Sept. 19, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- You go to work long enough and you come to know what to expect.
James Morris has been showing up for work at Kinnick Stadium since 2010, and when the Hawkeyes face Central Michigan on Saturday at 11 a.m., he knows he can expect a fight up front. The Chippewas, with three seniors on the offensive line, average 198 yards per game on the ground -- nearly six yards a carry -- and have allowed just one sack in two games.
On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeye defense has recorded just three sacks through three games, but Iowa does rank 23rd nationally in total defense, and Morris says the defensive line may be ready for a break through.
"The line has been excellent," said Morris, who ranks second on the team and fifth in the Big Ten averaging 9.3 tackles per game. "They're doing a great job. Week to week they continue to improve. We know they haven't played their best football yet so I'm excited about what they're going to be able to do this week."
Thus far, the defense has shined when the lights have been their brightest. Iowa ranks among the nation's top 30 defenses in red zone efficiency, and over the last two games, the Hawkeyes have forced three turnovers in the red zone, including two fumbles and an interception.
Iowa has also stood tall late in the game when it's time to get the defense off the field. The Hawkeyes have held the opposition to 5-23 on third and fourth down conversions, and allowed just 10 points in the second half.
Morris said the key this week will be to lengthen the opponent's field while putting the offense in manageable field position.
"We need to keep the ball in front of us and really don't give them anything easy... make them go the distance," Morris said. "If we can do that I think our offense will be able to put points on the board."
Central Michigan, while playing in its first road game of the season, is the beneficiary of an extra week of preparation. The Chippewas defeated SE Missouri State in their season opener, lost to Michigan State at home in Week 2, and sat idle last week.
"We're expecting their best shot and we have to be able to handle whatever they throw at us," said Morris. "We know the coaches will have a great game plan for us and we'll go to work like we have every week."