Dec. 20, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Coordinator Norm Parker and the University of Iowa defense used a “Six Seconds of Hell” moniker as a rallying cry throughout the season. UI offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe will settle for “Three Seconds of Heaven” on the other side of the ball.
“We’ve got three seconds to keep them off of us,” O’Keefe said of the Georgia Tech defense. “Three seconds of heaven. That’s how our quarterbacks might describe it.”
Parker, O’Keefe and the No. 10 Hawkeyes play No. 9 Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Jan. 5, in the FedEx Orange Bowl at Land Shark Stadium in Miami.
During a 10-2 regular season, Iowa’s offense averaged 23.1 points per game, or nearly two points fewer than the Yellow Jacket defense allows. The Hawkeyes scored 30-or more points three times (42 against Indiana, 35 at Iowa State and 30 against Michigan); Georgia Tech allowed 30 or more points six times.
O’Keefe said Georgia Tech’s defense does not compare to any in the Big Ten Conference.
“They’re an eight-man front team, they’re like everybody else, they know you have to stop the run in order to be successful,” O’Keefe said. “Their base is a 4-3, but they played a 3-4 against Clemson in the last ball game (a 39-34 victory). They’ve played a lot of nickel defense very much like you would play a regular 4-3 defense, except they’re substituting a safety in there for one of their linebackers and they’re not afraid to go against the run with it.”
A conversation about the Yellow Jacket defense wouldn’t be complete without mentioning defensive end Derrick Morgan. In 13 games, Morgan posted 37 solo tackles, 18 tackles for a loss and 12 ½ quarterback sacks. He forced two fumbles and recovered two loose balls.
“They’re very athletic, they’ve got speed and they’re strong up front,” O’Keefe said. “Morgan, No. 91, is really a force to deal with. You have to know where he is, what he’s up to. They play him on either edge and sometimes they will line him up inside. He is a very good player…so is the rest of their defensive line. They have a lot of speed in the secondary and at the linebacker position as well.”
“It will feel good to go out there with everybody you want to have. It’s been awhile. We’re thankful we didn’t have to play the week after the season ended. That might have been tough on us.”
UI offensive coordinator
O’Keefe said the layoff between a 12-0 regular-season-ending victory against Minnesota on Nov. 21 and the FedEx Orange Bowl will require the Hawkeye offense to rediscover its passion.
“One of the things that’s going to be critical is to get our intensity back,” O’Keefe said. “We had some early workouts where we’ve had a lot of intensity and a lot of competition. We forced our guys into more competitive situations the last couple weeks for two reasons. No. 1, you want to prevent boredom, and No. 2, the thing that’s most critical is you want to have the intensity you’re going to have on game day. If you have that you have a chance to have your rhythm and a chance to execute better. For us, that means we’re going to have to be physical.”
The Hawkeye offense overcame several injuries this season — running backs Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher; tight end Tony Moeaki; Big Ten offensive lineman of the year Bryan Bulaga and his fellow lineman Dace Richardson; wide receivers Paul Chaney, Jr., Colin Sandeman, Marvin McNutt; quarterback Ricky Stanzi…to name several.
On Sunday, Richardson was back in pads, Robinson was running hard and Stanzi was, in O’Keefe’s words, “full speed ahead.”
“It will feel good to go out there with everybody you want to have,” O’Keefe said. “It’s been awhile. We’re thankful we didn’t have to play the week after the season ended. That might have been tough on us.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz, many times throughout the season, commented on the resiliency of the Hawkeyes. O’Keefe echoed that thought, as well as embracing the “Next Man In” philosophy.
“In the game of football, you almost become numb to some of the stuff that goes on around you,” O’Keefe said. “A guy gets hurt, you just keep going. Especially here, we’re kind of used to that. The first few times it happened years ago, we might have stopped to think about it once or twice. Now you don’t think about it and all the sudden at the end of the game, you’re like, `Wow, that happened.’ Our guys are very resilient, they believe in themselves and they believe in the `next man in’ theory. The guy who steps in is expected to fill the spot and fill it well and not let the club down. That makes it fun to be around these guys.”