football Edit

Iowa Defensive Line Dominates in Stat-Stuffing Win

Aaron Graves and the defensive line unit put together a strong performance on Saturday against Purdue.
Aaron Graves and the defensive line unit put together a strong performance on Saturday against Purdue. (© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

Iowa's defensive line was notably one of the Hawkeyes' deeper position groups going into the 2023 season, even without sixth-year senior defensive tackle, Noah Shannon.

That's why it was so surprising that the statistical output through the first five games of the year was so minimal. Through five weeks, Kelvin Bell's group only put together just three sacks, 20 tackles-for-loss and 14 QB hits — all as the team still staked a 4-1 start to the year.

In Iowa's 20-7 win over Purdue on Saturday, the Hawks lived in the Boilermaker backfield for a significant portion of the day, registering six sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss, and three QB hits.

"It was a good effort by all the guys," Kirk Ferentz said postgame. "Sometimes it's just a matter of making quarterbacks uncomfortable or getting them off their spot, not just sacks. Sacks are always a good thing, but there's a little more to it."

"With that being said, today was clearly the best job we've done. The guys really worked hard and dug hard out there. More than anything, it was a bunch of guys with a lot of good effort."


The duo of Joe Evans and Aaron Graves credited a players-only D-Line group meeting on Thursday for their performance.

"We kind of knew we needed to have a meeting," Evans said. "We stay off our phones, with the media and stuff. It's hard not to see people on social media criticizing us for not getting to the quarterback and not being productive. At the end of the day, it's us in that room. [We knew] one of these games would happen for us."

Evans orchestrated the meeting, according to Graves.

"Joe did most of the talking," the sophomore DT said. "We talked about how we've just been playing super stuck-up, tight and stressed about messing up our jobs. We said we're going to go out there, have fun and play together as a unit. We did that."

"I can speak for everyone on the D-Line and say that we had more fun in this game than any of the other ones," Graves added.

Ferentz said he didn't know the meeting had happened.

"They should probably have more meetings, then," Ferentz joked. "I wasn't aware of it, and I'd encourage them to keep meeting. I'm all for it. Usually player meetings coincide with losing teams -- that's my experience -- but this was a contradiction to that so that's awesome."

Evans, who finished the game with six tackles, four tackles-for-loss, a QB hit and a sack, said he and the rest of the position group could feel a game like today's coming.

"Based off of how hard all those guys work in the defensive line room, I had a feeling that eventually it was going to come," the sixth-year senior said. "We just needed to continue to keep pushing it in practice, and one of these days it was going to fall for us."

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