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By JAMES ALLAN
AMES, Iowa — Redshirt freshman Parker Hesse stepped in and the University of Iowa defense stepped up in a 31-17 Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series victory over Iowa State on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
Iowa faced game-altering adversity on the Cyclones’ second possession. The Hawkeyes narrowly missed forcing the game’s first turnover when Nate Meier jarred the ball loose following a 6-yard completion to ISU’s Dondre Daley at the Iowa 19.
In the scrum for the fumble, senior defensive end Drew Ott came up hobbling. He left the field just 19 snaps into the contest and didn’t return.
“The guys hung together, fought hard, and in a close game that’s easier said than done. That’s something you have to experience. That’s a positive step for us.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
After gaining 66 yards and scoring three points on its first two possessions, Iowa State found its footing over the final 20 minutes of the opening half to the tune of 178 yards and two touchdowns. The Cyclones led 17-10 at the break.
Hesse and Iowa’s defense regrouped.
“We didn’t play well in the second quarter,” said Hesse, who finished with three tackles and one quarterback hurry. “We made a point at halftime that we have more in us and we just have to step up and play.
“We said we can come off the ball harder, play harder and take control of the game. We answered the bell.”
Iowa’s defense was a different unit in the second half. The Cyclones’ offensive possessions read: three plays, six plays, three plays, five plays, seven plays, three plays. Iowa State had 14 first-half first downs; two in the second half.
Richardson had time in the first half, and capitalized, completing 12-of-15 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. When Iowa’s defensive front four pinned back their ears in the second half, Richardson was 7-of-20 for 61 yards with an interception.
“That first half, it seemed one-sided,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “The second half, we played good defense, took away the run, and made them left-handed.”
Iowa’s defense surrendered 244 yards in the first half. The Cyclones had 311 yards for the game — netting 67 yards and being shutout for the final 30 minutes.
“We all knew what we had to do,” said junior Jaleel Johnson, who finished with five tackles and a sack from his defensive tackle position. “We came in together, calmed down, and came out like we needed to.
“Losing Drew (in the first half) was tough; he is one of our most experienced guys out there. We had one of our younger guys step up, Parker knew what we had to do. We didn’t lose a beat.”
Hesse says Ott made his presence felt on the sidelines. It’s what good leaders do.
“The entire game, Drew was giving me tidbits of things he was picking up from the sidelines,” said Hesse. “That’s what he’s good at, he’s a smart player. He helped the defensive line as the game went on.”
As the second half unfolded, Iowa’s defense answered every bell, Hesse grew and the Hawkeyes improved to 2-0 with a primetime matchup against Pittsburgh next on the horizon.
“The guys hung together, fought hard, and in a close game that’s easier said than done,” said Ferentz. “That’s something you have to experience. That’s a positive step for us.”
Hesse was glad to step up.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It felt good, and I was glad our coaches had us so prepared. It was easy to step in with the players we had.”