IOWA CITY — Josey Jewell has watched the tape and he’s not any happier now than he was Saturday.
The Iowa linebacker saw too many missed tackles, too many bad angles and way too much inconsistency as he took a second look at what transpired during the Hawkeyes’ 44-41 overtime victory at Iowa State last weekend.
As entertaining of a football game as it was on the surface, it was the type of performance that makes it hard for a defensive player to sleep at night.
“It was a tough one to watch on tape,’’ Jewell said. “There wasn’t a lot of good to see, just a lot of things that we need to get cleaned up.’’
That work is ongoing as the Hawkeyes prepare for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against North Texas at Kinnick Stadium, the final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play and a chance for the Iowa defense to return to its roots.
“It comes down to playing fundamental football, playing the way we normally play,’’ linebacker Bo Bower said. “We have to make the plays when they are there to be made.’’
The focus this week for the Hawkeyes has been centered around fundamental techniques.
“When you get away from the technique that you’ve been taught, you’re asking for trouble,’’ Bower said. “We didn’t play our best game at Iowa State. We need to get that edge back.’’
The Hawkeyes surrendered 467 yards to the Cyclones, allowing 6.5 yards per play after giving up 3.3 yards on average while allowing three points in a season-opening win over Wyoming.
“It was night and day, two totally different games,’’ Bower said. “We didn’t execute the way we normally do or the way we know we can do.’’
North Texas coach Seth Littrell, the offensive coordinator on a 2012 Indiana team which beat Iowa 24-21, said his team knows what to expect from the Hawkeyes.
“What you see is what you get,’’ Littrell said. “They’re going to line up in a four-man front, be gap sound, be strong up front and be technically sound. They’re not going to out-scheme you. They’ll do it their way.’’
Jewell said that’s where Iowa’s work begins this week.
His list of needed improvements is rooted in the fundamentals which are the cornerstone of the Hawkeyes’ philosophy defensively.
“Tackling,’’ Jewell said. “We need to run inside on the ball better, there is a bunch of things like that we have to work on, but tackling is going to be the main focus. That’s where it starts.’’
Linebacker Ben Niemann agreed, saying that better tackling will lead the Hawkeyes to better results.
“We have to do a better job of getting to the guy with the football and then bring him down,’’ Niemann said. “We’re going to see a lot of the same things this week we saw last week. They’re going to want to play the perimeter. We’re going to do what we can to not let that happen.’’
Iowa’s issues against the Cyclones started on first down.
Iowa State gained an average of 5.5 yards on 35 first-down snaps against the Hawkeyes, running 15 plays which gained five or more yards including four which went for more than 15 yards.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said some of Iowa State’s success simply was a result of good players making good plays.
And the rest?
“The ones we can coach and correct, that’s really where our focus has to go,’’ Ferentz said. “The mental errors where we might have taken the cheese (in the cat-and-mouse game) or where we just did some things that weren’t sound enough, that’s where the work is.’’
He said first-year starters on the back end of the Iowa defense endured their share of growing pains against the Cyclones.
“We experienced that early last season, too, learned from it, and that’s the key to moving forward,’’ Ferentz said. “How much do we learn?’’
Niemann expects it all to come together.
“It’s early in the season and we can get it fixed,’’ Niemann said. “We can’t take back what happened, but we can work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’