In four of the last five games of the season, Nebraska faced one of the five highest-scoring defenses nationwide.
After meeting top-five defenses from Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, Friday’s season finale against Iowa presents another challenge against a top-flight defense. Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in goal defense, averaging 13 per game. 5 points are allowed.
And much like the other talented defenses Nebraska has faced in recent weeks, Iowa has a habit of limiting errors and forcing his opponent to overplay them.
“They’re really solid and disciplined and they’ve had good training defensively,” said Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson. “If I just watch them, they really don’t make a lot of mistakes. They’re in the right position, they’re really good tacklers and they’re very physical; I just feel like it’s a very solid, very typical Big Ten defense.
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Aside from Iowa’s discipline and physicality, interim Nebraska head coach Mickey Joseph says there’s another reason behind the Hawkeyes’ defensive success—experience.
“If you look at their defense, if you look at their 22 starting spots, there’s not a single transfer there,” Joseph said. “So they all grew up through the program. So this coach kept them in the program. These kids have been in the system for three years, four years, five years and they haven’t changed their system.”
That experience has resulted in some impressive seasons for Iowa seniors. Senior defenseman Joe Evans is level on points with six sacks for the team lead, while senior defenseman Kaevon Merriweather has a career-high three interceptions after recording just one in his four previous seasons with the team.
Overall, nobody has a bigger impact on the Iowa defense than senior centerline defender Jack Campbell, who ranks in the top 15 nationally for total tackles. His 107 tackles are by far the most on the team, and he also leads the Big Ten in the same category.
“He does everything well,” Joseph said of Campbell. “He plays the run well, he plays the pass well, he lines them up and he’s a really good footballer.”
Photos: Wisconsin vs. Nebraska