In the 1980s Filmation cartoon, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” the main villain was Skeletor. “The Lord of Evil” had a group of henchmen in his employ with special abilities, which most of the time proved to only have an ability to take Skeletor’s plans for global conquest and ruin them. The University of Iowa Hawkeye defense on Saturday looked similar. The linebacker group was Skeletor and the rest of the defense was the bumbling henchmen.
The 30 points surrendered by the Iowa defense last Saturday was not the fault of the linebackers. Christian Kirksey leads the Big 10 in tackles and forced a fumble, which led to a 48-yard scoop and score. Hawkeye linebacker Anthony Hitchens is right behind Kirksey in tackles. Hitchens and James Morris are tied for fourth in the Big 10 in tackles for loss. This group of linebackers helped the Hawkeyes give up a mere 3.9 yards per rush so far this season.
The overall numbers for Phil Parker’s defense are not good. Iowa ranks near the bottom of the conference in every major statistical defensive category. It should be noted that the Hawkeye defense faced a good offense led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has been mentioned in Heisman trophy conversations. However, giving up 11 yards per completion and not recording a sack says that the defensive line struggled to get pressure and the secondary struggled to cover the Northern Illinois receivers.
In Masters of the Universe, despite the planning of Skeletor and his impressive power, his efforts were always thwarted by the lack of execution of his henchmen. Like Skeletor, the Hawkeyes’ superb group of linebackers will get lumped into being part of a group that fails to dominate opposing offenses. Skeletor was stuck with his group of henchmen for better or worse. In the same way, the guys on the Hawkeyes’ roster are the defensive linemen and backs the linebackers have to work with whether they like it or not.