Miller Grabs 2 More Interceptions

Nov. 19, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The first time University of Iowa free safety Tanner Miller intercepted a pass this season, he returned it 98 yards for a touchdown. That dazzling play helped the Hawkeyes to their first Big Ten Conference victory of the season — 41-31 over Northwestern on Oct. 15 in Kinnick Stadium.

On Saturday Miller picked off two passes by Purdue quarterback Robert Marve, and Miller’s defensive effort helped Iowa to its most-recent league win, 31-21, on Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium.

“Any time I can get the ball back to the offense, that’s huge,” Miller said. “The one came after (Purdue) had that long kickoff return and got to our end of the field. We talked about putting out the fire, and our defense came up with huge stops when it needed to.”

Both interceptions by Miller came in Hawkeye territory. The first was in the second quarter with Iowa leading 14-7. The Boilermakers drove to Iowa’s 18 before Miller stepped in front of a Marve pass and went out of bounds at the 1. The second interception came in the third quarter with the Hawkeyes leading, 24-14.

Akeem Hunt had given Purdue excellent starting position when he returned a kickoff 42 yards; a penalty on Iowa placed the ball at the Hawkeye 48. But on the third play of the series, Miller swiped his second pass and returned it 16 yards to Iowa’s 45. The Hawkeyes scored two plays later to lead 31-14 early in the fourth quarter.

In postgame comments, UI head coach Kirk Ferentz alluded to the Hawkeyes working hard on the road, even if all the plays might not have looked exactly…attractive. He wasn’t referring to Miller’s fine defensive efforts, but it is symbolic all the same — being productive doesn’t always mean it has to be of the 1-play, 98-yard variety.

“A lot of plays that maybe weren’t the prettiest, but the bottom line is the guys played hard and got the job done,” Ferentz said moments after the Hawkeyes won their seventh game of the season and assured a .500 record in conference play.

And just as Miller’s glittery interception return against Northwestern more than a month ago was key, so were his two most recent turnovers, even without long scoring returns.

“We responded and we came up big,” Miller said. “After every loss this year we have come back with a win — it shows the resiliency of this team. We aren’t going to quit.”

Iowa limited Purdue to 282 total yards. Two Boilermaker quarterbacks combined to complete 17-of-34 passes for 181 yards — with the two interceptions by Miller.

“In conference football, it’s important you do a good job protecting the football and it helps a lot if you can come up with some takeaways,” Ferentz said. “When that happens, it’s a good thing, and when we’re playing good football we do a good job with that turnover-takeaway margin.”

Miller finished the game with one tackle. For the season he is fourth among all Hawkeyes with 64 tackles and tops with three interceptions.

Iowa returns to action Friday, Nov. 25, at Nebraska (8-3, 4-3).