Iowa Successful on Third Down Efficiency

Sept. 26, 2013

  • Thursday Interview with P. Parker

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Success on third down, either on defense or offense, can often go a long way in determining the outcome in college football. Iowa football defensive coordinator Phil Parker knows the importance of the Hawkeye defense getting off the field on third down.

Part of that success depends on what happens on first and second down. The Hawkeye offense is converting 52% (34-66) of its third down opportunities, and is 1-3 on fourth down. Many of those 66 opportunities have been short yardage situations, which add to the chances of converting those opportunities.

In addition to its third down success, Iowa’s average time of possession is 35:48 per game through four outings. That figures ranks first in the Big Ten and third in the nation. Iowa’s third down conversion percentage is third in the league and ranks 20th nationally.

The Hawkeye defense has performed well on third down in the four non-conference games. Hawkeye opponents are converting just 24.1 percent of third down opportunities, a figure that ranks third in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation. Parker knows the down and distance plays a big part in that success by his Hawkeye defense.

“That helps our defense a lot, it keeps us off the field a little,” said Parker. “Time of possession is big; you don’t have to run as many plays. Once again, it comes down to preparation and execution and it’s what our kids have done in all areas, offense, defense and special teams.”

The Iowa defense has come up with a number of turnovers in four games, collecting six interceptions and three fumbles. In Iowa’s most recent win over Western Michigan, defensive back B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for touchdowns and WR Kevonte Martin-Manley had two touchdowns on punt returns.

“I think a lot of it comes from the preparation during the week,” said Parker, following Iowa’s Thursday practice. “We spend a little more time on third down preparation, and the guys are starting to get a better understanding of what you have to do on third down. Obviously, if you get them in third and long it is better, you have a better opportunity. We’ve been doing a better job on first and second down, and we’re trying to be aggressive with it.”

Parker is pleased with the overall play of the defense through four games, and says every down is important to being a good defense.

“I think what we are doing is playing a lot of base defense on first and second down,” said Parker. “We try to keep them to three yards or less on first down, make it second and eight, third and eight. That gives us an advantage. The last couple of games we have been forcing third and five, third and six. It gives us an opportunity, but it still comes down to execution and preparation, and our kids are doing a good job right now.”

Minnesota, Saturday’s opponent, has also dominated time of possession at just under 33 minutes per game. The Golden Gophers average 282.2 rushing yards per game and rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at over 41 points per game.

“Obviously you need turnovers, get a possession back for the offense,” said Parker. “That’s what we’re doing, getting stops on third down, getting three and outs, or getting a turnover to set up the offense. That’s our job, to get the ball back, that’s what we do.”

Minnesota enters the game with a perfect 4-0 record and Parker has been impressed with what he has seen of the Golden Gophers.

“They are very good up front, a good offensive line with excellent running backs,” said Parker. “Either of the two quarterbacks can run the ball. They have receivers who are tough, hard nose kids, who can catch the deep ball on play action. It’s a great challenge for us, they are very talented.”

Iowa and the Golden Gophers kick off at 2:36 p.m. Saturday in Minneapolis in the annual battle for Floyd of Rosedale. ABC will televise the game to a majority of the nation, while all other sections of the nation can view the contest on ESPN2.