Iowa Football: Norm Parker's 8 Best Defensive Performances as a Hawkeye

David Fidler Correspondent IDecember 26, 2011

Iowa Football: Norm Parker's 8 Best Defensive Performances as a Hawkeye

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    This year's Insight Bowl matchup against Oklahoma will be the last time Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker calls the plays.

    Parker has been a football coach for over 40 years, and for the last 13 years, Iowa fans have been lucky to call him a Hawkeye.

    He has taken some heat for his conservative, vanilla, bend-but-don't-break defense, which has been known to give up yardage between the 20's. Nonetheless, whatever he's done has worked, as the stats attest to.

    During his 13 seasons, six of Norm Parker's D's have been among the top 20 scoring defenses in the nation. Eight of them have been top 30.

    Since 2001, the lowest Iowa's scoring defense has been ranked was No. 45 (2006).

    In his time, Parker has dialed up some gems. This slideshow will document some of the best.

    Hopefully, he has one more tricks up his sleeve when his defense tries to shut down Oklahoma, the No. 10 scoring offense in the country.

2002 vs. Michigan Wolverines

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    The 7-1 Hawkeyes came into the Big House, and gave 6-1 Michigan its worst home beating since 1967.

    The final score was 34-9, but the game wasn't as close as the score indicates.

    The Wolverines got six points off a botched punt that gave them the ball at the Iowa one-yard line. They eventually put the ball into the end zone, though they missed the extra point.

    Other than that, Michigan had 171 yards of total offense. Featured Wolverine back Chris Perry was held to 14 yards on nine carries, and the entire team only managed 20 yards on 22 carries.

    The passing game wasn't much better. Junior quarterback John Navarre completed less than 50 percent of his passes for a total of 112 yards. Meanwhile, sophomore receiver Braylon Edwards was held to five receptions for 69 yards.

    Michigan finished the year 10-3, ranked No. 9 in the country.

2003 vs. Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks

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    Miami (Ohio) finished 2003 as the No. 2 scoring offense and total offense in the country. The Red Hawks averaged 43 points and 501.14 yards per game.

    They finished the regular season 12-1, ranked No. 11 in the country.

    Their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is projected to be one of the top signal callers in the 2004 NFL Draft.

    None of that mattered when they came to Iowa City in late August.

    The Hawkeye defense swallowed Roethlisberger and his Red Hawks, only allowing 304 yards of total offense in a 21-3 victory.

    Roethlisberger wound up throwing four interceptions that day. Those four picks accounted for 40 percent of his yearly total of interceptions.

    Two words: Iowa Hawkeye Pride.

2006 vs. Syracuse Orange: The Stand

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    The Hawks came into the game without their veteran senior quarterback, Drew Tate, who was out with an abdominal muscle pull.

    In effect, Iowa had trouble putting points on the board. Meanwhile, Syracuse, which was riding a 10-game losing streak, weren't good and also had trouble scoring. The Hawks made it easier on the Orange, spotting them four interceptions.

    In effect, the score was 10-10 at the end of regulation.

    Both teams managed a field goal in the first overtime, then Iowa scored a touchdown to open the second overtime. This put Syracuse in a do-or-die situation.

    Blackandgoldboxscore breaks the Stand down play-by-glorious-play, but the long and the short of it is that the Orange had eight plays to get the ball from the five-yard-line into the end zone, and they couldn't do it. They had six plays to move the ball from the one into the end zone, but the only direction the ball moved was backwards.

    Yes, the Syracuse offensive line was terrible. Yes, the Syracuse play calling was even worse. Yes, this was an ugly game and an ugly season.

    Nevertheless, these eight plays will forever live as one of the greatest defensive performances in Iowa football history.

2007 vs. Illinois Illini

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    Things didn't look good when the Illini came into Iowa City for this mid-October matchup.

    The Iowa offense had been terrible, averaging just over 17 points in its previous six games. The defense wasn't bad, but it would be going up against an Illinois O that had averaged over 30 points per game en route to a 5-1 record.

    The two-headed Illini rushing attack of running back Rashard Mendenhall and quarterback Juice Williams had averaged over 250 yards per game on the ground.

    Meanwhile, nobody was going to mistake Williams for Joe Montana, but receiver Arrelious Benn kept opposing defenses honest.

    Illinois ran a no-huddle—before no-huddle came into vogue—spread option attack that started and ended with the run.

