Iowa takeaways: Canzeri gets perfect senior day moment

Chad Leistikow
Iowa's Jordan Canzeri runs ahead for a 42-yard touchdown on his final Kinnick Stadium carry.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Senior day doesn’t go perfectly very often. But for Jordan Canzeri, Saturday’s lasting image after a 40-20 win over Purdue will be tough to top.

The injury-seasoned, fifth-year senior running back raced 42 yards for a Big Ten West Division title-clinching touchdown on his final Kinnick Stadium carry.

“I know as soon as I walk out of Kinnick, everything will really start to hit me that that was my last game here,” Canzeri said. “Couldn’t have gone any better.”

The stadium experience began Saturday for Canzeri by touching the Nile Kinnick statue, then seeing his parents Brian and Regina, who suffers from the autoimmune disease Lupus, at midfield before the game.

“As soon as you run out of that tunnel and meet your parents,” Canzeri said, “it hits you right then and there.”

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Canzeri wound up as Iowa’s leading rusher Saturday, netting 95 yards on 13 carries. He had been limited or out of Iowa’s previous four games with a high-ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 17 at Northwestern. This was the first time he’d been this close to 100 percent for a whole game since his 43-carry, 256-yard performance against Illinois on Oct. 10.

A 75-yard touchdown burst in that game saw a sequel Saturday.

The 42-yarder, center Austin Blythe said, was “actually the same play that he scored on against Illinois — same scheme anyway. Didn’t really expect it to pop like that.”

Another Jordan’s emotions

Right guard Jordan Walsh predicted earlier this week that he would get emotional during the pregame senior day ceremony. He was right.

The Glendale Heights, Ill., native broke down as he ran toward parents Natalie and Orlando. He was the last of the 21 seniors to be announced; the lineman who plays to his left, Blythe, was first.

“It’s crazy,” Walsh said. “I remember first summer workout coming here. Rode over from Williamsburg with Austin Blythe. And within a blink, it’s senior day.”

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The running back rotation is …   

… Still fluid, 11 games in. But there are no gripes about having four healthy Hawkeyes in the backfield, basically for the first time all season.

Iowa rotated a new running back in on each of its first three plays: LeShun Daniels Jr., Derrick Mitchell Jr., then Canzeri. On the eighth play, Akrum Wadley got a carry.

Using all four, coach Kirk Ferentz said, was “not totally by design, but our two marquee guys — LeShun and Jordan — they’re a little bit more proven.”

It was nice to see Wadley get a little bit of run — four carries, 23 yards — after he sat out last week’s 40-35 win over Minnesota for precautionary reasons after he sprained an ankle.

Wadley had led Iowa in rushing three consecutive weeks (including 204 yards at Northwestern and 120 at Indiana) before being sidelined, and the sophomore’s quickness gives the Hawkeye running game an extra gear.

Defensive worry?

The question can be asked for a third straight week: Is it time to worry about Iowa’s defense? The Hawkeyes allowed a third consecutive opponent to top 400 yards.

Purdue was a dropped pass by DeAngelo Yancey away from tying the score at 20-20 in the third quarter of Saturday’s game after he had beaten cornerback Greg Mabin to the inside.

“There were some holes in the back end,” linebacker Cole Fisher said. “It’s all fixable though. We’ve just got to take a look at it on film and see what the problem was.”

Slide job by CJB

Yes, for the first time maybe in his life, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard executed a feet-first slide on the football field. He scrambled for an 11-yard gain on third-and-10, capping it with a baseball slide, with Iowa leading 20-13 in the third quarter.

Sliding is something he’s been told time and time again by offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Usually, Beathard is diving head-first, Pete Rose-style, or trying to break tackles for extra yardage.

“Yeah, never seen it happen,” the junior smiled. “First time I think I’ve slid ever in a game other than playing baseball. Coach Davis was, ‘Good job on sliding. You need to do that more.’ ”

By the way, Beathard looked pretty nimble and didn’t seem to suffer any setbacks to his existing groin injury. His mobility was uncertain after he suffered a right hip pointer late in the Minnesota game.

“I can't explain it medically, but he's been gaining ground the past month,” Ferentz said, “and the last couple weeks he's moved around pretty well and continues to get better. That gives us a little bit more arsenal, if you will.”

Beathard is now 12-0 as a starter after throwing for an efficient 213 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

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King stuck on eight

Iowa junior cornerback Desmond King was held without an interception for the second straight week — leaving him stuck on a nation-leading eight for the season, which is tied with Nile Kinnick (1939) and  Lou King (1981) for the school record.

But Iowa is guaranteed at least three more games.

“There’s still going to be chances for me to get it,” King said. “No coach is not going to throw my way. They’re going to take their chance, maybe if it’s once or twice a game. I’ve just got to make it happen next time.”

Hail from the coach

In his opening postgame remarks Ferentz gave a shout-out to the Iowa fans. A good 50,000-plus out of the announced 62,920 braved the morning winter storm and wind chills around 10 degrees to be at Kinnick Stadium for division-title history. The roads getting to Iowa City weren't pretty, with the snow persisting until after 9 a.m.

"We pulled in whatever it was, about 8:50 (a.m.), 8:45 today, and things looked pretty quiet," Ferentz said. "We came out kickoff and it was great, the stadium was great, and they were great all the way through. Just wanted to say thank you to them."