Defense Readies for Familiar Battle

Dec. 28, 2015

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LOS ANGELES — Friday’s Rose Bowl Game may be the first-ever meeting between the Stanford and University of Iowa football programs, but the Hawkeye defense expects to see a familiar look.

The Cardinal are a run first, run often team. Their offensive line boast four senior starters, including Outland Trophy winner Joshua Garnett, and they operate with a zone blocking scheme.

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In other words, they look a lot like a Big Ten team, or more specifically, they look like the Hawkeye offense.

“We’ve played those type of teams all year,” said senior defensive end Nate Meier. “In the Big Ten Conference, that’s what a lot of people run. So people have to take on double teams and attack the gaps. That’s how you defeat that.”

The Hawkeyes are the second Big Ten test for Stanford this season. They lost the season opener at Northwestern, 16-6, rushing for just 85 yards while scoring their lowest point total of the season.

They’ve since won 11 of their last 12 games, averaging 236.8 rushing yards per game and scoring no fewer than 30 points every time out. Iowa has allowed 30 points just once this season.

“Their team is very dangerous,” said Thorpe Trophy winner Desmond King. “They have a lot of weapons out there. Even though they have the running back (Christian) McCaffrey and the quarterback (Kevin) Hogan, they also have receivers and big tight ends out there that they can split out wide and kind of put you in a position where you can make your corners check tight ends instead of receivers.”

Putting bigs on smalls has worked well for Stanford, but it all starts at the line of scrimmage. Garnett said the Cardinal are a team that is capable of exchanging body blows for three quarters before delivering a “haymaker” in the fourth.

After watching film, Iowa knows that to be true, but it’s not a scene the Hawkeyes are watching for the first time.

“They’re very good and we’ve seen that on film,” said sophomore linebacker Josey Jewell. “They have some good players on their offensive line and some guys behind them that can play.

“They’re another good offense, and not to say that they’re not any better than anybody else, but playing in the Big Ten we do have big offensive linemen.”

The Hawkeyes also get a close look at big offensive linemen, and zone blocking offensive linemen, every day in bowl game prep.

“Every single day in practice we focus on how to defend those kind of schemes,” said junior Jaleel Johnson. “It’s just one of those things where you have to really focus on what they do and how to defend it. They run a lot of schemes, things like that. It’s all going to come down to fundamentals.”

Another test for the defense will simply be getting off the field. Stanford leads the country in time of possession. The Cardinal keep the ball for an average of 35:23 a game.

“Possession is huge because every game they play they control the clock,” said Jewell, “and we have to help take care of that as a defense and get our offense the ball.”

The Hawkeyes and Cardinal meet Friday in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game at 4:10 p.m. (CT). The game is televised on ESPN.

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