MINNEAPOLIS – Carl Davis loves it when James Morris tells him where to go. It makes his life so much easier.
“James is back there calling out plays,” the Iowa defensive tackle said. “We know what they’re going to run. That helps us out as a front. We know how to play out blocks and the linebackers can get free and step up and make plays.”
That’s how it worked much of the day during Iowa’s 23-7 victory over Minnesota.
Morris directed a masterpiece. The Hawkeyes were clearly the more physical team, but what Davis talked about is gaining the extra step and that’s kind of what Morris does as middle linebacker. On a day like Saturday, when the Hawkeyes picked up and spun the Gophers like an old-timey professional wrestler, those steps suffocated the Minnesota offense.
Morris had his fingerprints all over this.
“He plays the way I expect him to,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a complete football player. . . . He backs it up every Saturday.”
Of course, Morris is his own worst critic.
“I would argue that it was a game I ran less than I have in the past,” he said. “It just so happened that their plays were more between the hashes, that’s traditionally where I am.”
And so he was.
Morris had eight tackles, a sack and an interception with four minutes left that sealed the game. It was a brilliant effort for a defense that was Iowa’s signature move Saturday.
The Hawkeyes held Minnesota to season lows in score (7), total offense (165), rushing yards (30) and yards per play (3.2). Iowa racked up four sacks, its most in a game since it had five at Purdue in 2011. The Hawkeyes also had two interceptions to raise their season total to eight, just two off last season’s total of 10.
“I thought that all 11 guys played well and we knew this would be an 11-man effort, starting with the D-line,” Morris said. “They penetrated and squeezed holes. After the first contact was made, the second-level defenders cleaned it up.”
Minnesota entered the game with more impressive numbers as far as disruption goes. The Gophers had 30 tackles for loss compared to just 16 for Iowa, which had just two sacks this season going into Saturday.
Iowa did all of the disrupting on the TCF Bank Stadium field.
“They did a good job of covering everything up and they had somebody coming at me,” Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson said. “At that point, I’ve just got to try to get back to second-and-10 and just throw it away.”
At the beginning of the game, the Gophers crowd shook the stadium with the “We hate Iowa” chant. By the end of the afternoon, they really hated Iowa’s defense.
“Anytime you step on the field, at least in an Iowa uniform, you want to control the physical aspect of the game,” Morris said. “I think we did that for the most part. Generally, the most physical team wins. We want to be that more physical team because we believe it gives us a better chance to win the game.”
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