Epenesa Swarms Huskers In 14-Tackle Day
LINCOLN, Neb. — Chauncey Golston laughed at the suggestion that Iowa's defense had schemed to get defensive end A.J. Epenesa open in Friday's win over Nebraska.
"The plays they were calling got A.J. loose," said Golston, Epenesa's fellow defensive end. "He was just taking advantage of that. We don’t scheme to get a player loose. That was just him taking advantage of the looks he was given."
Epenesa's 14-tackle day, a career high, included 4 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks.
When defensive line coach Kelvin Bell read off those numbers in the post-game celebration, Golston and his teammates were impressed.
"When Coach Bell told us his stats, we were like, ‘14 tackles, 2 sacks…oh my God,'" Golston said. "Honestly, I didn’t even know. He was like (during the game), ‘I think I’ve got 20 tackles.’ I was like, ‘I hope you do.’"
Those numbers make it sound like Epenesa knew what was coming, and in a lot of cases he did.
"We were able to put him in a couple of positions where he was able to make those big plays — checks from film work and practice," linebacker Kristian Welch said. "I’m proud of him being able to make those big plays.
"It comes down to his ability to execute, him just being A.J. Sometimes, we were able to know what play it was before they ran it, and we were able to make the check to let him go make the play."
"The linebackers," Epenesa said, "put me in some good calls."
Epenesa came into the game with just 31 tackles and seven sacks, bothered all season by double-teams and whatever chemistry of blocks was thrown at him.
This day was different.
"I was having some success, and I was just around the ball all of the time," Epenesa said. "That's just something I've been wanting to do all season long. I had an opportunity to do that tonight."
"I credit that to experience," Ferentz said. "Good players, as they gain more experience, play faster, play harder, play more efficiently. That’s part of the learning curve. I know everybody wanted to make him an All-American in the offseason. I’m all for that, but there has to be some steps to take. We wouldn’t want to trade him, that’s for sure."
Both of Epenesa's sacks came against Nebraska starting quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez threw for just 50 yards and was held to 44 rushing yards on 21 carries.
"I just wanted to get the ball," Epenesa said. "I was able to beat blocks."
"He seemed pretty good to me," Martinez said of Epenesa. "I have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for those guys on Iowa's defense. I think there's a reason why he's talked about as one of the top players in the country.
"I think he's dynamic."