Iowa City – On a day filled with turnovers on offense, the defense carried the Hawkeyes to a win over Wyoming to start the season.
Junior cornerback Josh Jackson starred in the opener as the key element to a depleted secondary. Jackson slid into the number-one role in the absence of sophomore Manny Rugamba. He was playing alongside sophomore Michael Ojemudia, in his first start.
“I think week one, everybody is always anxious,” Jackson said. “Everybody who plays their first game is anxious.”
While Ojemudia found himself in some tough situations, the pressure didn’t get to Jackson.
He recorded three solo tackles on the day, as well as assisting on two others. Being a part of five tackles wasn’t his most important attribution. His play in coverage, especially against a potential top-five draft pick in Josh Allen, was excellent.
Jackson made the season first memorable moment with an interception followed by a 42 yard return. If it weren’t for being slowed by Josh Allen, Jackson may have taken it to the house. He found Allen staring down his target and stepped between the ball and the receiver. Jackson was in the right play at the right time more than once today.
Allen went long, intending to find Johnson in the endzone. Jackson stayed tight in coverage and made a leaping deflection to prevent a touchdown. Jackson credited communication as the key.
“We communicated well today,” Jackson said. “Regardless of what happens we want to stay true to ourselves. Defend and listen to the safeties when they make calls.”
Coach Kirk Ferentz commented on the defense playing together during today’s game. Noting that it was good team defense.
In a system that is missing Rugamba and safety Brandon Snyder, Jackson ability to make all the right plays made the difference. He is already off to a great start in comparison to last year. He wasn’t in a full time role until the final game of the regular season. Jackson recorded ten solo tackles a year ago. He is already well on his way to surpassing that.
His impact won’t diminish in the return of Rugamba. He will remain a starter despite likely shifting back to the number-two role.
Looking ahead to Iowa State, Rugamba will cover Allen Lazard, leaving Jackson with their number two. How often Jackson will be targeted depends on how well Rugamba performs against Lazard.
If Rugumba can lock Lazard down then Jackson will see a lot of passes come his way.
“It’s good to get that first one out of the way,” Jackson said. “Now we can really tune in and focus on Iowa State.”
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