The Box Score: Inside Iowa football statistics, Week 8

BY TORK MASON | OCTOBER 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Box Score is a weekly segment in which a Daily Iowan football reporter uses statistics to contextualize Iowa football’s performance over the course of the season.

Six games into the 2012 season, Iowa’s passing game still hasn’t emerged the way many thought it would. Mark Weisman has provided offensive stability, but the defense has been driving the Hawkeyes’ 4-2 record and race to the top of the Legends Division standings.

Here are a few stats that highlight the defense’s success thus far:

First downs allowed in road/neutral site games: 13 per game

“Bend but don’t break” was the mantra under former defensive coordinator Norm Parker. But under first-year coordinator Phil Parker, that school of thought has taken a back seat on road trips.

The Hawkeyes have allowed the second-fewest first downs per game on the road of any team in the nation this year. Forcing three-and-outs consistently has kept the score low; opponents have averaged just 16.5 points per game against Iowa away from Kinnick Stadium. That’s been vital for an Iowa offense that has struggled all season.

Iowa’s stinginess was never more evident than in East Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 13. The Hawkeyes forced five three-and-outs in 13 Spartan possessions, plus a four-play drive that netted Michigan State minus 5 yards.

Opposing quarterback’s pass efficiency on third down and 7-9 yards to go: 10.92

Opposing offenses have found it difficult on third and long against the Hawkeye defense. Forced to throw, quarterbacks have put up a measly 10.92 pass efficiency rating. That mark is best in the nation by a wide margin.

The second-best rating is 26.05, held by Western Kentucky. Iowa’s effort against the pass has been a key component in allowing just 4 first downs on third downs with 7-9 yards to go.

Senior cornerback Micah Hyde has played a big role, breaking up 6 passes on the year. The linebackers have also been able to lock down opposing receivers and have broken up 4 passes and picked off two more.

Opponent’s red-zone touchdown rate: 38.1 percent

But all of the above isn’t to say that Phil Parker doesn’t subscribe to some of his predecessor’s philosophies.

The Hawkeyes have allowed 18 scores on 21 trips to the red zone, which ranks them near the bottom of Division-I teams. But only eight trips have resulted in touchdowns. The 38.1 percent touchdown rate is 10th-best in the country.

This past weekend was no different. The defense forced field goals in the red zone on four different possessions against Michigan State, including two in overtime on the way to a 19-16 victory.

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