Back to Big Ten Football

Oct. 7, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — After facing various forms of the spread offense in the first four games, the University of Iowa defense is looking forward to some good, old-fashioned Big Ten Conference football.

Through its first five games Penn State has run the ball 53 percent of the time and thrown it the other 47 percent. Nearly 60 percent of the Nittany Lions’ yardage has come through the air.

“It’s definitely exciting to get more back to more of a traditional style of football, rather than the spread offenses, empties and quarterback options,” said UI senior linebacker Tyler Nielsen, who has 12 tackles this season. “We’ll see that again this year, and it’s good to play teams like that early on, but it will be good to play a traditional style again.”

Penn State will provide the Iowa defense with a challenge with playmakers all over the field. Along with a two-quarterback system featuring Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden, the Nittany Lions boast difference makers at the skill positions.

Running back Silas Redd has rushed for 432 yards on 91 carries, while 6-foot-5 wide receiver Eric Moye has 26 receptions for 433 yards and three scores. Moye ranks third in Penn State history with 2,184 receiving yards, fourth in receiving touchdowns (18) and fifth in receptions (130) and 100-yard games (five).

“The whole group (of wide receivers) is very talented,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “Moye is really good, and he’s a 6-foot-5 guy, which makes it another challenge on top of it.”

The Iowa defense has improved from game one to game four and through the bye week. Ferentz knows there is still work to be done.

“We are on the right path, but we are not there yet,” said Ferentz. “We have some young guys, and we have also have some guys that are not real experienced that are doing some good things.

“It’s putting the pieces together — trying to do a little better job with the containment, tackling, not giving up the big plays, those types of things. That’s going to be the challenge for us to continue to get better.

“We have to play at a higher level, and it’s a challenge that’s out there every week. We are gaining some ground and making progress.”

One of the bright spots on the defense is the play of the sophomore linebacker duo of James Morris and Christian Kirksey. The pair is 1-2 on the team with 40 and 39 tackles. Morris has also recorded an interception, while Kirksey has two tackles for loss and one sack.

“They’re flying around getting to the ball and making tackles,” said Nielsen. “That’s what any linebacker needs to do.”

Iowa will face Penn State on Saturday beginning at 2:36 p.m. (CT) in Happy Valley. The game will be televised on ABC or ESPN, depending on location.