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Defensive Player to Watch: Enyi Uwazurike

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Someone on the defensive line needs to step up.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State has a problem in an area where absolutely no one expected a problem this year, the defensive line.

So far this year, the defensive line has a combined 1.5 sacks, that’s dangerously low, an average of .375 sacks per game from a group that averaged almost 1.5 per game last season.

Is Jon Heacock calling games differently? Maybe. There has been less pressure than we are used to, but I don’t think that is strictly a play calling issue.

I believe that it’s mostly been an execution problem. The defensive line simply isn’t performing as well as they have in the past or as well as they can.

There are some possible explanations for this, and they’ll probably come off as excuses, but I believe that this unit is good enough to overcome a lot. These reasons are no exception.

In the two losses, Iowa State played in subpar conditions. The Iowa game included two delays that resulted in a wet field. But Iowa’s offensive line also had to go through two delays and play on the same field.

Down in Waco, Iowa State played in desert like conditions and didn’t even have tents on their sideline. Reported temperatures reached 148 degrees on the Iowa State sideline, while Baylor got tents and shade when they were off the field. Exhaustion is a much more believable reason for a subpar performance, but I still think it’s just more execution.

There were no field or weather issues for the UNI and ULM game, yet the Iowa State defensive line struggled to get pressure on teams that they should’ve had no issue with. This is why I believe that it’s simply execution.

There isn’t a whole lot of explanation for why this happening, but Levi does a good job of breaking down this issues from the Baylor game in this week’s Wide Right Film Room. I’m not going to break that down, but instead I’m going to challenge Enyi Uwazurike.

Much like last week, I challenged Mike Rose in hope that the containment of the quarterback would improve, and it did. I challenged Rose because I expect the most out of him in that department.

This is the same reason that I’m calling out Ewazurike. With Jaquan Bailey questionable for the game on Saturday, Ewazurike is the most experienced pass rusher on the team.

For that reason, Ewazurike needs to step up and apply pressure on the TCU offensive line if Iowa State wants to win.

Pressure in the backfield opens the linebackers to be able to blitz or drop back in coverage. But when the line is providing no pressure, the blitzes aren’t as effective and it allows holes in the defense for quarterbacks to make quick throws or scramble for a first down.

When they don’t send a blitz, and leave the defensive line alone to apply pressure, the line hasn’t stepped up. Quarterbacks are getting 7-8 seconds to survey the field and find the slightest openings. 7-8 seconds for Big 12 quarterbacks is way too much time and is unacceptable.

Iowa State cannot allow Max Duggan to have 7-8 seconds to throw the ball. If they allow that, Iowa State will drop to below .500 on the season without even playing the meat of their schedule yet. It’s that simple.

This game will come down to the final quarter, without a doubt. The fourth quarter is where your big time players need to make big time plays. Enyi Uwazurike is one of those big time players.

In just nine games last season, Uwazurike recorded 5 TFL along with 27 total tackles. This season, he’s recorded just .5 TFL and 5 tackles. It goes without saying, but he can be so much better.

If Uwazurike shows up on Saturday and puts pressure on the TCU backfield, Iowa State should able to significantly hamper the Horned Frogs’ offense and put the Cyclones in a great position to win.