The defense of the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-0 in Big Ten) dominated Minnesota (4-1, 0-1) in its 23-7 win over the Golden Gophers for the Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes have won four games in a row — the first time since the 2010-2011 season — and are off to their best start in four years.
Iowa’s offense has grabbed most of the attention thus far, because of first-year starter Jake Rudock and running back Mark Weisman. The defense however, has proved to be just as vital in the Hawkeyes four-game winning streak.
On Saturday, head coach Kirk Ferentz’s unit sacked Minnesota quarterback Phillip Nelson four times — Nelson played his first game in two weeks after suffering an injury earlier in the season.
The Hawkeyes had only registered two sacks coming into their matchup against the Golden Gophers.
Iowa’s defensive line disrupted Nelson and the Minnesota offense all afternoon by consistently penetrating the offensive line and not allowing the Golden Gophers to get into any type of rhythm.
Hawkeye defensive coordinator Phil Parker has over a decade of knowledge on defending Big Ten teams and knows that in order for his unit to compete in the Big Ten this year that they have to attack the quarterback.
Parkers defense had its best outing of the season against the Gophers.
Minnesota ranked 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game (282.3) through its first four games but were held to just 30 yards on 27 carries against the Hawkeyes.
Due to Iowa’s stifling defense, Nelson couldn’t rely on his running attack and was forced to bear the burden of carrying the offensive load by his self.
Iowa linebacker James Morris intercepts a pass during the fourth quarter of the Hawkeyes 23-7 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
Nelson completed just 12 passes for 135 yards and threw two interceptions.
Iowa’s linebacking trio of Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey, and James Morris shadowed Nelson all game. Kirksey and Morris each finished the game with an interception, while Hitchens registered ten tackles.
Ferentz’s unit hadn’t faced a legitimate offensive threat since their season opening loss to Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois.
Against Minnesota, Ferentz squad continued to grow on both sides of the ball — on offense Weisman rushed for 147 yards on 24 carries, while Rudock had another solid game throwing for 218 yards and accounting for two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).
The Hawkeyes have impressed fans and critics thus far but will face an uphill battle the rest of the season. Three of their next four opponents are against ranked teams.