Dec. 17, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When the Hawkeyes take on No. 14 Missouri in the Insight Bowl, they'll have a key part of their defense back in the press box. Defensive coordinator Norm Parker will be with Iowa to help figure out a method to the Tigers' madness.
"They're probably like Northwestern at its most extreme bizarre things," said Parker, who is in his 12th season on Iowa's coaching staff. "They might line up their tackles and quarterbacks here; put five guys over here, nobody here.
"They might line up four guys here, the core of their offense, nobody over here. I mean, it is stuff that you draw up in the sand at the beach."
Make no mistake; Parker knows what kind of challenge Missouri brings to the table in the Dec. 28 match-up. The Tigers have averaged 194 yards rushing over the past six games, and their quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, is completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,752 yards with 15 touchdowns.
"They know what they're doing with it," explained Parker. "There's a method to their madness. I think figuring out the method to the madness is the trick. You try to match up guy on guys. They might line up a tight end here, the running back lines up over there -- that's not where they're supposed to line up, they're supposed to line up at other places."
The Hawkeyes look to match-up with the explosive Missouri spread offense with a line backing corps that has suffered a flurry of injuries throughout the season. With the losses of Jeff Tarpinian, Bruce Davis and Tyler Nielsen, will Iowa have enough left to effectively defend the spread?
"We're going to find out," said Parker. "Every day a star is born. Today it may be you. We've got to look at it that way."
"There's a method to their madness. I think figuring out the method to the madness is the trick."
Norm Parker, Iowa defensive coordinator
True freshman James Morris is one of the linebackers that has emerged and performed admirably for the Hawkeyes. The Solon, Iowa, native was forced into the starting lineup in a 37-6 win over No. 5 Michigan State, and he stayed there the remainder of the season, racking up 63 tackles, fourth most on the team.
"More than ability-wise, it was all of a sudden this guy is playing a new position," said Parker. "Everything was new to a guy. What, nine months ago he's riding a yellow school bus, now he's trying to defend Terrelle Pryor in front of 72,000 people on national television. It's a little bit different now. It's forced learning."
If anything, the grueling Big Ten schedule and the caliber of the quarterbacks in the conference will give the Hawkeyes something to draw upon when preparing for Gabbert and the Tigers.
"If I had to explain this year's Big Ten season, it was the year of the quarterback," said Parker. "I mean, I think (Kirk) Cousins (Michigan State) is excellent. (Ricky) Stanzi is good. The kid from Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, the Michigan guy is like a jackrabbit. Every team had a quarterback that was capable of beating you. You don't get that every year."
Gabbert will be the next impressive signal caller for Iowa's defense to try to contain. He passed for more than 250 yards in four games during his junior campaign, which included back-to-back contests of 361 (three touchdowns) and 308 yards (one touchdown) in victories over Texas A&M and top-ranked Oklahoma, respectively.
Gabbert has an impressive winning percentage since taking over the starting quarterback position for the Tigers, posting an 18-7 record. The Ballwin, Mo., native is only the third Missouri quarterback to direct the Tigers to a 10-win season.
"Gabbert is big and he can throw," said Parker. "He can really throw. I think his speed is deceptive and he's a real good athlete. So he can scramble around and beat you. It's another quality quarterback and just a quality guy."
If the Hawkeyes can figure out Missouri's method to madness, they can become the first Iowa football team to win three consecutive bowl games. With Norm back on the sidelines, Iowa likes its chances.