Cyclones on the defensive

Jeff Stell

The ISU defensive line and secondary have different ways of going about, but ultimately will have the same mission for Saturday’s game against Iowa: Stop Iowa quarterback Scott Mullen. The Cyclones will be looking to make it three straight wins as the intrastate rivals hook up Saturday in Iowa City. In the last two Cyclone victories, the Hawkeyes started Kyle McCann, but Mullen gets the call this year. Mullen started the final five games of last season and threw for over 1,400 yards and five touchdowns. Last week in a loss to Western Michigan, Mullen racked up 314 passing yards and two touchdowns. “We’ve got to get pressure on Scott and make him make decisions quicker. If he has time to sit in the pocket then he’s going to tear us apart. We’ve got to work on our rush lanes a little better and not let him run around, that will help our defensive backs out,” said ISU defensive lineman Ryan Harklau. While the defensive line will be trying to rush Mullen, ISU free safety Dustin Avey knows what the secondary needs to do to help the Cyclones win. “Mullen is very capable of putting up a lot of yards on a defense. We have to be very sound in the secondary, as far as our assignments go, and try to control what he [Mullen] can do,” Avey said. The Cyclones’ secondary have been steady through the first two games of the season and Avey feels the experience will help Saturday. “Having two games under our belt has really helped us get the kinks out. There’s always things to improve on. Game in and game out, there’s going to be mistakes and we need to correct those things as a defense,” Avey said. The Hawkeyes have a one-two punch in Kahlil Hill and Kevin Kasper at the receiver position. Hill is a speedy playmaker while Kasper fills the role of possession receiver. ISU secondary coach Bobby Elliott knows the Hawkeyes well. Elliott coached at Iowa from 1987-98 and knows both receivers are solid. “Those guys are talented. I’ve watched them play so I know how good they are. Kahlil Hill was my neighbor back in Iowa City so I’ve known him since he was young and he’s a great player,” Elliott said. Elliott also knows what kind of damage Mullen can do. Mullen was the scout team quarterback when Elliott was the Hawkeyes defensive coordinator. “We’re preparing for Scott with a great deal of respect. He can really fling it. I’ve seen him do it as a freshman on the scout team down there, he gave me headaches then and he really is now,” Elliott said. “Scott is going to get his numbers, we just hope we can contain him and hope to win the game. We’re going to try and win and I don’t care if he throws for 400 yards, as long we win.” The Hawkeyes have struggled to get the running game going so far this season. The Hawkeyes are averaging only 64 rushing yards per game and 2.1 yards per carry. Iowa running back Ladell Betts gained over 800 yards last season and still must be considered a major threat according to Harklau. “They have an outstanding back in Ladell Betts. We need to concentrate on stopping the run, that’s our key right now. At times this season, we’ve shown greatness and other times we’ve shown weakness in stopping the run,” Harklau said. The Hawkeye offense have been unable to muster an effective attack against the Cyclone defense the last two meetings. The Hawkeyes have scored just 19 points in the two defeats and was held to 230 total yards last year. Two years ago, the Cyclones limited the Hawkeyes to 42 rushing yards and picked up seven quarterback sacks. Despite this prior success, Harklau points out that the Iowa offensive line is more experienced and playing better. “They have a greatly improved offensive line. I just got done watching some tape on them and I think they looked very good. The past two years, they had some younger guys and new faces,” Harklau said. The Cyclones have 24 seniors that have tasted victory over their bitter rival twice, but Elliott feels that won’t be a factor. “It’s good to have guys that have played in this rivalry but anything can happen in this game. It’s a one-shot deal. It doesn’t matter how many games a player or coach has been in when it comes to something like this,” Elliott said. Harklau and Avey are among that large group of seniors that will be looking to close out their Cyclone career with three wins over the Hawkeyes. “I feel that we don’t have respect from the state of Iowa yet. It showed on the TV show “Sound Off” last night. They had a poll on who was going to win the game and 57 percent chose Iowa,” Harklau said.