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Hawkeyes ready for tough USC defense

IOWA CITY, Iowa | The last time anyone saw Iowa's defense, it held Minnesota to seven rushing yards, returned an interception for a touchdown and shut out a Golden Gophers attack that had put up 32 points the week before.

So what's Hawkeyes defensive coordinator Norm Parker asking for?

More, of course.

"We can get a lot better from the Minnesota game to the bowl game," Parker said. "We should get better. We're a couple weeks older, we're a couple weeks stronger, we're a couple weeks more mature. I guess in theory, everybody should be a better football player than they (were) in that game."

Parker even stopped to correct himself after calling his own starting 11 "pretty good."

"Collectively as a group they were pretty good," Parker paused, "Or, decent. I don't want to say 'pretty good.' "

Parker will face another tough-to-please coach in Steve Spurrier in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

It's a matchup that goes back decades, Parker said, beginning when Spurrier coached Duke against Parker's East Carolina defense in the early 1980s and continued when Parker was defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt while Spurrier built a powerhouse at Florida.

"I think when (Spurrier) goes golfing and hits the ball in the trap, he goes in and draws plays in the sand," Parker said.

Parker said he watched a couple practices at Florida while Spurrier was coach, and said he came away most impressed by the strict sense of timing Spurrier instills in his offense.

Though Parker was quick to praise his own players, he named running back Shonn Greene the defensive MVP.

"The best way to play defense is to sit on the bench and say 'Thatta boy, Shonn. First down,' " Parker said, clapping his hands. "He probably helped our defense as much as anybody. He's probably the most valuable defensive player because he kept us off the field."

Offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe said he hasn't spoken to Greene, voted Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year, about his future with the school or any decisions to turn pro.

O'Keefe said South Carolina's defense shines because it's able to change to face every kind of offense. O'Keefe said he expects the Gamecocks to load the box with nine defenders in an effort to slow Greene, which will allow the Hawkeyes to attack them downfield in the passing game.

"They're big and they're physical," O'Keefe said about South Carolina. "They're going to try to get as many guys down there as they can. They play a defense a little differently than we've seen from most people this year."

Sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi agreed, saying the team has faced similar defenses but said the Hawkeyes will have to adjust to South Carolina's speed.

"Watching the film, they're a very aggressive squad," Stanzi said. "They move very fast out there. They do a great job of disguising what looks they're trying to give you, especially in the secondary."

Asked how he's improved his game in his first season as a starter, Stanzi laughed.

"I don't know," he said. "Maybe just make sure Shonn gets the ball more?"

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