Iowa Hawkeyes football has been all about defense in 2022, allowing 10 points or less on nine different occasions. The team allowed just 13.3 points per game for the season. On Saturday in Nashville they continued another consistent trend…scoring on defense. The team’s 21-0 TransPerfect Music City Bowl shutout victory over the Kentucky Wildcats featured two defensive touchdowns.
Scoring on defense has been a theme for a long time during head coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at the school, spanning from the late Norm Parker to current defensive coordinator Phil Parker (no relation).
“Forever it seems like that our guys have done a good job…we do a good job with turnovers making them offensive opportunities if you will,” Ferentz said after the game. “Those guys know where to go, know where to get and our guys hustle when there is a turnover. They’re trying to make it more than just getting a possession.”
Freshman five-star recruit Xavier Nwankpa started off the scoring on defense and delivered in his first career start. Replacing All-Big Ten safety Kaevon Merriweather -who declared for the 2023 NFL Draft- Nwankpa posted eight tackles, a 52-yard interception touchdown return and one pass breakup.
Nwankpa’s felt as if the performance only increased expectations for the future at Iowa.
“Definitely set the bar for me on where I gotta go, where I gotta improve from,” Nwanka said of the bowl game performance. “So just keep making plays, having fun during the spring and get ready for next fall.”
One of the players who will continue to join him in the secondary is 2022 TransPerfect Music City Bowl MVP Cooper DeJean. DeJean –a 10.7 100-meter sprinter and 24-foot long jumper at OA-BCIG High School Iowa)-also contributed to the defensive scoring with his third interception touchdown return of the season.
But he was quick to give credit to those around him.
“Winning MVP…I think is more of a team award, because without these guys on defense I couldn’t do what I was able to do,” DeJean offered modestly. “Those guys were pressuring the quarterback all game. A lot of credit to the guys up front and everybody else on the defense.”
Iowa led the nation with seven defensive touchdowns in 2022.
DeJean (No. 3 pictured) -the 2022 Music Bowl MVP- crosses the goal line after his interception return for a touchdown. DeJean frequently made Iowa's fans go wild in 2022, as he finished with 75 tackles, five interceptions (3 TDs) and eight pass break ups. DeJean also averaged over 16.5 yards per punt return and posted a 34-yard return in the first quarter of the Music City Bowl.