Arizona star Nic Grigsby broke off a spectacular weaving run against Iowa last week that went longer than the length of a football field and had nearly everyone in Kinnick Stadium holding their breath.
He cut left to the sideline, then broke back toward midfield, dashed all the way to the other sideline and made a beeline for the right pylon, covering at least 100 yards to gain 58. Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey tracked him down and stopped him at the 1-yard line.
And that was as far as Arizona would get.
Through three games, Iowa's defense has allowed just two touchdowns. One came in the first half of a season-opening win over Northern Iowa. The Wildcats tacked on a meaningless late TD in their 27-17 loss to the Hawkeyes.
Iowa will face its biggest challenge this season when it plays Saturday at No. 5 Penn State, which averages 30 points per game. But after a somewhat bumpy start against Northern Iowa, the Hawkeyes defense has been solid, easing the pressure on an offense still working out the kinks.
"We're not trying to do more than we should. We're just playing a simple, basic defense. Everybody doing their job," Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer said. "If we can just go out there and play and relax, that's how you have success."
Iowa's defense was expected to be good this season, with eight starters back from a unit that ranked fifth in the nation in 2008 by allowing just 13 points a game. This season, that number is down to 12 a game.
The success starts up front. The defensive line hasn't seen much of a drop-off despite the departures of standout tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul. End Christian Ballard moved inside to pave the way for Broderick Binns, and tackle Karl Klug has excelled in his first season as a starter.
Klug and end Adrian Clayborn each recorded a sack in the win over Arizona, but that only scratches the surface of how the line performed. Facing constant pressure, Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott was just 4 for 14 for 50 yards and was benched in the fourth quarter.
The last two teams Iowa has faced, including Iowa State, have gone 23 of 57 passing for 218 yards with six interceptions.
That's not good news for Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark, who was just 9 for 23 for 86 yards in last season's 24-23 loss in Iowa City.
"I thought we looked a little more aggressive with our front four," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of the defense in the win over Arizona. "That's a good thing because the way we play defense. It's important that we're doing a good job in our front four."
The linebacking trio of Jeremiah Hunter, Angerer and A.J. Edds have combined for 60 total tackles while helping clog passing lanes in the middle. Safety Tyler Sash has four interceptions in two games, returning them for 104 yards. Fellow safety Brett Greenwood has two picks, and Spievey has lived up to his advance billing as one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten.
"We need all 11 guys to be doing their job. When we do that, when we do it well, we can be effective," Ferentz said.
Though Iowa's offense has scored 62 points in the last two games, the Hawkeyes still rank just 70th in the nation in points per game as they adjust to life without departed star running back Shonn Greene.
The Hawkeyes (3-0) might have to lean on their defense even more against the Nittany Lions.
"They swing the momentum a lot with the turnovers, and their three-and-outs keep us on the field," Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. "No offense has had a chance to get good momentum going the last two weeks, and that helps keep momentum on our side."