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Leistikow's DVR Monday: How Phil Parker's Iowa defense stifled Brock Purdy in Cy-Hawk win

Hawk Central 16 September, 2021 - 08:10am

Both of those seasons finished with Iowa in the Orange Bowl.

The 2021 Hawkeyes are a long way from earning major postseason opportunities, but Saturday’s win at then-No. 10 Iowa State was a team effort — defense, special teams and … yes … a little bit of offense.

Two years ago in Ames, Iowa’s defensive coordinator was tired of being picked apart by Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy. They were averaging 10.3 yards per play and leading, 14-6. But Parker sent pressure on 12 of Iowa State’s final 24 snaps, turning that game around for an 18-17 Iowa win.

Second quarter: Seth Benson pressure on second-and-7. Benson surprised the marching Cyclones with his entry into the backfield, and Purdy was hurried into an incompletion that stalled their momentum in a 7-3 game. A subsequent punt led to Iowa’s best drive of the day, a 71-yarder that resulted in seven points.

Third quarter: Dane Belton/Campbell pressure on second-and-12. After Logan Lee dropped Purdy for a 2-yard loss on first down, the natural tendency for an offense facing Iowa might be to try to get half the yardage back. But Iowa State wasn’t prepared for a Belton/Campbell blitz combo, with defensive end Ethan Hurkett dropping into coverage. Purdy was swallowed for an eight yard loss (Campbell and Deontae Craig got half credit each), and Iowa got the ball back at Iowa State’s 43 — after punting on the previous drive from its own 6.

As good as linebacker Jestin Jacobs looked in live action, the tape and numbers backed that up. The rangy sophomore was on the field for 21 snaps, and 20 of them went for six yards or less.

If there’s one defender Iowa can ill-afford to lose to injury, it’s Jack Campbell. Sure, Iowa has three good linebackers and often only plays two. But Campbell is the heartbeat in the middle of this defense. His physical edge/presence gave Purdy second thoughts about running Saturday. Purdy had one rushing yard Saturday; he was averaging 40.1 over his previous 10 games.

Two years ago, Jack Koerner was making his second career start and came up big in Ames with a fumble recovery and clutch pass breakup. Saturday marked the free safety’s 21st Iowa start, and it belongs among his best. Koerner had several open-field tackles of Iowa State all-American Breece Hall, including early in what looked like it could go for a long touchdown.

Iowa gained 136 yards Saturday against a tough Cyclones defense on three second-quarter possessions that produced 14 points. That was the good news. The bad was that Iowa managed just 37 net yards on 37 plays in the other three quarters combined.

While I realize that there will be a lot of hand-wringing about the offense (which ranks 126th out of 130 FBS teams at 238.0 yards per game), I’d encourage you to be patient. After Petras went 8-for-10 for 94 yards in the second quarter, he was only asked to throw seven second-half passes — and his primary objective was to play it safe. With Iowa's dynamic defense and punter, the offense's main task was to not give away the game.

Petras was more effective on first down, something that ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit echoed. “Easier on the pass protection. Easier on the timing,” he said. Petras’ 17-yard strike to Luke Lachey was his second-best throw of the day, a precise dart between two Cyclone defenders where only his tall tight end could catch it.

Ivory Kelly-Martin and Tyler Goodson are separated by one inch and one pound, so Kelly-Martin isn’t exactly a change-up back … but his fresh legs seemed to benefit Iowa’s 71-yard TD drive with two 8-yard runs. More "IKM" might make Goodson fresher, too.

I received a lot of reader questions on this. My takes on all four:

No. 1: Third-and-9 from ISU’s 28 (loss of 4). There is no blaming Petras on this one. In his first series, right tackle Jack Plumb was overmatched by terrific defensive end Will McDonald, who had his hands on Petras within 2.5 seconds of the snap. Petras, frankly, did a good job to tuck it in and only lose 4 yards in a shotgun situation. Caleb Shudak’s subsequent 50-yard field goal was foiled by a bad snap by Austin Spiewak (who was later replaced by freshman Luke Elkin).

No. 4: Third-and-9 from ISU’s 24 (loss of 9). I don’t blame Petras here as much as the play call. With an 11-point lead and third-down struggles, a safe running play to set up a shorter field goal would’ve been smarter. Petras’ first two reads (Tyrone Tracy on his left, then Sam LaPorta over the middle) were well-covered … and after that he was out of time against a five-man rush that saw DeJong and Justin Britt fall apart vs. Petersen. Turns out, the big loss was moot as Shudak buried a 51-yard field goal for a 24-10 lead.

The 31 yards of losses led to an ugly-looking rushing day (39 carries, 67 yards). Take away Petras scrambles, one kneel-down and the four sacks, and Iowa’s straightforward running game was better — 32 attempts for 93 yards.

Thanks to Taylor and Iowa’s defense, here was the most telling stat of all: Iowa’s average starting field position was its own 42-yard line; Iowa State’s was its own 20.

Talk about a tilted field … and a tilted rivalry.

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