Iowa's Ben Niemann signals for an Iowa turnover during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Oct. 21. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa defense misses Jewell, comes up short yet again

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By Courtney Baumann

courtney-baumann@uiowa.edu

 

EVANSTON, Illinois — Iowa fans received some bad news the morning of Oct. 21 before kickoff: both Josey Jewell and Brandon Snyder would sit out the game against Northwestern.

 

Two weeks ago, Snyder returned to the field for the first time since tearing his ACL during spring camp, and it looked as though the junior would be set to keep his starting position at defensive back.

 

That was not the case, though, as Snyder missed his sixth game of the season after what could be a knee sprain sustained in practice.

 

Jewell, on the other hand, missed his first game since 2014 — the senior middle linebacker had started 37-consecutive games before being sidelined in Evanston.

 

Though the Iowa defense had adjusted in the first few games in Snyder’s absence, it had a huge challenge trying to fill the hole that Jewell left in the middle of the field. Ben Niemann took over for Jewell, but it was a major adjustment from his typical outside-linebacker position.

 

“It’s a whole different world. Just being in the box and laying against an offensive line, seeing pullers, seeing the path of the back, all that compared to me usually being in space, jamming receivers,” Niemann said. “It’s two totally different positions.”

 

While the defense remained strong through most of the game, it was the breakout plays the team preaches on stopping that caused the damage — particularly when it came to Northwestern running back Justin Jackson.

 

Iowa has seen Jackson plenty of times. The senior has played nearly every game since 2014, and although it was the Hawkeyes’ fourth time playing him, they still had trouble containing him.

 

Jackson rushed for 93 yards and added 38 more through the air, with the most devastating play coming on third and 9 in overtime. Quarterback Clayton Thorson floated a short pass into Jackson’s hands, who then dashed 23 yards to put Northwestern to the 1-yard line.

 

Niemann seemed to be the player who was supposed to cover Jackson, but the line got shuffled around, and the Hawkeyes lost communication on who would cover whom.

 

“It was just miscommunication, I was supposed to be lined up where I was originally, and then we just miscommunicated in the back end,” Niemann said. “It was just me and him in open field, and I have to make that play. It was bad communication, but it comes down to me, regardless. I was there, and I just didn’t make the tackle.”

 

Perhaps the toughest part of it all was the fact that the defense held the Wildcats to just 10 points in regulation but still lost. The tale was so similar to what the story has been during the course of 2017. Iowa’s third loss of the season is also its third loss by a single score.

 

Defensive end Matt Nelson iterated that the defense needs to work on itself in the last quarter, because so many games have been decided by late-game plays.

 

“We just need to finish games, finish plays, finish drives. Just be finishers,” Nelson said. “All three losses are on the last possession or [in] one-possession games. We just need to finish the game.”

 

It is something that Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz also noted. He stressed the need to make more plays to close out games as well.

 

“We’ve had three games where we’ve come up short; two of them were a touchdown, one of them less than that,” Ferentz said. “Those are the things we’re going to have to improve on. We’re going to have to find a way to do a little better and be a little more detailed and find a way to make a few more plays during the course of the game.”

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A Northwestern fan holds a sign during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern defensive lineman Samdup Miller blocks a pass during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley runs with the ball during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley runs during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa's offensive line gets ready to snap the ball during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos kicks during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern slotback Garrett Dickerson gets tackled by Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson throws a pass during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern offensive lineman Brad North celebrates during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson runs with the ball during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg gets tackled by Northwestern defensive back Alonzo Mayo during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern safety Jared McGee during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa and Northwestern team captains watch the coin toss during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Iowa defensive back Jake Gervase tackles Northwestern running back Justin Jackson during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern running back Justin Jackson gets tackled by Iowa's Bo Bower and Garret Jansen during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Northwestern scores a touchdown in overtime during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10, in overtime. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa tight end Noah Fant (87) steps into the end zone for Iowa's first and only touchdown during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg (89) is tackled by Northwestern's Alonzo Mayo (12) during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws the ball during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Members of the Iowa offense and Northwestern defense square off at the line of scrimmage during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg (89) attempts to catch a pass during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. In pursuit is Northwestern's Alonzo Mayo (12). The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg (89) is tackled after making a catch during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

A member of the Northwestern coaching staff cheers as Northwestern converts on third down during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald stands on the sideline during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa's Sam Brincks (90), Ben Niemann (44), and Bo Bower (41) walk off the field during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern running back Justin Jackson (21) runs the ball into offensive lineman Brad North (69) during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) attempts to make a diving catch during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) stumbles over members of the Northwestern defense during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern wide receiver Bennett Skowronek (88) is tackled by two members of the Iowa defense during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Members of the Northwestern defense celebrate during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) misses a pass from quarterback Nate Stanley (4) during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

An Iowa fan stands with his hands on his head in the stands of Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. during the game between Iowa and Northwestern on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley (84) catches a pass during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. In pursuit is Northwestern's Alonzo Mayo (12). The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern place kicker Charlie Kuhbander (14) kicks a field goal during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann (44) signals a fumble recovery during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

An Iowa State Trooper stands on the sideline during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern fans hold a sign in support of running back Justin Jackson (21) during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

An Iowa State Trooper stands on the sideline during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

A merchant at Ryan Field makes Northwestern t-shirts during the game between Iowa and Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

A member of the press stands in the press box during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa's Miles Taylor (19) celebrates a touchdown by the Hawkeyes during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

An Iowa State Trooper stands on the sidelines of Ryan Field during the game between Iowa and Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern hosted Iowa at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan talks to players on the sideline during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Members of the Iowa football team stand on the sideline during the national anthem before the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern celebrates victory over the Hawkeyes during the game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa attempts to convert on fourth down during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

A referee signals a touchdown by Northwestern during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Northwestern running back Justin Jackson (21) is tackled shy of the end zone during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

A member of the Iowa coaching staff fires up his players during overtime of the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa's captains Josey Jewell (43), Matt VandeBerg (89), Sean Welsh (79), and Kevin Ward (26) during the game between Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 17-10 in overtime. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

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