The Takeaway: Northwestern

Ross's recap is sufficiently comprehensive, so there's no need to rehash the entire game again. Instead, this edition of The Takeaway will focus on one aspect: Iowa's defense in crunch time. However bad you think it is, trust us, it's actually worse.

Iowa has played six meaningful fourth quarters in 40 total quarters of action. One would expect, with some normal level of variation, Iowa's defensive stats in these fourth quarters to compose about 15% of its total defensive allowance. Here's Iowa's performance in those six quarters.

Rush defense: 45 rushes, 103 yards, 3 TDs, 4 sacks, 0 fumbles forced. 2.3 yards per carry and a <3% touchdown carry rate are both mighty fine. This is not a problem.

Pass defense: 54-85, 713 yards, 63.5% completion rating, 4 TDs, 5 INTs. Overall quarterback rating: 137.76. If the Iowa secondary performed like this over the course of the season, this would place Iowa at 88th in pass defense. The 713 yards represent a hair under one-third of Iowa's total passing yardage allowed over the year, and 60% of Iowa's passing touchdowns allowed on the year have come in these situations. Over the rest of the season, Iowa's pass defense looks like this: 171-277, 1489 yards, 6 TD, 11 INT. That would be good for a 106.81 passer rating, which would qualify as 12th best in the nation. From 12th best to 88th in close late games? This is a problem.

First down conversions: You may want to sit down. 36 first downs, 14-25 in 3rd down conversions. If the Iowa defense gave up first downs all year at the rate it does in 4th quarters where the starters play, Iowa would be tied for next-to-dead-last in the nation. As for actual season-long stats, Iowa is 22nd (and not, oh, 119th).

As for that 70% 56% 3rd down conversion rate, extrapolated over the entire year, it would be worst in the nation--and by an insanely large gap. The worst in the nation over the course of the season is Colorado State at 55%. That 15% margin of difference is the same as between CSU and the 66th-ranked 3rd down defense in the nation (ULM, if you care). Oh, and of those 11 fourth downs forced, two were converted for first downs. All in all, that's 25 third downs... and 7 stops. That's really, really bad.

The reason? Two words: NO DEPTH. Quick: name a backup. Someone other than Broderick Binns. Okay, now name one thing that backup has done in meaningful play this year. I'm not hearing much. And it certainly doesn't help that the linebacking corps, which was already shaky to begin with after A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer both graduated, has been hit hard by injuries.

But only blaming the linebackers is a pretty shortsighted accounting of Iowa's depth woes, which were painfully obvious against jNWU. The Iowa defense was absolutely gassed by the time Dan Persa finished driving the 'Cats 85 yards on 13 plays in the fourth quarter... then Persa got to do it again for 91 yards in just 11 plays. He may as well have been facing a high school team on the last drive.

The worst part is that this problem doesn't seem likely to fix itself by next season. The defensive line, which is already top-heavy, loses most of that top after this year with only Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns set to return. That's a good start, but those backups that haven't done much of anything this season are going to have to start doing, well, something. Jordan Bernstine is going to have to stay healthy for once. And the onus is going to be on James Morris and the rest of the young linebackers to form a cohesive unit with something more than warm bodies behind it.

But hey, good news for the Iowa D: Ohio State's coming to town. Not as if they've got a punishing offensive line and mobile quarterback to wear the defense down... oh. Well, shit.

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