Oct. 13, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The casual football fan doesn’t know (and probably doesn’t want to know) what goes on every snap between defensive and offensive linemen.
University of Iowa sophomore defensive tackle Nathan Bazata has flown under the radar this season while the Hawkeyes have won all six games and jumped to No. 17 in national polls.
“He kind of gets overlooked in there,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Bazata has been playing well.”
During Big Ten Conference wins against Wisconsin and Illinois, Bazata combined for six tackles. At 6-foot-2, 284 pounds, Bazata will never be confused with a Pop Warner player. But he was small in comparison to a Badger offensive front five that averaged 6-5, 316.
“He was out in the land of the giants,” Ferentz said. “(Bazata and senior defensive end Nate Meier) looked like ninth graders compared to their guys, but they held their own. For us to have a good team, everybody has to take care of their spot. We’re more of that than dominant. We don’t have Ndamukong Suh.”
“Last year I was stuck on guys and not getting off blocks. In the offseason I worked with (graduate assistant Broderick Binns) quite a bit on getting off blocks and that is what really helped me. It showed up in spring ball and throughout the summer. It showed up in camp, too.”
UI defensive tackle
Bazata registered his first sack Oct. 10 when he dropped Illini quarterback Wes Lunt for a 6-yard loss in the third quarter of a 29-20 Iowa victory.
“(Senior defensive end) Drew (Ott) flushed him to me and I happened to be at the right place at the right time,” said Bazata, a native of Howells, Nebraska.
For the season Bazata has 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry, a blocked kick, and a fumble recovery. He had four assisted tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2014.
“Last year I was stuck on guys and not getting off blocks,” Bazata said. “In the offseason I worked with (graduate assistant Broderick Binns) quite a bit on getting off blocks and that is what really helped me. It showed up in spring ball and throughout the summer. It showed up in camp, too.”
And it is working in games. If he does his assignment correctly, you won’t hear Bazata’s named called as often as linebackers Cole Fisher, Josey Jewell, and Ben Niemann.
“Mainly my job is playing off blocks,” Bazata said. “If two guys are on me, that means the linebacker is free and that’s all they can ask for. That’s what our job is: take up blockers and get our linebackers free to make the play.”
UI senior right guard Jordan Walsh went against Bazata in practice during spring ball and in the summer.
“From spring ball to summer to now, he is doing a great job and getting a lot better,” Walsh said. “I’m excited for him.”
The Hawkeyes are second in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing 78 yards a game. Opponents average 2.5 yards per carry.
Iowa makes its third road appearance of the season Oct. 17 against Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) on Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. The Hawkeyes have won three of the last four meetings, including 48-7 last season in Kinnick Stadium.