ClassyHistory Looks at the Numbers Behind Iowa's 24-Game Streak of Allowing Under 25 Points

By ClassyHawkeye on September 17, 2021 at 3:19 pm
go hawks go
© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa’s oh-so-sweet 27-17 victory at Iowa State last week was not only the sixth-straight in the series for the Hawkeyes, but it also kept alive one of the more impressive current streaks in all of college football: for the 24th straight game the Iowa defense held an opponent under 25 points.

The last time an opponent scored 25+ points against the Hawkeyes was Nebraska in Iowa’s 31-28 victory over the Huskers in November of 2018. Since then, the Hawkeye defense has kept its streak alive against 18 Big Ten opponents and six non-conference opponents—including a pair of bowl games. Iowa is 19-5 overall during this stretch.

In examining the streak from a macro level, the Hawkeyes have put together some impressive feats:

  • Iowa is allowing an average of 14.7 points per game.
  • Iowa has held opponents under 20 points 13 times.
  • Iowa has held opponents to 10 points or fewer nine times, winning all but one (Michigan, 2019).
  • Iowa has played 10 different Big Ten teams, defeating all but one (again, Michigan).
  • Iowa has notched two shutouts (both in 2019 against Rutgers and Northwestern).
  • Over the last ten games, Iowa has held four opponents to seven points or fewer.

As for a more micro-look, the numbers behind the streak show that, at least on the ground, Phil Parker's formula has been the cliche of all cliches—"bend but don't break." The Hawkeyes are yielding 111.6 rushing yards per game and averaging less than one takeaway per game, but the defense is allowing only 0.6 rushing touchdowns per game over the 24 games.

So opponents may be able to run on Iowa at times, but only in-between the 20s.

In the air however, there has been very little "bending" from the Hawkeye defense during the stretch. Iowa is holding opponents to an average of 197.9 yards, sacking the quarterback 2.5 times per game and notching 1.2 interceptions per game.

Let that sink in for a moment: in this day in age with almost every school not named Iowa or Wisconsin running a variation of the spread offense (chock full of mobile QBs, RPOs, and playmakers galore) and with the rules tailored towards points, points, and more points, the Hawkeyes are holding opponents under 200 yards passing and only one throwing touchdown per game.

That is just an absurd statistic.    

               The Numbers Behind                    "The Streak"
             Statistic   Per Game Avg.
Points allowed 14.7
Passing yards 197.9
rushing yards 111.6
turnovers 2
interceptions 1.2
fumble recoveries 0.7
Passing tD Allowed 1
Rushing tD Allowed 0.6
qb sacks 2.5

Additionally, as the Hawkeye defense looks to run this incredible stretch to 25 games this weekend, the unit is in the midst of its most impressive run yet. Against its last 10 opponents Iowa is allowing 308 yards of total offense per game, but is forcing 2.5 turnovers, including 1.7 interceptions, per contest. The defense is yielding fewer than two touchdowns per game (1.8), is notching 2.5 sacks each time out, and has scored four touchdowns of their own (three pick sixes and a scoop-n-score).

Roll the tape on a loop, forever.


That is some goood porno defense.

Most impressively, Iowa's last 10 opponents have included nine Big Ten foes and Iowa State's (supposed) best team ever. As mentioned above, four of these opponents haven't cracked more than seven points and the Hawkeyes are 8-2 in this stretch.

To say this has been an impressive run by the defense is a drastic understatement.

Saturday will mark 991 days since this 24-gamer started with Iowa's 27-22 win over Mississippi State in the 2019 Outback Bowl. After seeing the Hawkeye defense lock down a pair of offenses featuring the likes of Michael Penix, Brock Purdy, Ty Fryfogel, and Breece Hall, there's no reason to believe this unit won't notch #25 this weekend.

The Gold(en Flashes) Game?

On Saturday, Iowa meets Kent State for the third time ever in what is likely one of the most ill-timed “gold games” on record.


But I digress, this series has been what you would expect from a Big Ten-MAC matchup as the Hawkeyes have won both games against Kent State by a combined score of 90-7. In 2001’s season opener, Iowa rushed for 331 yards and six touchdowns—three by Aaron Greving—in a 51-0 romp.

In improving to 1-0 following the game, Kirk Ferentz had a winning record at Iowa for the first time ever and the Iowa City faithful got a small taste of what was to come from Brad Banks and Dallas Clark in 2002.

Three years later, the Hawkeyes celebrated 75 years in Kinnick Stadium with throwback uniforms and kicked off the 2004 Big Ten Championship season in style as Drew Tate threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns—both to Matt Melloy—in rolling Kent State 39-7.

The Iowa defense held the Golden Flashes to 13(!) yards on the ground and just 110 total yards that afternoon with Chad Greenway appropriately capping off the proceedings with a 30-yard pick six on his second interception of the afternoon.

If there are any tea leaves to read from a pair of games 17+ years ago it’s that the Iowa offense and defense were both clicking in this pair of routs. The Hawkeye offense posted a combined 1004 total yards and eight touchdowns in the two meetings, while the defense yielded just 313 total yards, forced six turnovers and didn’t allow a score of any kind.

Oddly enough, the only points the Golden Flashes have ever scored against Iowa came courtesy of a 99-yard pick six in the 2004 game.

Hopefully all of this is a prelude to another big offensive day by the Hawkeyes Saturday and it should be, considering Iowa played two of the better defenses they’ll likely see all season. I’m not ready to expect the 567 yards of offense the Hawkeyes posted in the 2001 game, but the Golden Flashes yielded 595 total yards (303 on the ground) two weeks ago at Texas A&M, so the Iowa offense should have a lot of room to operate for a change.

Let’s hope they do and that it eventually leads to some better offensive play overall because, with this defense, if the other side of the ball can become just halfway competent by the time Big Ten play rolls around, this team can do very special things.

That is a story and an article for another day. After a meat-grinder opening two weeks Iowa is currently favored by 22.5 points Saturday so just relax and enjoy the “Gold Game against the Golden Flashes"....yeah it still doesn’t make any sense.


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