Dominant run game paves the way for Hawkeyes
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa's running game, missing in action this season, made a return appearance Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
"That's Iowa football," running back Mark Weisman said after a 48-7 blowout of Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes had 46 rushing attempts for 221 yards, both season highs, while improving to 6-2 and becoming bowl-eligible.
"That's something we pride ourselves in, controlling the line of scrimmage," guard Austin Blythe said. "We've been talking about it the last two weeks. We finally went out and did it."
Redshirt freshman Akrum Wadley rushed for 106 yards, the first Iowa player to reach the century mark in 10 games. And Weisman was his usual dependable self, gaining a season-high 94 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
"It's definitely been a little frustrating," Weisman said of a running game that entered play Saturday ranked 10th in the Big Ten at 146.3 yards a game. "It's something we've been harping on it, and working at it so hard in practice. But it really wasn't showing on the field. (Saturday) was good, but we can't take it for granted. There's still room for improvement. We left a lot of yards on the field."
Iowa's 48 points were the most in a Big Ten game since a 52-28 victory over Minnesota on Nov. 19, 2005. And it was the most scored against Northwestern since a 62-10 triumph in 2002.
"When you can't stop the run against Iowa, they're deadly because they can get the play-action passing going and that's what happened," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Weisman scored on runs of 8, 14 and 8 yards. He now has 13 rushing touchdowns this season, a career best. His 29 career rushing touchdowns are the third-most in school history. Both Sedrick Shaw and Tavian Banks had 33.
Weisman now has 2,311 career yards on 519 carries. He passed Shonn Greene and Ronnie Harmon Saturday to move into eighth place on Iowa's all-time list.
Iowa's offensive line deserves a yeoman's share of the credit for Weisman's success Saturday. So does fullback Macon Plewa, who has battled shoulder injuries that had kept him on the sidelines for several games.
Plewa had crushing blocks on two of Weisman's three touchdown runs.
"It was great to have Macon back," Weisman said. "He looked great (Saturday). Hopefully he's over that injury now."
Fullback is an underrated position but a very important one when it comes to Iowa's running game. Returning starter Adam Cox was lost for the season with a knee injury in fall camp. Then Plewa's absence forced the staff to move linebacker John Kenny to that spot. Linebacker Chad Gilson has also been moved to fullback for some depth.
"Every little thing counts, and the run game is all about detail and it's all about execution," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I think we took a step forward here."