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Overtime: Iowa Defense Dominates – Hawkeyes Claim Fourth-Straight Cy-Hawk Win

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By Jack Brandsgard ( 09/09/18

Iowa earned its fourth-straight win over Iowa State with a 13-3 rock-fight win on Saturday.

The Hawkeye defense was nails, specifically against Iowa State’s star running back David Montgomery.

“I think the big focus this week was getting 11 hats to the ball,” defensive end Matt Nelson said. “That was a big emphasis, especially with a good running back like Montgomery and the explosive offense that they have.”

It worked. Montgomery finished with 17 carries for 44 yards, exactly half of his average last year. Iowa conceded only 19 rushing yards, tied for the fifth-fewest in the Kirk Ferentz era.

After Iowa State marched 66 yards down the field for a field goal on its opening drive, the Cyclones mustered only 122 yards for the rest of the game. Those ten drives ended with eight punts, a turnover on downs, and a fumble.

 “I’d love to sit here and make excuses for what happened, but first I’ll top my hat to our opponent,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “I thought in the reality of it, in the line of scrimmage where games are still won in this sport, they dominated.”

The Hawkeye defensive line tore the Cyclone front to shreds. Led by AJ Epenesa, who recorded a career-best two sacks (including a forced fumble), Iowa recorded four sacks. Iowa is tied for second in the country with nine sacks, and has allowed the fewest points (10) of any team to play two games.

I’m not exactly going out on a limb in writing that the Hawkeye defense has been far superior to the offense.

Iowa only managed three points before halftime for the second straight week. The play calls were super conservative and the Hawkeyes couldn’t establish any rhythm against the speed of the Iowa State defense.

Nate Stanley was erratic. Noah Fant was underwhelming. Those two are Iowa’s stalwarts on offense, and they’ll need to be better moving forward.

As much as the offense struggled, the unit came through at a needed juncture. Leading 6-3 with 11:17 remaining, Iowa uncorked a 13-play, 83-yard drive over 6:30 to score the only touchdown of the day. It was Iowa’s longest drive of the season in terms of yards and time.

After converting just three third-downs prior to that drive, the Hawkeyes moved the sticks three times on third down. The biggest of those conversions came when Stanley found Brandon Smith for a 30-yard completion to the Iowa State two yard line. Mekhi Sargent punched home his first touchdown as a Hawkeye the next snap.

“It was a great throw from Nate,” Smith said. “That feeling was amazing. I probably won’t even sleep tonight because that play will keep replaying in my head.”

Iowa continued its trend of being a second half team. Iowa outscored Iowa State 10-0 after halftime, bringing its total to 82-7 in the second halves of the last three regular season games.

There are reasons for Iowa fans to be hopeful for an offensive turnaround. Stanley and Fant are proven talents who haven’t lived up to expectations thus far. It’s two games into the season and there’s plenty of time to get things figured out.

Iowa’s run game again paced the offense. The Hawkeyes managed 105 rushing yards, improving to 30-1 since 2015 when breaking triple-digits in that department. When Ivory Kelly-Martin returns from his ankle injury, Iowa will have another weapon in the backfield.

The shuffling on the offensive line probably hasn’t helped things either. Once that unit is solidified and has time to gel, it should return to typical Iowa form. (That’s not to say the line has struggled so far.)

Both of Iowa’s opponents this year have touted tough defenses. Iowa State has held eight of its last nine opponents to 20 points or fewer, which is even more impressive considering the gun-slinging Big 12.

Iowa is 2-0 despite scoring six points total in two first halves. Can you imagine if the offense can get things going? Noah Fant can.

“It makes you think if we get the offense going in the right direction—which I think we are,” Fant said. “It’s going to be something that could possibly be pretty special.”

Final Team Stats Below