The Iowa sophomore running back was spectacular in a 40-10 win at No. 20 Northwestern.
Akrum Wadley heard all spring and summer about ball security from running backs coach Chris White. Then, on his third carry of 2015, against Illinois State in mop-up duty, he fumbled.
Doghouse time after his third lost fumble in 36 college carries? As head coach Kirk Ferentz said in September, “It’s not the pros. We don’t cut guys.”
In that same answer to the Wadley question, Ferentz added this important line: “Somewhere in there, there's a good player. We've just got to get it out of him and get him really concentrating the way he really needs to, to protect the football.”
Saturday, Wadley’s perseverance paid off at then-No. 20 Northwestern in the form of 204 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries. Monday, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound sophomore was named the Big Ten Conference’s offensive player of the week.
Wadley got the call in Iowa’s 40-10 victory after starter Jordan Canzeri was knocked out of the game with a left-ankle injury. With season starter LeShun Daniels Jr. also out, Wadley was entrusted with keeping the now-No. 12 Hawkeyes undefeated.
“I knew this game would probably either make me or break me,” Wadley said afterward. “It worked out in my favor.”
Wadley showed fresh legs in gliding through a Wildcats defense that was holding opponents to just 269.5 total yards per game. Behind Wadley’s 204, Iowa rushed for more than that (294) in a season-high 492-yard day of offense.
“I knew it was going to be a long season,” said Wadley, who was lightly recruited out of Newark, N.J. Iowa scooped up the relatively unknown two-star commitment late in its last of Class of 2013. “I just wanted to work on what I needed to work on, which was holding on to the ball. In practice and camp, I’ve been holding it high and tight, and it just paid off today.”
Wadley continues a remarkable run for the 7-0 Hawkeyes. He’s the fifth Big Ten weekly award winner in six weeks for Iowa, joining quarterback C.J. Beathard (after Iowa State), placekicker Marshall Koehn (after Pittsburgh), cornerback Desmond King (after Wisconsin), and Canzeri (after Illinois).
And going forward, Wadley certainly has earned more trust from the Hawkeye coaches. With Canzeri’s ankle in a walking boot, Iowa will have a nice mix of options Oct. 31 vs. Maryland. Daniels should be back. He’s more of a power runner, at 225 pounds, but Wadley’s shiftiness provides another gear for the Iowa offense. And then there’s Derrick Mitchell Jr., who averaged 7.9 yards a carry (10 rushes, 79 yards) in his first extended action vs. Northwestern.
Of the emergence of Wadley and Mitchell, Ferentz told the university’s website Sunday, “That’s really been a positive, the way that’s shaken out.”
Iowa-Maryland gets later start
No. 12 Iowa's next football game is being given more exposure. The 7-0 Hawkeyes (3-0 in the Big Ten) will face Maryland at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, it was announced Monday.
The Halloween game at Kinnick Stadium will be broadcast on ABC regionally (including in Iowa) and ESPN2 nationally. Plenty of tickets are available by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS or online at hawkeyesports.com or by visiting the Carver-Hawkeye Arena ticket office.
Iowa is enjoying its lone by week of the season, which gives more recovery time to injured players like quarterback C.J. Beathard (groin), running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (ankle), running back Jordan Canzeri (ankle), wide receiver Tevaun Smith (knee), tight end Jake Duzey (knee), left tackle Boone Myers (stinger) and right tackle Ike Boettger (ankle).
Beathard hobbled off the field after Iowa's 40-10 win at Northwestern; head coach Kirk Ferentz said he was at about "50 percent" in improving to 8-0 as a starter.
Maryland (2-4, 0-2) hosts Penn State on Saturday.