Iowa defense falters against Wisconsin


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Adrian Clayborn kept his answers short, but his thoughts were clear: Iowa’s defense cost the Hawkeyes a chance at beating Wisconsin on Oct. 23.

The Clayborn-led unit allowed 28-plus points for the second-consecutive week, marking the first time since 2005 that has happened at Iowa. Wisconsin’s demoralizing 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive closed out the Hawkeyes for good.

Bret Bielema’s squad left Kinnick Stadium with a 31-30 victory. Iowa (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) slipped from No. 13 to 18 in this week’s AP rankings.

“Our defense didn’t step up, and that’s why we lost the game,” Clayborn said. “We’ve got to stop them when it’s the fourth quarter, and we didn’t. That’s why we lost the game.”

The Badgers played the majority of the game without tight end Lance Kendricks and running back James White, both of whom were sidelined with injuries. But it didn’t seem to affect Wisconsin’s offensive attack.

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Quarterback Scott Tolzien continued his efficient season by completing 77 percent of his passes. The senior’s biggest pass of the game came late in the fourth quarter as he found Montee Ball on a crossing route. It was fourth-and-4, and Ball got seven yards.

Four plays later, Ball scored the game-winning touchdown on an eight-yard run.

“It was our fault. We have four veteran players up front, and we couldn’t stop them,” defensive lineman Christian Ballard said. “They just ran right to us, and we couldn’t stop them. We couldn’t make plays.”

Head coach Kirk Ferentz was a little more rationale, saying, “We would have loved to shut them out, but I don’t think that’s realistic. They [have] moved the ball pretty well against everybody.”

Without White, the majority of Wisconsin’s rushing duties fell on the 248-pound shoulders of John Clay. Though he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry, he scored two touchdowns, both of which came in the third quarter.

The Hawkeyes had trouble bringing down Clay’s big frame all afternoon. Fifty-three of Clay’s 91 came in the second half.

Linebacker Tyler Nielsen said, “We didn’t see anything from him we didn’t expect.” Clayborn said Clay’s effectiveness was due, in part, to the Hawkeyes’ poor attempts of arm tackling.

The running back helped Wisconsin control the clock and sustain long drives throughout the game. The Badgers held the ball for more than 33 minutes. Their scoring drives spanned an average of 11.2 plays.

Iowa’s defense only forced one three-and-out all game, something Clayborn described as “unacceptable.”

When asked what Wisconsin did to play effectively on offense, Clayborn said, “Ain’t nothing they did. It was what we did. We didn’t play hard enough.”

But like Ferentz, the majority of the team refused to solely blame the defense for the Hawkeyes’ second defeat of the 2010 season. Special-team gaffes and offensive errors also contributed to the loss, they said.

For one, after Brett Greenwood’s interception in the fourth quarter, the offense went three-and-out and was forced to settle for a field goal. Instead of being up two possessions, the Hawkeyes only held a six-point lead with 8:35 still on the clock.

“That’s great leadership by [Clayborn] to say that, but I’m going to go ahead and say there [are] plenty of plays that we left out there on offense,” quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “So it can go either way.”

The opponents won’t get an easier for the Hawkeye defense.

No. 5 Michigan State (8-0) comes to Kinnick Stadium Saturday with the No. 22 total offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Running backs Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell both average over 6.5 yards per carry and have scored 14 combined touchdowns.

“Whatever we’re doing in practice on the players’ side, it’s not working,” Clayborn said. “We need to change things around. The coaches are giving us the opportunity to make plays, and we just aren’t.”

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