The Hawkeyes’ defense has come on strong the past two games. They’ve allowed just 30 points over the last two weeks forcing six turnovers and allowing just three touchdowns. But this past Saturday against Purdue confirmed there was a turning point.
The team had amassed just three sacks through five games leading up to it, with not one against a Power 5 team.
“We got together as a unit — a player-led meeting on Thursday — and just said how important it was just to play for each other,” defensive end Joe Evans said. “We stay off our phones with the media and stuff, but it’s hard not to see sometimes — people criticizing us for not getting to the quarterback, not being productive.”
“We were just talking about how we’ve just been playing super stuck up and tight,” defensive tackle Aaron Graves said. “We were super stressed about messing up our jobs. We just said we’re going to go out there and have fun and play together as a unit.”
It wasn’t much fun to be Boilermaker QB Hudson Card. He got sacked six times by the Hawkeyes, which tripled Iowa’s total for the season. And it was a big reason why Iowa left the game with a 20-14 victory.
“They were disruptive in the pass game and they just did a heck of a job in making my life and Jay’s life and everybody in the back end’s life a lot easier,” linebacker Nick Jackson said.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz was made aware that the players had a players-only meeting, and he sounded in favor.
“They probably should have more meetings then,” Ferentz said when he learned of Evans’ comments. “No, I wasn’t aware of it and I would encourage them to keep meeting. Usually player-led meetings coincide with losing teams, that’s my experience, but this is a contradiction to that. That’s awesome. Happy for them. Joe can keep having meetings as far as I’m concerned if he guarantees that production.”
Iowa’s defensive resurgence has them sitting at 5-1 midway through the season. Next up is arguably the toughest remaining game on their schedule: On the road in Madison against Wisconsin.