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Iowa won't go for 'home runs,' but Terps defense can't strike out against ground game

Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri rushes upfield during an Aug. 30 game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. Terps players expect a run-heavy Hawkeyes offense Saturday.
Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri rushes upfield during an Aug. 30 game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. Terps players expect a run-heavy Hawkeyes offense Saturday. (Matthew Holst / Getty Images)

COLLEGE PARK — Iowa football is not flashy.

In an era of spread offenses, the Hawkeyes prefer to line up with a fullback or multiple tight ends, or both, and pound the ball with their running game. On defense, Maryland center Sal Conaboy said Iowa's linemen "don't do anything crazy."

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"They play hard-nosed football," he said. "We know we've got to come out and do the same and get after it."

Maryland was pushed around in the trenches on both sides of the ball during its Oct. 4 loss to Ohio State.

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The line play likely will need to be much better if the Terps (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten Conference) are to beat Iowa (5-1, 2-0) on Saturday at Byrd Stadium.

The Hawkeyes' offensive philosophy has not changed much, if at all, since Kirk Ferentz, a former Ravens offensive line coach, took over as head coach in 1999.

"They are going to do runs and are going to run to get 4 and 5 yards," Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. "They are not trying to go for home runs. They are going to make sure they keep the ball and not put their defense or special teams in a bad position and always put themselves in the position when they can score. It's worked well for them."

Their offensive line is key. Ferentz has a history of developing his linemen into top draft picks, such as 2004 No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery, 2010 first-round pick Bryan Bulaga, 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff and Ravens Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda.

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This year's line is led by 6-foot-5, 320-pound senior left tackle Brandon Scherff, a possible top-10 selection in next year's NFL draft.

"He's the biggest person ever, and he's definitely one of the strongest people ever," Maryland inside linebacker L.A. Goree said.

Scherff and his Hawkeyes teammates will challenge a Maryland defense that allowed Ohio State to run for 269 yards and average 5.1 yards per carry.

Penetration will be important for the Terps, nose tackle Darius Kilgo said. Teams have had success getting into the backfield against Iowa, Kilgo said, partly explaining why the Hawkeyes are averaging just 3.8 yards per carry despite Scherff's presence.

Heading into Saturday's game, Maryland defensive line coach Chad Wilt has emphasized to his defensive linemen the importance of playing hard and creating penetration.

"That's something that their offense is pretty much built around, is just running the ball and just pounding the ball down the field," Kilgo said. "So just on defense, we want to be able to fit gaps and play hard on defense and be able to stop the run, first of all."

On offense, the Terps want to find a way to establish their own running game after struggling to do so in recent weeks.

Maryland running backs are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry over their past four games, with the offensive line largely unable to create running lanes against teams such as West Virginia, Syracuse and Ohio State.

Iowa presents another challenge with senior defensive tackles Louis Trinca-Pasat and Carl Davis as well as junior defensive end Drew Ott and senior middle linebacker Quinton Alston.

Alston leads the Hawkeyes with 43 tackles. Trinca-Pasat has 39 tackles, including 5.5 for losses, and 2.5 sacks. Ott has 31 tackles, including 7.5 for losses, and 4.5 sacks. Davis has 4.5 tackles for losses.

"Real physical, strong front seven," Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. "Their two interior defensive linemen [Trinca-Pasat and Davis] are as advertised. To me, they are as good as the bunch [from Ohio State] we faced a couple weeks ago."

The Terps will look to replicate what Indiana and Pittsburgh did against the Hawkeyes in recent weeks.

Pittsburgh running back James Conner ran for 155 yards and a touchdown against Iowa, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Indiana ran for 316 yards and three touchdowns overall last week while averaging more than 8 yards per carry.

The Hawkeyes focus on stopping the inside run, Conaboy said, so Maryland might look to exploit Iowa with running plays out wide.

"They don't give up a lot of big plays," Locksley said, "so we will have to find ways to manufacture consistency and moving the ball and being able to execute on third down to keep the chains moving."

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