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Wine: Opponents Seeing Red
Iowa's defense tough to date in the 'Red Zone'
Iowa entertains Iowa State Saturday at historic Kinnick Stadium in the annual Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series battle for college football braggin' rights in the state.
Iowa entertains Iowa State Saturday at historic Kinnick Stadium in the annual Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series battle for college football braggin' rights in the state.
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Sept. 7, 2008

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    IOWA CITY, Iowa -- While loyal fans and sports reporters obsess about Iowa's so-called quarterback controversy, here's a piece of information that might divert their attention:

    The Hawkeyes have not allowed their first two opponents to penetrate the red zone.

    That's right, not only were Maine and Florida International held without a touchdown, they were unable to advance beyond Iowa's 20-yard line. So let's take a moment to forget about quarterbacks and tip our hats to the Iowa defense.


    Yes, I know: Maine and Florida were both overmatched by the Hawkeyes. But it is a significant achievement to play consecutive games and keep your opponents out of that piece of the football field known as "the red zone."

    That's especially true when both games were decided by halftime, and reserves -- many not even on the depth chart -- played much of the second half.

    With the aid of a 15-yard penalty just before halftime, Maine reached the 23-yard line and booted a field goal, the only points given up by Iowa's defense in two games. The Bears crossed midfield only twice in the second half, advancing to the 39- and 45-yard lines.

    Florida International had the ball in Iowa territory twice in each half, and one of those possessions followed an Iowa fumble. The Panthers gave up the ball twice on downs and twice had passes intercepted.

    Yes, Iowa's defense has performed admirably, and this is a unit with a lot of underclassmen. The only senior starters are tackles Matt Kroul and Mitch King, along with Bradley Fletcher and Harold Dalton in the secondary.

    And Iowa's defense is getting more aggressive. After giving up 137 yards rushing and getting only one sack in the opening game, it had six sacks and held FIU to only 56 yards rushing.





    The Hawkeyes have not allowed their first two opponents to penetrate the red zone.

    That's right, not only were Maine and Florida International held without a touchdown, they were unable to advance beyond Iowa's 20-yard line. So let's take a moment to forget about quarterbacks and tip our hats to the Iowa defense.

    Yes, I know: Maine and Florida were both overmatched by the Hawkeyes. But it is a significant achievement to play consecutive games and keep your opponents out of that piece of the football field known as "the red zone."



    End Adrian Clayborn and linebacker Jeremiha Hunter -- both sophomores -- top Iowa's tackle chart with 14 each. Pat Angerer, a junior linebacker, has intercepted two passes.

    The two-deep lists six freshmen -- three redshirts and three in their first year.

    Iowa's defense played very well against two opponents it was heavily favored to beat. Saturday it will get a much stiffer test when Iowa State visits Kinnick Stadium. The Cyclones have two decisive wins on their home field.

    The Hawkeyes will be favored to win this game, which is not necessarily good news. In recent years, they have not handled the favorite's role very well.

    Iowa State pulled an upset at Kinnick in 1998, Hayden Fry's last year as head coach. It happened again in 2002, the only loss in Iowa's regular season. Iowa was favored but lost at Ames in '05 and '07.

    That's four Iowa State upsets in the last 10 years, and they all stung the Hawkeyes and their fans. Especially the one six years ago in which the Cyclones overcame a 17-point halftime deficit.

    But that was then and this is now. The Hawkeyes are off to a solid start and could be on their way to a very good season.

    To achieve that, however, they must continue to play agressive defense and forget their quarterback controversy. And they better protect the home field and live up to their role as the favorite.

    Editor's Note: Wine Online is written by George Wine, long-time sports information director at the University of Iowa and a member of the UI Athletics Hall of Fame. Wine currently lives in nearby Coralville and when he's not writing books - he's authored two including "Black and Gold Memories" - he's following the Hawkeyes.



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