. 2 right tackle.

“Justin’s practiced, so that’s encouraging,” Ferentz said. “And [he] looks fine. I think Kyler’s gaining ground, so with every week, we expect to see him play more and more. That will help us. Two guys that are a little bit older, certainly, but Kyler especially is experienced.”

Campbell earns national honor

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell was named the Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week on Tuesday, a day after being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Campbell recorded a career-high 18 tackles against Colorado State, and added three pass break-ups to go with his second fumble recovery of the season (touchdown at Iowa State). 

Through four games Campbell leads Iowa’s defense with 43 tackles, including 19 solo stops. He has one forced fumble, adding to two recoveries, three pass break-ups and 1.5 tackles for loss.  

This is the fourth time a Hawkeye player has earned this weekly honor and the first since Josey Jewell in 2017. Iowa has had a Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist in two of the last four seasons (Daviyon Nixon in 2020; Jewell in 2017).   

“Just happy for Jack Campbell,” Ferentz said. “He’s playing at a really high level.”

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