Hawkeyes' Balanced Attack Burns Sun Devils

Sept 20, 2003

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IOWA CITY, IA — The Iowa Hawkeyes had a few handicaps going into Saturday’s game against Arizona State University.

Their offense had to compete with the loss of leading receiver Maurice Brown. Their running game was up against one of the best rushing defenses in the country. They were facing the best quarterback they had yet to face this season, with a strong and fast passing game. And the Hawkeyes’ were playing their first nationally-ranked opponent this season.

On all counts, No. 14 (ESPN/USA Today) Iowa found ways of confronting those issues and wiped out the 16th-ranked Sun Devils 21-2 under the lights inside Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa has won 13 straight regular season games and is 4-0 for the first time since the 1997 season.

Iowa starts at four straight wins for the first time since 1997 and goes undefeated into Big 10 play, which starts next week. Iowa increased its regular-season winning streak to 13 games, the third longest in school history and has an 18-3 overall record in its last 21 games.

The Hawkeyes had to weather a storm in the first eight minutes as early miscues forced a fumble by quarterback Nathan Chandler, which led to a safety as center Brian Ferentz landed on the ball in his own endzone.

But that was all the ASU defense could produce and the tide turned toward the Hawkeyes on the next Sun Devils’ possession when defensive end Howard Hodges handed quarterback Andrew Walter his first sack of the game.

The sack cost ASU a turnover, but the Hawkeyes were unable to capitalize off their possession as Jason Shivers picked off a pass by Chandler on a second down play. The interception was Chandler’s first on the year.

But Iowa was quick to return the favor as cornerback Jovon Johnson picked off Walter’s first down pass at Iowa’s 11-yard line for a 13-yard return.

“It was gigantic because things were not going smoothly at that point,” said coach Kirk Ferentz. “So that’s a major play. Those are things we couldn’t have done a few years ago. I’m not sure we could have done it last year. We’re making strides on that side of the football.”

Jovon Johnson’s first quarter interception ended ASU’s last real opportunity to hit paydirt against Iowa’s relentless defense.

Johnson has three interceptions in four games, and Saturday’s was his second that stopped a scoring threat. Over his career of 17 games, he has seven total snags.

“I feel we have one of the best defenses in the country.”
Iowa running back Fred Russell

“I think that interception gave our offense a boost and something to get them going,” said Johnson. “They came out after that and they did some good things. They got it going. Our defense got it going and we came together as a team and did what we had to do.”

Hodges’s and Johnson’s performances highlighted a game dominated by the Iowa defense as they held a team averaging 404.5 yards per game (over just two games) to just 185 total yards.

“I feel we have one of the best defenses in the country,” said leading running back Fred Russell, who had 27 carries for 154 yards. “And I feel sorry for the opposing team. I really feel bad for them.”

Arizona coach Dirk Koetter was certainly feeling Russell’s pain.

“Iowa’s defense is as good as we’ve seen all season,” he said. “They are a well coached team and they played good zone defense against us tonight. They were able to blitz from any direction and drop players back into pass coverage.

“Our defense and special teams didn’t play particularly poor. They did their part. Our offense stunk,” he added.

Walter was held to 25-of-44 for 160 yards with one interception and two sacks. ASU’s leading rusher was Iowa City-native Hakim Hill with two carries for 17 yards.

Meanwhile on Iowa’s offensive side, the questions about who was going to fill-in Mo Brown’s shoes was quickly answered with just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Ramom Ochoa had four catches for 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns — his first two as an Iowa Hawkeye. He also collected 42 yards on punt returns.

Senior Ramon Ochoa snagged a 40-yard pass by Chandler to get Iowa’s first touchdown, and his first and longest touchdown snag off a quarterback.

Ochoa connected with Chandler again in the third quarter on a 3-yard pass for Iowa’s insurance.

Ochoa had four catches for 64 yards, those two touchdowns and 42 yards on four punt returns.

Chandler went 15-of-23 with one interception for 154 yards and three touchdowns and four sacks.

“Ramon Ochoa has been a quietly good player for us,” said Ferentz. “He’s done a great job on special teams and he’s a tremendous young guy. To see him play a game like this was really gratifying. He deserves it. He’s a tremendous young person.”

Erik Jensen got the other touchdown reception on a 3-yarder by Chandler with just over three minutes remaining in the first half.

“Ramon has done a great job on special teams and he’s a tremendous young guy. To see him play a game like this was really gratifying. He deserves it. He’s a tremendous young person.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

Red-shirt freshman Calvin Davis also stepped up with three catches for 51 yards, his longest being a 23-yard snag adding to the offensive attack that many were worried couldn’t be levelled by the Hawkeyes.

“When you lose a guy like Mo Brown, the numbers spoke for themselves with his production this year, so you just wonder where you’re going to get the yards from and who’s going to make the play,” Ferentz said. “The big thing we told our guys is that no one guy had to put it upon his shoulders. We wanted to spread it out among everybody. That the kind of football team we have. We have a lot of guys stepping up and doing great things.”

Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com