Hawkeye defense shines in win over Michigan


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Broderick Binns felt anxious.

Michigan drove down the length of the field late in the fourth quarter of its game against the Hawkeyes this past weekend and was in prime position to possibly tie the game with just seconds left.

Considering the number of times Iowa has squandered late-game leads in the last year or so, it's no wonder Binns was nervous.

Michigan had the opportunity to score from the 3-yard line four times. Each time, the Iowa defense came through.

"I was thinking to myself, 'This can't happen two weeks in a row,' " Binns said. "Our defense didn't execute last week [in a loss to Minnesota], so we weren't going to let it happen this time. We got the appropriate stops that we needed, and we won the game."

The Hawkeyes limited Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to 249 total yards, held the Wolverines below their single-game average for yards, and forced two turnovers in Iowa's 24-16 win.

Not bad for a defense that blew a 21-10 lead to Minnesota the week before and typically struggles against dual-threat quarterbacks such as Robinson.

"Just showed a lot of heart down there," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It's almost better that we ended the game that way because that was a tough circumstance, certainly … It was good to see our guys make them earn it, and great to come up with stops at the end there."

A senior contingent of defensive lineman Mike Daniels, cornerback Shaun Prater, and linebacker Tyler Nielsen — all returning starters — were reasons for optimism heading into this season.

Instead, Iowa ranks 72nd in total defense even after an improved performance against Michigan. Opponents have averaged 393.4 yards per game.

"Feels good right now, but we know we're not done," sophomore linebacker James Morris said. "At the end of the day, we need to move forward, and we have a lot left to play for this season. I think we prepared a little better, stepped up our intensity during the week, and it showed."

When the Hawkeyes have given up points, they have come in bunches. Defensive coordinator Norm Parker's unit yielded 44 points to Iowa State, allowed Northwestern to run more than 90 plays, and let an anemic Indiana offense gain 414 total yards.

Granted, Nielsen and Morris have been hampered by injury. Defensive lineman Thomas Nardo also missed time. Losing four starters to the NFL draft doesn't help, either.

But Parker and the rest of the defensive coaching staff took a lot of heat after a defensive collapse against Minnesota.

There was no such collapse against Michigan, though — no miscommunications and no breakdowns in a matchup to reclaim some position in the Legends Division race.

Iowa forced two turnovers against Michigan; Nielsen forced and recovered a fumble that led to 3 points, and Christian Kirksey's interception near the goal-line halted the Maize and Blue momentum. Senior safety Jordan Bernstine — having his best season of his college career — recorded 15 tackles.

Micah Hyde had a similar feeling to Binns' on Michigan's final drive. But like the junior safety said, Iowa needed to step up on defense.

"We had to defend our name — defend the Iowa defenses' name," Hyde said. "In past years, our defense has been tough, hasn't given up many yards, and just goes out and plays with effort and toughness. I think we stressed that a lot [last] week, and I think we went out there and did that."

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