Dec. 28, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
LOS ANGELES — Stanford director of offense Mike Bloomgren will not see a traditional Pac-12 defense when No. 5 Iowa takes on his No. 6 Cardinal in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on Jan. 1.
What does that mean?
“(Iowa believes it) can dazzle you with dance and they don’t have to baffle you with BS,” Bloomgren said Monday at a news conference at The LA Hotel Downtown. “They’re going to line up in front of you and try to fight you toe-to-toe. There is not much movement (from Iowa), like in the Pac-12 where you have all these different schemes and people flying in from vines on third down.”
The Hawkeyes won 12 of 13 games this season by fighting opponents toe-to-toe. Iowa is 15th in the nation in scoring defense (18.5 points per game) and 20th in total defense (334.2 yards per game). Although current UI defensive coordinator Phil Parker is no relation to Norm Parker, the late, great Hawkeye defensive coordinator, he looks to be a chip off the old Parker block.
“I’ve been at Iowa 17 years — when (head coach) Kirk Ferentz first came — and Norm Parker was defensive coordinator,” Parker said. “It all started with fundamentals — taking on blocks and having good leverage. We carry that on. We always like to play two-high safety and make sure everybody’s playing fundamentally sound.”
There have been several Rose Bowl week synonyms of choice when describing the Hawkeye defense. For every vanilla, there is physical. For every basic, there is solid.
“We’re not about big-name guys and statistics. Our biggest point of emphasis is don’t give up points and don’t give up big plays. Our guys walk around with a chip on their shoulder. A lot of these guys are not highly recruited, but they’re fundamentally good football players. That goes back to them standing up and taking charge.”
UI defensive coordinator
“We’re not about big-name guys and statistics,” Parker said. “Our biggest point of emphasis is don’t give up points and don’t give up big plays. Our guys walk around with a chip on their shoulder. A lot of these guys are not highly recruited, but they’re fundamentally good football players. That goes back to them standing up and taking charge.”
Iowa’s defense held four teams to less than 300 yards of total offense this season: Pittsburgh (282), Maryland (241), Illinois State (231), and Northwestern (198). It is the same Northwestern team that gained 330 yards against Stanford during a season-opening 16-6 win by the Wildcats.
Ten of Iowa’s 12 opponents this season scored 20 points or less.
The 27-day layoff from competition between the Big Ten Conference Championship Game and the Rose Bowl Game should benefit the Hawkeyes. Iowa allowed an average of 334.2 yards per game for the season. Through the first eight games the average was 286.3 yards per game, in the final five it was 408.8.
“Everybody’s out there trying to win,” Parker said. “There are some times we didn’t play really clean — probably in the last game — that we probably thought we should have had a better chance to win that game. I know that we’ll be good and we’ll be sound, and I think the guys will be together.”
Iowa’s defense has allowed only eight runs of 20-or-more yards this season (while the Hawkeyes compiled 20 runs of 20-or-more yards).
“If we give up three or less big plays in a game, then you’re going to keep the score down to about 13 (points),” Parker said. “Anything above three, you’re probably going to give up 23 points. It has a lot to do with giving up big plays. We have cut down on it. I think our guys were more focused in what we’re trying to do and being fundamentally sound. It all goes back to studying and preparation.”
The Rose Bowl Game will be played Friday beginning at 4:10 p.m. (CT). It will be televised by ESPN.