Hawkeyes' Weisman ready to roll into November

Andrew Logue
Iowa, Mark Weisman looking for answers to ground game

IOWA CITY, Ia. – If now is not the time for Mark Weisman, then when?

The 6-foot, 240-pound running back was kept under wraps much of the past two months, used judiciously by an Iowa football brain trust determined to keep Weisman fit for when it matters most.

Saturday's 11 a.m. game against Northwestern matters a lot.

"I don't think I've ever felt this good this late into a season," Weisman said. "It's definitely been nice."

Weisman could bring a nastiness to November. He's rushed for 2,217 career yards, averaging 4.4 per carry and inviting collisions whenever defenders come calling.

"You love a guy who fights for every inch out there," right tackle Andrew Donnal said. "We're doing our best to move guys, and having someone who is able to run some guys over, get the crowd involved and all those things, he makes it exciting."

It comes at a cost, however. Weisman's bruising style occasionally leaves him black and blue, causing him to suffer various injuries in 2012 and 2013.

"I've been fortunate, haven't taken any hits that have caused any serious type of injury," Weisman said. "Knock on wood."

Statistically, the wear and tear took a toll.

Weisman is a September sensation, rushing for 1,256 yards (56.7 percent of his career total), while averaging 5.2 a carry.

He's run for 430 yards in October (fewer games because of bye weeks), at a 4.1 clip. The past two Novembers, Weisman rushed for 360 yards at 3.4 per attempt.

Will those number increase, after coaches eased his early work load?

"It's coming to an end here," Weisman, a senior, said. "I'm just trying to make it special."

The Hawkeyes, 5-2 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten, are in contention for the West Division title with five games remaining.

To stay in the race, they need an accelerator in the backfield.

LeShun Daniels is out with an ankle injury. Jordan Canzeri is hobbled. Damon Bullock seems more comfortable as a receiving option.

That leaves Weisman, with the speedy Jonathan Parker and perhaps Akrum Wadley in a supporting role.

"We've worked Akrum in a little bit on special teams, so at least he's getting his feet wet out there," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We'll have to have everybody available because we're running out of guys."

There's no doubt Weisman is the best option. He's a short-yardage beast, with 26 touchdowns in 30 games, and a primary reason Iowa is 10 of 14 this season on fourth-down chances.

It only makes sense to feed him the ball more often.

"We're going to do whatever we think gives us the best chance to win," Ferentz said. "There is no pitch count right now for anybody. … Whoever can help us win football games, that's what we've really got to be focused on."

Is Weisman up to the task?

"Mark's always ready to go," Donnal said. "He's a guy who takes pride in taking care of himself, taking care of his body. He puts in the extra effort, staying late and getting extra treatment."

Weisman is primed, and understands how precious every moment is.

"I try to value every carry like it's my last," Weisman said. "Whether it was this year, last year or the year before, it didn't really matter to me."