DEFENSE. We've used Vine a lot this year to look at the offensive line, CJ Beathard, and Iowa's running backs. Sure, we watched Drew Ott and Jaleel Johnson kill people, but let's focus today on that defense.
It's a defense that has allowed only 10 total touchdowns in eight games (Illinois State also had a touchdown against the second team defense, Pitt scored on a return off a blocked punt, and Maryland had a kickoff return for a score). It's a defense that ranks 7th in total defense, 6th in scoring defense and 5th in rush defense nationally. Iowa is a team that's trailed only once all season in the second half (at Iowa State) and they outscored that opponent 21-0 in the second half.
Let's see how they get it done.
Maryland's Perry Hills came to Iowa City having just rushed for 294 yards on 51 carries over his last two games. Under interim coach Mike Locksley, Maryland has committed to a read-option attack and here is their inverted wishbone/diamond formation. They used motion here and Hills had Nate Meier as a read and handed it off.
Iowa's mantra this season has been about setting an edge. Linebacker Ben Niemann got wide enough here to force the running back to an inside lane and, wham, Miles Taylor. Iowa's young safety played his best game against Maryland and we can only expect he'll get better.
Maryland tries it again in the second quarter. This time, Iowa sees the formation and decides to blitz Taylor from his safety position. Taylor is there backside if Hills decides to keep and the lead blocker for Maryland decides he wants nothing to do with Parker Hesse. Nate Bazata makes a fine play shedding his man and getting down the line of scrimmage.
Watch Josey Jewell, too. In the first Vine he got beat by the pulling guard to the spot and was erased from the play. This time he's there first and attacks the block with the proper shoulder keeping his outside arm free. Well done.
This was the very next play. With Maryland facing third and long, Iowa sent their Raider package onto the field. Phil Parker has developed this over the last three seasons and perhaps his year has been the best for this package. It helps when you have players like Nate Meier playing at the level he has, too.
Parker Hesse initially lines up over center and loops to the outside taking Meier's place as he crashes inside. Meier takes out two offensive linemen and Hesse has free run until the tackle sees him. Then it's Hesse's pressure forcing Hills to step up and right into Meier. It's pretty clear the Raider confused the offensive linemen and the coverage may have been good, too. Iowa gets the sack despite rushing only three and what's even better, Iowa had Niemann sitting and spying Hills, eliminating the run option.
Finally, that one play:
Desmond King is playing like an All-American. He got some help from all the guys around him this year and this play was a solid team effort, but his ability to read the play and step in and take it to the house is special.
Defense is a team effort. We've seen Drew Ott dominate this year. We've looked at Jaleel Johnson, as noted in the opening paragraph. But these guys are all playing well and playing well together. This has been fun to watch -- real fun to watch.