Iowa Defense Does Its Part

Sept. 5, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the first time in three years, the University of Iowa football team stepped on to the field at Kinnick Stadium without defensive mainstays Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug or Tyler Sash. Saturday’s victory over Tennessee Tech wasn’t a defensive masterpiece, but the unit is moving on just fine.

Sophomore linebackers James Morris and Christian Kirksey paced the team with 10 tackles apiece, the Hawkeyes forced a pair of Golden Eagle turnovers, and the UI defensive line, featuring three new starters, continually pressured the TTU quarterbacks in a 34-7 victory.

“I thought we did alright,” said Morris, who had four solo and six tackle assists in the victory. “We made some mistakes, and we’re going to try and get that corrected. Fortunately, we played well enough to win.”

The Iowa first team defensive unit played admirably in wet, rainy conditions against a Golden Eagle offense that returned all 11 starters. The Hawkeye first unit allowed 94 yards of total offense in the opening half, and 165 total yards before hanging up their cleats late in the third quarter following an 84- minute weather delay.

The defensive front four consisting of seniors Mike Daniels, Broderick Binns, Lebron Daniel and sophomore Dominic Alvis tallied a single sack — by Daniels in the first quarter — but the group pressured Tennessee Tech quarterback Tre Lamb throughout the day.

“The guys were getting some pressure, but couldn’t get the quarterback down quite often,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz, who led the Hawkeyes to their 11th straight season-opening victory. “Credit them for getting some disruption in there, but you still have to finish the play.”

Morris and defensive back Shaun Prater both finished plays and each went on the offensive after intercepting Lamb in Iowa’s 24-point second quarter. Morris tallied his first career pick before returning the ball 52 yards down to the 9-yard line.

“The second I got my hands on the ball, I was thinking score,” said Morris, a former all-state running back, with a laugh. “I always tell people, once upon a time there was a running back from Solon and when he came to Iowa he didn’t play running back anymore. Any chance I can get my hands on the football… it is fun.”

The pressure dialed up by the defensive line led to Prater’s seventh career pick with 10 seconds left in the opening half. The Omaha, Neb., native won a jump ball at the Iowa 11-yard line before rumbling 89 yards for the score to give Iowa the 27-0 halftime lead.

“The coaches have done a good job teaching the defensive team how to make that an offensive play, be it a pick or a blocked pick,” said Ferentz. “The guys looked like they did a great job of setting the wall up (to set up the big returns).”

The first game post-Clayborn, Klug and Sash is now complete. The Hawkeyes can now turn their focus to the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game against Iowa State next weekend in Ames.

“We have a pretty good routine right now,” said Morris. “We’re going to take a look at the film, try to make some corrections and then we’re all Iowa State from there.”