Sep 7, 2013
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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 — Senior linebacker Christian Kirksey says the University of Iowa defense was “flying around” in its 2013 season-opener, but the key to the unit improving will be eliminating the opposition’s big plays.
“(The defense) looked great,” said Christian Kirksey, who paced Iowa with a career-best 14 tackles and had a fumble return for a touchdown against Northern Illinois. “(We need to) eliminate the big plays and deep balls we could have prevented.”
The big plays played a key part in Huskies’ 30-27 victory. Northern Illinois connected on touchdown passes of 40, 21, and 33 yards — plays the Hawkeye defense prides itself on not giving up. A fourth play — a 42-yard run on a fake punt — led to three Huskie points.
“There were instances we could have anticipated (the big plays),” said senior linebacker James Morris, who had two tackles for loss in the contest. “There were other times where it was an issue of football, a guy makes a great play or we have a guy that makes a physical mistake.
“Any college team can win on any given day, and that is what it has become. The talent level is evening out and you have to be focused week-in-and-week-out because teams are more even.”
Senior Tanner Miller
“(Mistakes) are going to happen, we accept that. In situations where we can anticipate or be more aware, that is going to help us reduce the big plays.”
Senior safety Tanner Miller says the key to limiting such plays comes down to focus and execution.
“We need to be focused play-in-and-play-out,” said Miller, who had seven tackles against Northern Illinois. “Last week, guys took their minds off (the play) for a split second. That is what college football is, it is a game of inches and making that split second decision. That’s the difference between giving up a big play and an interception.”
Miller says the mishaps are all things that can be fixed.
“It was all things that were correctable, all technique things,” he said. “There was nothing communications-wise. They are things we have seen that we can correct.”
The Iowa defense intends to build off its opening-game performance against another fast-paced offense in Missouri State.
“They’re a lot like Northern Illinois,” said Miller. “They have a quarterback that can use his legs and get outside the pocket and use his legs if he needs to. It will be a lot of the same things we saw last week.”
Missouri State is 0-1 after falling 23-17 to Northwestern State in its opener on Aug. 29. Quarterback Kierra Harris was 17-of-33 for 189 yards, while also pacing the team with 51 yards on seven carries on the ground.
Iowa knows it can’t overlook the Bears, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference and an FCS opponent. FCS schools won eight games against BCS opponent during the first week of the season, something the Hawkeyes aren’t discounting.
“Any college team can win on any given day, and that is what it has become,” said Miller. “The talent level is evening out and you have to be focused week-in-and-week-out because teams are more even.”
Saturday’s game is set for an 11:01 a.m. (CT) start inside Kinnick Stadium. Tickets are available for purchase at hawkeyesports.com.