One Defining Moment: Iowa vs Kent State

By erut17 on September 20, 2021 at 11:02 am
go hawks go
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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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: Jestin Jacobs forces another fumble as the defense continues its incredible start.

Whenever Iowa plays these out-of-conference tune-up games, the score always seems to stay close longer than it should. I know better to expect blowouts from an offense like Iowa's, but it's always jarring and more than a little anxiety-inducing when these games are still close into the second half.

Iowa's offense left a lot to be desired in the first half, save for Goodson's long touchdown run. Combine that with a few miscommunications on the defensive end and Kent State was within nine points midway through the third quarter and knocking on the door of another touchdown. Iowa's defense bent as far as they could without breaking, then came up with another game-changing turnover, taking points off the board and flipping the momentum. 

The Moment

Up 16-7 in the third quarter, Iowa's defense found its back against the wall. Kent State put together a 75-yard drive and had first and goal from the 1-yard line. Iowa's defense hadn't given up any big plays on the drive, but the Golden Flashes were taking what they were given and methodically marching down the field. A touchdown wouldn't give Kent State the lead, but letting an inferior team hang around late in the game is a recipe for disaster.

Iowa's defense clearly had the same thought and the season's three stars came up with another huge turnover. Bryan Bradford took the handoff and headed to the right where he was met by a waiting Jestin Jacobs. Bradford stumbled back left hoping to reach for the goal line with Jacobs around his ankles. Jack Campbell had other ideas, swarming to the ball and shouldering Bradford back. Bradford, to his credit, didn't give up and attempted to extend towards the end zone even with his back to it, but lost the ball as he reached back over his head. Riley Moss found the bouncing ball, pounced on it, and the defensive stand was complete.

 

A Closer Look

Iowa's defense swarms to the ball like very few teams I've seen. On this 1-yard run, the ball carrier takes three different hits from three different players, while Moss was primed and ready to deliver a fourth after following his responsibility across the formation. 

On the safety earlier in the game (Iowa's defense has now scored 23 points on the year while allowing just 30), there were no fewer than seven different Hawkeyes piled on the QB as he tried to escape the end zone.

Speed can be hard to see on TV, but this Iowa defense is FAST. They find the ball and they attack it relentlessly until the whistle. It's how they generate sacks and it's how they generate turnovers. The linebackers in particular are covering sideline to sideline.

We talked about Jacobs last week, but Campbell seems to fly into the picture at the end of every single play. On the fumble here, he comes from five yards deep in the end zone to close the gap Bradford thought he saw and lays a hit hard enough to spin Bradford around.

Speed kills and this Iowa defense has it in abundance.

Impact

Momentum is a fickle, abstract thing, but for the third straight week, an Iowa turnover seemed to impact more than just the scoreboard. Iowa's defense once again changed the flow of the game with a turnover.

One of Spencer Petras' best passes of the day came on the first play after the fumble recovery when he hit Sam LaPorta for an 18-yard gain. A solid Iowa drive was capped off a few plays later by another big Tyler Goodson run and what should have been a 16-14 nailbiter instead turned into a 23-7 blowout (special shoutout to the most Iowa drive of all time, which came in the second quarter when Iowa drove 95 yards on 20 plays, chewing up 8:38 of clock).

This game was a Rorschach test for fans. You can look and find fumbles and inconsistency on offense that left Iowa a yard away from a slim lead against a MAC team. There were miscommunications in the secondary that led to big completions for Kent State early in the game that may lead to losses against better teams.

Or, you can look and see an Iowa defense that gave up as many points as they had sacks, a running game that sprang for two long touchdowns, and a special teams unit that continues to dominate (Tory Taylor hit the pylon with a punt for goodness sake!).  

Which team is the real Iowa? The answer is probably the difference between a trip to Indianapolis (I'm not ready to talk any further than that yet, no matter how much I'm enjoying this season) and another Iowa season derailed by a few bad losses.

Iowa - Penn State in a few weeks is going to be absolutely massive. Let's hope these Hawks are up for the challenge.

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