Sept. 30, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — One of the top defenses in the country is coming off one of its best performances of the season, and defensive coordinator Phil Parker welcomes time off.
After five games, the University of Iowa ranks 16th in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing defense (93.2 yards per game), 19th in total defense (310.4 yards per game), and 21st in scoring defense (17.2 points per game). The Hawkeyes return to action Oct. 11 for Homecoming against Indiana.
“As a coach, you’re always trying to improve,” Parker said Tuesday at a news conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “I don’t think we’re exactly where we want to be right now, but the kids are working hard and it’s a good time to have a bye week.”
Iowa is 4-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten Conference. The Hawkeyes posted a 24-10 road victory at Purdue on Sept. 27 where they established season-bests for fewest points allowed (10), fewest first downs allowed (nine), fewest passing yards allowed (72), and fewest total yards allowed (156).
“We’ve got the pieces of the defense and the guys in the right spot right now,” Parker said. “We’re working as a team and the communication has been better.”
On the last road trip, Parker said 29 defensive players traveled, and 24 saw the field at Ross-Ade Stadium.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re playing a lot more guys during the game.”
All the defensive position groups have given Parker something to smile about after five weeks. The Hawkeyes are settled on linebackers, safeties are improving, and more defensive lineman are seeing game action. Parker said sophomore cornerback Greg Mabin has “shown up and done a good job trying to hold down that job.”
“Everybody’s getting closer and starting to understand what we have,” Parker said.
One area to gauge the improvement by the linebackers is looking at passing yards allowed from the season opener until last weekend. Against Northern Iowa on Aug. 30, the Hawkeyes allowed 380 yards through the air. That was reduced by 308 yards in week five.
“The more you do things, the more comfortable you get,” Parker said. “Everybody’s a copycat. They’re going to try to beat you again, and obviously they tried last week a couple times to run the same kind of route and we covered it pretty well.”
When asked about junior defensive end Nate Meier, Parker had this to say:
“He’s a tough character. He’s one of those guys that you want on your side. He’s a violent football player and he’s relentless about it.”
Meier has 22 tackles, 2 ½ tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, and 1 ½ sacks.
Iowa’s defense needs to be stout Oct. 11. Its next challenge comes in the form of an Indiana team that ranks 26th in the country in total offense (493.3 yards per game); Hoosier running back Tevin Coleman leads the NCAA with 172.8 rushing yards per game.