Defense Rises Up
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Who would have thought that after each team put points on the scoreboard on their first possession Saturday that the final score the 2012 Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game would look more like a high-scoring baseball game than a battle on the gridiron: Iowa State 9, Iowa 6.
That's what happens, however, when defenses raise their bar. And the Iowa Hawkeyes did exactly that Saturday inside sun-drenched historic Kinnick Stadium, forcing four Iowa State turnovers with three of the four coming with their backs against the goal line:
Turnover No. 2 - UI safety Tom Donatell steps in front of ISU pass catcher on first and 10 near midfield with just under two minutes left in the first half.
Turnover No. 4 - Morris intercepts ISU's Steele Jantz on the goal line with just more than three minutes left to play. The former prep fullback scampers 49 yards before he's tackled by Jantz.
"The first half wasn't pretty, but we hunkered down. The defense did a good job of getting the ball back to the offense and, unfortunately, we couldn't do anything with it," said Kirk Ferentz, who said his defense improved its tackling in the second half and also saw its confidence grow.
"I thought the whole defense communicated better and was more in sync and played with better energy in the second half. It's going to be a collective effort (all season) and we'll keep pushing forward," Ferentz added.
Anthony Hitchens paced Iowa's defense with a game-high and career-high 19 total tackles. In addition to his fumble recovery and interception, Morris racked up 12 tackles, a total that included a game-high sold eight tackles and one tackle for loss.
"We're going to learn from this game, go to work, and get better," Morris told the Hawkeye Radio Network's Gary Dolphin and Ed Podolak.
Ferentz said his team's offense had a chance to give Iowa its first lead of the game and, perhaps more importantly, momentum but failed to punch the ball in from the 3-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter and had to settle for its second field goal of the game. That sequence was one of a handful that stood out to Iowa's veteran head coach.
"We're not good enough right now to not take advantage of every opportunity, to overcome dropped passes, to overcome penalties. We'll go back to work and get better," said Ferentz, who noted that Iowa did improve from Game 1 to Game 2 in a variety areas including pass protection.
"Our execution, at times, wasn't as good as it needs to be. When you make plays, the ball moves. When you don't, it doesn't."
Iowa returns to action next Saturday with the second of four straight games in Kinnick. The Hawkeyes will square off against Northern Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Iowa time. The game will be televised live by BTN.