Each week, "One Defining Moment" will dive into the game's most important moment and break it down in all its glory, or in unfortunate cases, its horror. This week: Riley Moss's 2nd Pick-Six, an exclamation point on a dominant defensive day
Well that was a lot of fun, wasn't it? Indiana, new darling of the B1G after a great run in 2020, showing up with a dynamic quarterback and an all-Big Ten wide receiver. Surely the Iowa defense, after losing so much talent along the defensive line, would struggle in the first game of the season. We've seen Iowa defenses struggle against the likes of UNI to start the season before, no doubt a Week 1 conference game would come with its share of mistakes, right?
Yeah, about that...
Iowa's defense was nothing short of masterful on Saturday, generating pressure and dominating both with the front seven, and the secondary. Riley Moss started the party with a pick-six in the first and by the time he returned his second (!!) interception for a touchdown of the half, the party was on.
Riley Moss made his presence felt early in the first quarter with a pick-six off of a deflected pass, but it was late in the second quarter when he decided to make sure you were paying attention. With 1:50 left in the half, already trailing 21-3, Indiana took over possession near midfield after a Tyler Goodson fumble. The turnover offered the Hoosiers a hint of momentum, but that was quickly snuffed when Michael Penix Jr.'s pass intended for Camron Buckley was picked by Riley Moss and returned for a touchdown. There was still a half of football to be played, but the pick-six removed all doubt from the final results, even for the Hoosiers.
A Closer Look
Iowa's defense has a few main principles. They're going to sit in zone and do all of they can to limit big plays over the top. If you're going to beat the Iowa defense, they want to make you do it with a 10 play, 80-yard drive, betting that you'll make a mistake before they will.
On the second pick-six, it was quintessential Iowa defense. Moss starts 7-8 yards off the line of scrimmage and his first step is backward, keeping everything in front of him. Moss keeps his eyes on the quarterback and Penix makes a fatal mistake, staring down his target. As soon as he starts his motion, Riley changes direction, springing the trap he's laid. He undercuts the curl route and as soon as he catches the ball he is gone, already in a full sprint towards the end zone, and a blowout Iowa win.
It was reminiscent of another memorable pick-six from an Iowa DB.
Same top-down principles. Same eyes on the quarterback. Same result. (BTW, Iowa won that Ohio State game too. 55-24, in case you forgot.)
These are the interceptions where the crowd knows before the quarterback does; where you're yelling "pick!" at the TV before the corner's even caught the ball. Moss's was no different. As soon as the ball left Penix's hand, you knew what was going to happen and Moss didn't miss. He adhered to the tried-and-true Iowa principles, he kept his eyes on the quarterback, and he broke as soon as he saw Penix start his motion. From there, it was nothing more than a sprint and a celebration.
The defensive touchdown completely reversed whatever semblance of momentum Indiana had after the Iowa turnover. Instead of going into the halftime break energized and optimistic, Indiana was forced to sit with yet another back-breaking error while Kinnick rocked overhead. The Hoosiers still came out for the second half, but if the three other interceptions they tried to throw were any indication, there was no fight left in that team.
If Iowa's defense is going to continue to suffocate the life out of its opponents, this season has a chance to be special. There will come a time when the offense has to carry its weight, but if the first game and the last few dozen are any indication (Iowa now has an FBS-leading 23 straight games without allowing 25+ points), the Hawks are going to be in every single game, every single week.
It's the same story as last season and the story of Iowa football. Lean on the defense, lean on the run game, capitalize when it matters most. Iowa State will be a different beast with the hostile atmosphere, the week of national exposure, and the step-up in talent on the opposing side, but if the defense looks this good next week? Well, then the conversations are going to start to get really interesting.
Great debut for the Hawks, great debut for football. It's good to be back. Go. Iowa. Awesome.