The defense was definitely the shaky side of the ball for the Hawkeyes on Saturday. They allowed sophomore quarterback Billy Bahl to throw for 266 yards and two touchdowns on them after being one of the worst quarterbacks in the MAC a season ago. With Josey Jewell getting ejected for targeting and Parker Hesse going out win an injury, Iowa’s defense wasn’t expected to be as stifling.
Not everyone had a poor night on the defense, but no one stood out more than redshirt freshman Anthony Nelson during his debut with the Hawkeyes. He got an expanded role during his first game due to Hesse getting hurt, and he took full advantage of it.
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Nelson ended the night with six tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s a strong candidate to win the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Jack Hockaday forced the first fumble for the Hawkeyes, however Billy Bahl had a tough time holding onto the ball when Nelson hit him. On the third drive of the game, Nelson sacked Bahl and jarred the ball loose.
The Hawkeyes were up 14-0 at the time but the Redhawks just completed a 67-yard pass and were knocking on the door to make it a one score game. It stopped the drive and led to another Hawkeyes touchdown.
Nelson’s second sack came at the end of the game. He sacked Bahl when the the Redhawks were at the 24 yard line when, with Iowa recovering it at the 18 yard line.
The Hawkeyes still had a 17 point lead, however following their 21-0 start the Redhawks outscored the Hawkeyes 21-17 up to that point. Therefore it was a nice confidence booster as Derrick Mitchell Jr ran it in for a five yard touchdown just a couple of plays later.
There are areas on the defense that the Hawkeyes need to address, but defensive end is not one of them. Led by the strong play of Anthony Nelson, Iowa held the Redhawks to just 3.9 yards per carry and forced an uncanny three fumbles, recovering all three. It was as good of a game as Kirk Ferentz could have hoped, now Nelson needs to build on his phenomenal debut.