Iowa defense made job easier for offense

2013-11-29T18:10:00Z 2014-03-11T13:42:26Z Iowa defense made job easier for offenseBy RYLY JANE HAMBLETON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

The Iowa defense didn't score a point, but the Hawkeye defenders can boast that they made it a lot easier for their offense to get the job done.

"I think our efficiency starts with the defense," Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock said. "They did a really good job getting us the ball in really good field position. Sometimes we had to get a few first downs, maybe punt it. Then the defense answered the call again, getting turnovers."

Iowa started seven of its 15 drives in Nebraska territory and punched in touchdowns on five of those possessions.

Twice in the second half, the Hawkeye defense came up with big plays when Nebraska had trimmed the deficit to seven points.

Leading 17-10, coach Kirk Ferentz called time out before Nebraska could punt, then sent the regular defense out. Drew Ott and Christian Kirksey were there to stop the fake punt, and one play later, Iowa boosted its lead to 24-10.

"We had punt-safe in. That's why I was in. My job is to keep contain," said Ott, a sophomore from Giltner. "We were all aware of it and ready for it. It was going to put our offense in good position to score, so it was a good play for us. There was a lot of adrenaline going."

The other defensive gem came after Nebraska cut the deficit to 24-17 and thenĀ  got a three-and-out. On Nebraska's first play, linebacker Anthony Hitchens grabbed Ameer Abdullah and the ball popped out when Kirksey joined in. Louis Trinca-Pasat pounced on the ball at the Husker 39-yard line.

"I was just containing the ball. Hitchens, that was his tackle. He hit him. Hitch came across and made a great play," said Kirksey, who was credited with causing the fumble.

On the next play, Jordan Canzeri broke around the left end for a 37-yard gain and Mark Weisman finished the scoring drive with a 2-yard run.

"The receiver just came down and cracked the safety hard," Canzeri said of his long run. "Brandon Scherff (left tackle) opened it up and it was wide-open. Everyone blocked great on the play. We needed something like that to create a spark."

Ferentz said going 8-4 this year after a 4-8 campaign last season was a tribute to the players.

"There are no magic formulas. I'm certainly not smart enough to think of anything too creative or ingenious," he said. "It was a matter of us trying to do things better. We clearly didn't play well enough last year.

"Sometimes you look at guys who play and had success without working as hard. But the good news today is that I think we are a better football team now than we were in August."

And they are cheering for each other, although a little healthy competition spurs the linebackers, according to Kirksey.

"It all started with Hitchens with the interception. We just built from there," he said. "As soon as I saw Hitch got an interception, I was so excited, because we always said he was going to get one. Then James (Morris) got his and I thought, 'All right, it's my turn.' I didn't get one, but we still played good as a unit."

Reach Ryly Jane Hambleton at 402-473-7314 or rhambleton@journalstar.com.

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