Nov. 3, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Defensive players for the 10th-ranked University of Iowa football team used the words explosive and fast tempo to describe Indiana, their next test on Nov. 7.
The Hoosiers (4-4 overall, 0-4 Big Ten) are on top of the Big Ten Conference in total offense (467.6 yards per game) and passing offense (287.0). They have scored 52 and 48 points in games this season and between 31-36 points three other times.
“We have to play assignment football. Everyone has to be in the right gap and the right coverage at the same time,” said UI sophomore linebacker Josey Jewell. “We have to be ready, and once we see (the offensive alignment), we have to be able to make the calls right away. There can’t be a lot of thinking, it has to be second nature to us.”
Indiana is under the direction of senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who leads the Big Ten in passing (292.7 yards per game) and total offense (295.1). He has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,049 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.
“You play this game because you want to play the best,” said UI junior cornerback Greg Mabin. “Right now Indiana is up there as far as its passing game. It will be a challenge for us.”
Last October the Hawkeyes defeated Indiana, 45-29, in Kinnick Stadium. Sudfeld suffered a season-ending injury in the second quarter after being sacked by Carl Davis and Drew Ott. Hoosier running back Tevin Coleman went on to rush for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Coleman is now with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons; the top ground gainer for Indiana is Alabama-Birmingham transfer Jordan Howard, who averages 131.2 yards per game.
“They can throw the ball, they can run it,” Jewell said. “We have to be ready.”
“You play this game because you want to play the best. Right now Indiana is up there as far as its passing game. It will be a challenge for us.”
UI junior cornerback
“One of the main things is we are all hustling to the ball,” Mabin said. “Every single guy on the field wants to make the tackle and make the play. When you have every guy on the field with that mentality, good things happen because of it.”
The Hoosiers average 78 plays per game, nearly eight more than Iowa. The largest margin of victory for the Hawkeyes this season is 46 points against a North Texas team that snapped the ball 88 times. The only other team Iowa has played that ran more than 70 was Wisconsin (72).
“Their tempo is going to be faster than anything we’ve seen so far,” said UI sophomore linebacker Ben Niemann. “They are probably the fastest tempo offense in the Big Ten, so we are going to have to get the call in and get aligned so we can play against them.”
There is no denying the strength of Indiana’s offense. But the Hawkeye defense has been up for its first eight challenges of the season. Iowa is second in the Big Ten and fifth in the NCAA in rushing defense (85.8 yards per game), fourth in the Big Ten and sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense (15.3 points per game), and third in the Big Ten and seventh in the NCAA in total defense (287.6 yards per game). The Hawkeyes are also fifth in the Big Ten and 14th in the NCAA in pass efficiency defense.
“We are pretty much doing the same things we have been doing week in and week out,” Mabin said. “We have had a good week of practice and we’re trying to continue that going into Saturday.
Iowa is in search of its fifth consecutive road victory Saturday. Kickoff from Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana, is set for 2:30 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised on ESPN.
“(Indiana poses) a lot of problems and has been very productive scoring an awful lot of points,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s not realistic to duplicate their tempo and proficiency. The (responsibility) falls on our players to do a great job of concentrating on Saturday and communicating with each other at a quick rate because it happens fast.”