IOWA CITY, Ia. — It’s uncanny: Bring up Akrum Wadley’s yards, and Kirk Ferentz almost always responds with a comment about his junior running back’s pounds.
From Ferentz’s point of view, if Wadley can do what he did Saturday night in the 14-13 upset of Michigan — 167 yards on a career-high 28 touches against the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense — imagine what he could do with another 5-10 pounds of muscle on his 5-foot-11 frame.
“The main thing we're on him about is his body weight,” Ferentz said, “so he can play more and have more durability out there. You worry about that.”
Wadley was beaming with reporters following the Michigan win, thrilled that Ferentz gave him a hug afterward.
“It’s big, man. Great feeling,” Wadley said. “He hugged me. Felt good.”
Told of Wadley’s comments, Ferentz delivered a zinger of a comeback.
“I'll hug him more, if it makes him play good,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “I'm all for it. He thinks I'm mad at him all of the time because of his weight. But he's a great young guy.”
Despite a backfield time-share with LeShun Daniels Jr., Wadley’s explosiveness has been hard to miss. He is within 221 yards of becoming just Iowa’s second 1,000-yard rusher since Shonn Greene won the Doak Walker Award in 2008.
After Wadley rushed for 176 yards at Purdue on Oct. 15, Ferentz responded to a question about Wadley by saying, “When he gets over 190 (pounds), I’m going to give him a hug and smile and say really nice things about him.”
We don’t know what the scales say today, but we know Wadley’s weight is below the listed 191. That, plus ball-security concerns, have created issues of trust between the player and Iowa’s coaches.
But the coaches trusted him with touches on nearly 80 percent of his snaps against Michigan. And they should. According to Pro Football Focus, Wadley’s 4.3 yards after contact per carry is No. 1 among all Big Ten Conference running backs with 100-plus attempts.
As ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said during Saturday’s national broadcast: “I don’t know how much weight he needs when he can move like this.”
Stolen helmets return home
Iowa's quarterback says his lid is safe and sound after police apparently found someone wearing it downtown Saturday night. Mark Emmert/HawkCentral.com
On-field bedlam happened after Iowa’s upset win, with fans storming the field — and stealing Hawkeye equipment.
The count of missing game helmets was “in the teens,” Ferentz said.
All but one had been retrieved by Sunday morning.
“The student managers were helping after the game, because anything that wasn't nailed down was being accosted,” Ferentz said. “So I guess those guys — they deserve gold stars for the week.”
The missing lid was the one that belonged to quarterback C.J. Beathard.
But, as indicated by a tweet from equipment manager Greg Morris, campus and Iowa City police helped find it.
“The cops saw a kid wearing it downtown somewhere,” Beathard said. “That’s what I heard.”
Getting the game ball to the locker room was a more seamless transition. That’s in hand — and in house — for a long time.
“I told the guys we’re going to find a place in the building to put it,” Ferentz said. “Because it was a good win.”
A big day in the Daniels' home
Sophomore center James Daniels had one of the most impactful performances of his young career against Michigan. He earned the highest Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade of any Hawkeye.
His brother, LeShun Daniels Jr., was the beneficiary of some of those blocks, gaining 54 yards on 14 mostly-up-the-middle carries.
The brothers from Warren, Ohio, had a happy father back home, too. LeShun Daniels Sr. was a starting guard for Ohio State’s 1996 team that had their national-title hopes ruined by rival Michigan in the final game of the regular season, 13-9. The Buckeyes, then coached by John Cooper, were 10-0 before that loss in Columbus.
“My dad was pretty excited,” James said. “… That (kept) them from winning the national championship that year. So he kind of doesn’t like them.”
Roughing the center?
It was called on Iowa safety Brandon Snyder in the fourth quarter against Michigan. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
If you were caught off guard by Saturday’s roughing-the-center penalty called against Iowa in the fourth quarter — which led to Michigan’s go-ahead field goal to make it 13-11 — you weren’t alone.
Even the head Hawk hadn’t seen that one before.
“Never,” Ferentz said. “And I was really anxious to see it on film. And I've seen it now. Next question is — and I'll call someone in the next 48 hours — just tell us how to coach it.”
Brandon Snyder was called for the roughing penalty. According to the rule book, “When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap.”
Ferentz’s main issue with the call wasn’t the letter of the law, but the consistency in enforcement.
“There are two plays — if you look at it (and) a punt or two before that — that look the same to me,” Ferentz said. “There are some things in our rule book right now that I think are really hard on our officials to officiate. And I think anytime you create a situation of cloudiness you just open it up for, you know, some debatable calls.”
A 2008 replica so far
Kirk Ferentz is reminded that in 2008 after upsetting Penn State his team barely hung on to beat Purdue. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
Several times during the 2016 season, Ferentz has referenced the 2008 Hawkeye team. The parallels are striking. That team struggled through unexpected losses in the early portion of the schedule and, like this one, entered the bye week at 5-3.
The 2008 team lost to Illinois to fall to 5-4 (this one lost to Wisconsin), then followed it up with a home upset against an unbeaten, No. 3-ranked team on a last-second field goal.
So what happened after that? In 2008, Iowa had to sweat out a 22-17 win against a below-average Purdue team before hammering Minnesota, 55-0, in the regular-season finale and finally breezing to a bowl victory over South Carolina.
If 2016 follows form, that means a tough game is in store Saturday against 3-7 Illinois in Champaign, Ill. (And then maybe a rout of Nebraska?)
“They finished the season very well (in 2008),” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “That’s something we’re trying to look forward to doing — just keep going game by game, understanding what can be possible.
“We’ve got to come out focused and determined like we did this last week and try to get another victory.”
Josey Jewell on Iowa's football culture. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com