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After loss, Hawkeye defense returns to its roots
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IOWA FOOTBALL

After loss, Hawkeye defense returns to its roots

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IOWA CITY — The numbers did not lie.

The 463 yards, the 377 passing yards, the 9-of-16 conversion rate on third down, the 24 points, all of the numbers collected by Purdue provided the Iowa football team’s defense with an eye-opening midseason reality check.

The Boilermakers hurt the Hawkeyes with three explosive plays of 25 yards or more and seven additional big plays measured at between 15 and 20 yards.

To Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker, things just didn’t add up.

"That’s not who we are," Parker said. "I think we can do better than that."

Along the way, Purdue perhaps uncovered some defects that had been masked during the six victories the Hawkeyes compiled by the team’s impressive takeaway total.

Parker called the situation disappointing but said it now provides Iowa with an opportunity to learn and improve.

"Everyone saw what happened. Now, how do you respond to that?" Parker said. "It was really intriguing to get back on the field and see. The energy they had was intriguing following a game like that."

The Boilermakers’ total yardage was the most allowed by Iowa since giving up 579 in a 2017 loss to Penn State and Purdue’s passing yards were the most surrendered by the Hawkeyes since the Boilermakers collected 458 through the air in a loss to Iowa in 2016.

The fix, Parker said, involves a renewed emphasis on Iowa’s defensive roots.

"To me, it gets back to focus and fundamentals," Parker said. "Was it the technique or something that maybe in the past that was out there that nobody had seen before in the first six games? There was probably some technique, some lack of detail, that had been out there that maybe we got away with."

Parker said the Hawkeyes’ inability to get off the field on third down or complement the offense by adding to its collection of 21 turnovers both factored into Purdue’s success.

"There were a couple of times where we were first and 10, second down, first and 10, second down, first and 10, second down. If you don’t get to third down, you don’t give yourself an opportunity to get off the field," Parker said.

The Iowa coordinator said he has generally been pleased with the progress the Iowa defense has made during the opening weeks of the season.

He said the defensive line rotation has developed quicker than anticipated and has generally been able to apply needed pressure to help facilitate the takeaways Iowa has recorded during its 6-1 start.

"This entire group has worked hard since the start of fall camp," Parker said.

Cornerback Riley Moss, who shared the national lead with four interceptions when he suffered a knee injury during Iowa’s Oct. 9 win over Penn State, is getting closer to a return to action.

Team medical personnel will make the final call, but Parker said Moss seemed to be walking around the practice field with a pretty normal gait last week and he wouldn’t be stunned to see the senior back on the field in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Wisconsin.

"I think he looks good. Knowing him, I wouldn’t bet against him," Parker said. "He wasn’t going to practice (during the bye) week anyway. There’s a lot of wear and tear on those guys."

When Iowa returned to the practice field Wednesday for its first on-field work since the loss to the Boilermakers, Parker was greeted by a team that was ready to move forward.

"They’re ready for a great challenge. I think the kids were really glad to get back, get back to football and working on improving," Parker said.

"I think if we just stay the course of guys just trying to improve, to be better than the last game that we played, then you have a chance. I think that’s what they’re looking forward to."

On the field, Iowa will turn its attention to Wisconsin today.

But Parker said having the bye week provided Iowa coaches with a chance to look a little deeper into the challenges that will face the Hawkeyes during the final five weeks of the regular season.

"When you have the time, you try to look a little farther down the road and say what are we going to have to do against the teams we are playing," Parker said.

"Obviously, this Sunday is an extra day (to concentrate on the Badgers) and that’s going to help us out, but just going back and saying, ‘Hey, do we need something else to help us in later games?’ You just want to make sure you have enough weapons in your tool box."

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