Resurging the defensive line

BY BEN ROSS | OCTOBER 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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The table was set for a smash-mouth game of football between Iowa and Minnesota on Sept. 28 in Minneapolis.

The Gophers had accumulated 1,129 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground through its first four games. Iowa had allowed just 350 yards and no rushing touchdowns going into the game. Something had to give.

Iowa defensive end Dominic Alvis explained what happened when Minnesota’s rushers met the Iowa defensive linemen.

“They were trying to run in our a-gaps — that’s where [defensive tackles] Carl [Davis] and Louis [Trinca-Pasat] were,” Alvis said. “You saw the result. They got 30 yards. Carl and Louis are some of the toughest guys I’ve been around.”

Indeed, those who watched the latest installment of the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry game saw Minnesota’s rushers run into ineptitude, gaining 30 yards on 27 carries.

Iowa’s defensive line also recorded three of Iowa’s four sacks against the Gilded Rodents, pressuring Maroon and Gold quarterback Phil Nelson all day.

Last year Iowa had 13 sacks through its 12 games. Through five games this year, Iowa has brought the quarterback down behind the line of scrimmage six times. Defensive linemen are responsible for four of those sacks, with linebackers Anthony Hitchens and James Morris notching one apiece as well.

“We get sacks because the defensive backs are doing a very good job of staying in coverage, not keeping their guys open,” Alvis said. “And everybody on the d-line is doing their job, staying in the gaps. As a result of it we get stats like that.”

Alvis, along with head coach Kirk Ferentz couldn’t exactly point to a particular reason as to why Iowa’s defensive line was reaping more success in 2013 compared to last season. But Carl Davis said it could be because he’d be embarrassed if he and his unit didn’t perform up to snuff of the other defensive position groups.

“It took a lot of film study this off-season to understand the defense,” Davis said. “I want to know as much as the linebackers know. If a center or guard gets up to the linebackers I feel bad about it. I have to be the fronttline guy to make sure they don’t get back there.”

Alvis was a leading returning sack artist from 2012, where he recorded three quarterback sacks as a full-time starter last year. Louis Trinca-Pasat is the only other current Hawkeye who started a game at d-line in during Iowa’s 4-8 campaign a year ago.

Davis, along with Darian Cooper, Drew Ott, and Nate Meier have helped fill in a 6-man rotation on the defensive line. Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan is keeping a revolving door mentality alongside his personnel, which Ferentz said could perhaps be a reason why the unit has found more success this year.

“Alvis has played now, and we started this year with two guys who were veterans,” Ferentz said. “Carl hadn’t played, but he’s a fourth year guy and he has the capabilities of being a good player, and it was a matter of getting him to see that he could be good. Then Drew Ott has quietly done a nice job. We’re getting help from Coop and Mike Hardy and having six guys that can go in there and compete. It’s working out so far and we keep trying to bring guys along.”

But not all defensive players — especially the lineman — are so eager to give this d-line all the credit for Iowa’s staunch defense so far this year.

James Morris said the defensive lineman deserve a fraction of the glory, while the whole unit can reap the benefits of one another.

“[The defensive line equates to] probably a third of our success,” Morris said. “If you divide it into the three position groups, I think everybody contributes equally but they’re definitely doing a good job. That’s part of their job, but that’s not all their job.

“They get to make plays, too.”

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