    Those that sold the Hawks short failed to consider that Norm Parker defenses focus on assignment football and, in effect, are built to squash the option.

    And that is exactly what it did.

    2-4 Iowa beat 5-1 Illinois by the score of 10-6.

    The Illini only managed 287 yards of total offense against the Hawks, with the vaunted Illinois option attack eking out 137 yards on the ground.

2008 vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Most Hawkeye fans remember the final few minutes of this game, in which 5-4 Iowa knocked off 9-0 Penn State.

    In those final minutes, Hawkeye safety Tyler Sash picked off PSU quarterback Daryll Clark with 3:46 remaining. The Hawks got the ball at their own 29, needing a field goal to take a one-point lead.

    Iowa drove to the Penn State 14-yard line, where Daniel Murray kicked a 30-yard field goal to take the lead with one second remaining.

    That is what most Iowa fans remember, and who can blame them?

    What they forget is how the Hawkeye defense stymied and frustrated the No. 11 scoring offense in the country.

    It is true the Hawks didn't shut the Nits down.

    On the other hand, the Nits averaged 41.8 points per game up to that point. They averaged 399.8 yards per game heading into the Iowa showdown. Against the Hawkeyes, they scored 23 points and moved the ball 289 yards.

    Furthermore, it was a typical Norm Parker bend-don't-break performance. While the Penn State O was able to move the ball with seeming ease in the first half, it only managed to put 13 points on the board.

    The 10 points scored in the second half came via short fields that were the result of Hawkeye turnovers. Penn State only accumulated 91 total yards of offense in the final 30 minutes.

    In the end, Iowa fans will rightfully remember those closing moments, when the Hawks pulled ahead for the 24-23 win.

    Nonetheless, this game belonged to the defense.

2008 vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    The 2008 Minnesota offense wasn't good. It was the No. 9 scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging 23.2 points per game. In effect, I don't mean to insinuate that beating it down was a huge accomplishment.

    However, the way the Hawks beat down the Gophers—in their last game ever in the Metrodome—was notable.

    Iowa wound up winning 55-0.

    The Gophers were held to 134 total yards, and the Hawkeye defense—which returned one interception for a touchdown—outscored the Minnesota offense.

2009 vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    For the second season in a row, Minnesota had a terrible offense—worst scoring offense in the Big Ten—and for the second season in a row, the fact that the Hawks shut them down wasn't especially notable.

    It was how they did it.

    Iowa came into the game without starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who was nursing a severely twisted ankle.

    In effect, the offense was decidedly handicapped and the Minnesota defense took advantage of it, throwing everything it had at a young James Vandenberg. In the end, Iowa only gained 171 yards of total offense and 12 points, but it was enough.

    The Iowa defense held the Gophers to zero points, 201 yards and also forced three turnovers.

    Minnesota's longest drive of the day was 39 yards. That drive stalled at the Iowa 34, when the Gophers were unable to gain one yard on both third and fourth down.

2010 Orange Bowl vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Georgia Tech was the No. 14 scoring offense in the country. The Yellow Jackets had only been held to less than 24 points once on the season, and that was in the third week.

    They ran a hard-to-defend triple option offense that was the No. 8 rushing offense (YPC) in the country. They had two 1,000-yard rushers, and averaged 5.22 yards per carry as a team.

    While they didn't have much of a passing game, they were effective when it counted. Their top receiver had 46 receptions for 1,164 yards and an eye-popping 25.09 yards per carry.

    Though the Jackets had the third-fewest passing attempts in the nation, they the most yards per attempt in the country and were 18th in team passer efficiency.

    On the other hand, the Iowa defense was no slouch.

    The Hawks were No. 8 in scoring, No. 3 against the pass (passer efficiency) and No. 28 against the run (YPC).

    It was a classic offense-vs.-defense game, and I felt that Norm Parker's defense was up to the task. After all, defending the option is pure assignment football, which was the Iowa defense under Norm Parker, regardless of the competition's scheme.

    It turns out I was right.

    The final score of 24-14 doesn't do justice to how the Iowa defense manhandled Georgia Tech. Seven of the Yellow Jackets' points came off a Stanziball, and Tech only manged to rack up 155 yards of total offense.

    The Georgia Tech passing stat line—9 ATT, 2 COMP, 12 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT—read like a "rookie"-level video game stat line against the computer.