AMES, Iowa – Before the Hawkeye trophy dash started Saturday night at Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa defenders received a reminder that there is still work to be done.
The Cyclones added a little suspense to the 27-21 outcome, scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and recovering one of two on-side kicks in the final moments before allowing Iowa to wrap its hands around the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the first time in three seasons.
“Obviously, we need to learn to close, to finish the deal a little better,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But, we’ll turn to that (Sunday). This is about how the players competed.’’
And generally, the Hawkeye defense competed well as did its part to lead Iowa to its first win over an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in its last eight tries.
Iowa limited Iowa State to 59 rushing yards on 24 carries, an average of 2.5 yards per run. The Hawkeyes dropped the Cyclones behind the line four times and Carl Davis collected the first sack of the season by a defensive lineman.
All were byproducts of a tone set early by the Hawkeye defense that is learning to play the game the way coordinator Phil Parker wants it played.
“He wants us to be aggressive, to come out and get after it and play as hard as we can on every play,’’ linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “It’s all about now and not getting caught up in what has happened or what might happen on the next play.’’
Cornerback B.J. Lowery lived that experience.
He missed an opportunity to drop Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage at the line of scrimmage before the Cyclone receiver spun and raced 67 yards into the end zone for ISU’s first score after a short pass from Sam Richardson.
But presented with another chance, Lowery delivered. His leaping one-handed interception took the ball away from the Cyclones at the Iowa 15-yard line two plays after ISU had recovered an onside kick with 4 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the game.
“That’s the way it goes at cornerback,’’ Lowery said. “You have to have a short memory and keep yourself in the game.’’
That objective is beginning to sink in throughout the defensive lineup.
“This defense is taking steps forward,’’ Kirksey said. “That first half, we got things started in the right direction and did a lot of good things. But, we’ve got to learn how to finish. That’s the next step.’’