IOWA CITY — It is way too early to compare Iowa’s defense this season to some of the best of the Kirk Ferentz era.
So far, though, the Hawkeyes haven’t been half bad.
Iowa (2-1) is 52nd nationally at 21.7 points allowed per game heading into Saturday’s non-conference finale against Western Michigan (0-3). The Hawkeyes’ defense has given up just four touchdowns the past two games, both wins.
Iowa did allow Iowa State to score 14 points in the final five minutes of Saturday’s 27-21 victory. But it could be worse: It could be 2012, when the defense was a big reason the Hawkeyes finished with six straight losses.
“We’re just smarter. We took a lot of time in the offseason to become more football smart,” Iowa safety Tanner Miller said. “I just think all 11 guys have a lot more football IQ than we did last year. I think the game just slowed down for everybody.”
Without question, Iowa’s strength has been its rush defense.
The most yards a single player has run for against Iowa this season were the 56 picked up by Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. The Hawkeyes gave up just 70 yards rushing to Missouri State in a 28-14 win on Sept. 7, and last week the Cyclones gained just 59 yards on the ground in 24 tries.
Iowa is fifth in the Big Ten and 16th in the country with 97.3 yards rushing allowed per game. The Big Ten schedule will bring tougher challenges, but the Hawkeyes are expected to be tough against the run all season.
“As a defense, we want to stop the run. To do that, you need to be fundamentally sound. You need to be physical. I think we’ve done that to an extent,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “We still have a lot of room to improve.”