Senior Linebackers Lead Iowa Defense

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — After shutting down Wyoming’s offense in the season opener, the University of Iowa football team looks to improve defensively upon an already good start to 2017.

Iowa’s defense was stout against the Cowboys, recording seven tackles for losses, three sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble.

“We were faced with a physical opponent last week,” linebackers coach Seth Wallace said. “We trademark ourselves on being physical and we displayed some of that. To finish like we did in the first game and get out of some tough situations added value to what we were doing.”

Wallace, who is in his second season as Iowa’s linebackers coach, has coached all over the Hawkeye defense over the years, serving as the corner backs and nickel backs coach in 2015 and assisting the defensive line in 2014. In addition, Wallace was a graduate assistant on the Iowa staff from 2006-08.

Now he coaches a trio of senior linebackers that stole the show against Wyoming, totaling 38 tackles and two sacks.

“The benefit of having three senior linebackers is having guys out there with experience,” Wallace said. “With experience will likely come better play by those around them. The other thing that we are trying to do is build depth and (the young guys) have somebody to watch that has done it for a long time.”

Senior Josey Jewell earned three player of the week awards — Bednarik Award, Big Ten, and Walter Camp — following his performance on Saturday.

“It’s good for Josey and us defensively,” Wallace said. “With any recognition, it’s a team effort and defensive effort, and he knows that and the defense knows that. It’s a good start for him.”

While the linebackers stuffed the stat sheet, it was the defensive line that provided the space and lanes to succeed.

“Any time you see linebackers with 13 or 14 tackles, that means the defensive line is doing their job and making sure the blockers don’t get to the next level,” Wallace said. “A lot of the award goes to those guys as well.”

Looking ahead to Iowa State, the Hawkeyes know that they will be traveling to a hostile environment and getting the Cyclones’ best shot.

“Offensively they are good,” Wallace said. “Their receivers are good, their quarterback is good, and they have a good supporting cast. We have our hands full everywhere, but our linebackers need to do a good job of making sure that they get their hands on the receivers and slow these guys down. We can’t let them run around and make plays in open space.”

The Hawkeyes face the Cyclones on Saturday at 11:01 a.m. (CT) inside Jack Trice Stadium (ESPN2). Iowa leads the overall Cy-Hawk series 42-22 and has won the last two matchups, including a 42-3 victory last season in Iowa City.