The Box Score: Hawkeyes among nation’s best


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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.

The Hawkeyes are sitting pretty at 3-1 after winning their last three games. After shellacking Western Michigan, 59-3, a few Iowa players and whole units have found a comfortable spot among the nation’s elite. The stats show how and why, among a boatload of other fun things.

Average Yards Per Punt Return — Kevonte Martin-Manley, 31.1 (1st in NCAA)

Martin-Manley’s career day as a punt-returner against the Broncos has placed him comfortably atop the nation in this category. The current runner-up to the junior wide-receiver is Fresno State’s Isaiah Burse, whose average is 6 yards behind Martin-Manley’s.

Martin-Manley has fielded a punt seven times this season, amassing 218 yards in total. The bulk of that came against Western Michigan, when he tallied 184 yards on four returns.

Martin-Manley is also tied with two others for the most punt-return touchdowns (2) so far this season. And his 83-yard return for a score is the longest punt-return for a touchdown in the country, edging out Duke’s Jamison Crowder by a single yard.

Rushing Defense — 91.5 yards allowed per game (12th in NCAA, 5th in Big Ten)

Iowa’s front seven has been dominant with respect to containing the ground game. The collaboration among James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey, and the ever-rotating defensive line has allowed just 3.4 yards per carry.

The Hawkeyes are also one of two Big Ten teams that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown in 2013 — the other being Michigan.

That’s pretty impressive, but if any team is going to score against Iowa on the ground, it might very well be Minnesota this weekend. The last 15 offensive touchdowns for the Gophers have come on the ground.

Red-Zone Defense — .667 percent (T15th in NCAA, T1st in Big Ten)

You read that right: Iowa is tied with Ohio State and Minnesota in having the best red-zone defense in the conference. Further, Iowa has only allowed a conference-best 1 touchdown in the red zone this season compared to three field goals.

The Hawkeyes have allowed opponents to reach the red zone six times this season but have only given up points on four of those occasions. More impressive is that, in the two times opponents didn’t score, Iowa intercepted the ball. Which leads us to …

Passes Intercepted — 6 (T10th in NCAA, 4th in Big Ten)

The Iowa defense has picked off 6 passes so far this year, which ties it with the likes of Miami (Fla.), Florida, Arizona, Oregon State, and Michigan, among others. That’s not bad company, considering how tough some of those defenses are every year.

Two players have 5 of the 6 interceptions: Tanner Miller has 2, and B.J. Lowery has 3 (James Morris has the other). Two of Lowery’s have gone back for touchdowns, of course, which ties for the most in the country.

Lowery’s 3 interceptions are also tied for the third-most in the country alongside Michigan’s Blake Countess and Northwestern’s Ibraheim Campbell. What these numbers tell us: Some Big Ten defensive backs are good — really good.

Receivers Hit — 16, Jake Rudock

By my count, Jake Rudock leads the Big Ten in this (unofficial) category — Michigan State and Purdue have 15 receivers who have caught a pass, and Penn State and Nebraska have 14 apiece. It’s a weird stat to count, but it’s still pretty impressive.

Rudock’s favorite receivers are who you might expect them to be: Martin-Manley leads the pack with 20 catches, and C.J. Fiedorowicz has hauled in 7, while five other receivers tie with 5. Of Rudock’s 64 completions this season, 38 have gone to wide receivers, 16 to tight ends, and the final 10 to running backs.

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