Iowa City, Ia. – Come back in off the ledge, Iowa football fans. Uncover your eyes.
Mark Weisman is in the house.
The offense, at least temporarily, returned during a 27-16 victory against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium Saturday, thanks to his secret-weapon performance that was necessitated by another rash of running back injuries.
Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon, the 2-1 Hawkeyes’ 1-2 rushing punch, left the game for good with second quarter injuries, leaving only Weisman, a 235-pounder who prefers running over defenders than around them.
“I have to work on that,” Weisman said after rushing 24 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns. “I need to work on looser hips.”
Weisman a tailback/fullback still not on scholarship, showed Iowa fans among a 70,585-person sellout that the Hawkeyes actually can score touchdowns on plays within the 20-yard line.
In fact, Iowa tripled its touchdown output of the previous two games with three short-yardage batterings by Weisman, who came into the game with just two career carries and eight career yards.
“He wore us down,” Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said.
He had help from the line and fullback Brad Rogers.
“He leaked into the secondary a number of times,” Northern Iowa linebacker Garrett Scott said. “Iowa did a good job creating running room. He’s a big, strong guy. We didn’t do a good job wrapping him up.”
The Hawkeyes improved their record to 10-0 against teams from FCS, and they did it against a 2-1 Northern Iowa outfit that pushed then-No. 12 Wisconsin to the brink before losing 26-21 in the season-opening game.
“We scored some touchdowns. That was really big because we have had a hard time doing that,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We drove the ball in the first two games, but we came away with field goals.”
That changed on a rare day place-kicker Mike Meyer wasn’t the Hawkeyes’ offensive MVP, although he kicked a pair of field goals.
Iowa balanced 429 total yards neatly – 228 from quarterback James Vandenberg, who completed 18 of 28 passes, yet still seeks his first touchdown pass, and 201 rushing as the Hawkeyes’ well-chronicled running back curse continued.
Bullock left first after going helmet-to knee against a defender early in the second quarter following a 2-yard rush. His replacement, Garmon, wobbled to the bench later in the quarter, and he too, was there the remainder of the game with right elbow wrapped.
“I Just put my head down and run,” Weisman said. “I looked up to see big holes, then did my best to get through them. It was a dream day, one of those you always think about having – and it had a perfect ending.
The continuation of Iowa’s here today, gone tomorrow nature of that position aside, most of the first half was about neither team being able to stop the other.
Northern Iowa did in the first eight plays of the game what Iowa did only once during its first 152 – scored a touchdown. The Panthers drove 83 yards in just more than 4 minutes after winning the coin toss, scoring on a 1-yard David Johnson run behind a line that averages 304 pounds per starter.
Iowa did likewise on its first possession, with Weisman carrying the final yard for the Hawkeyes’ second touchdown this season, and first on a play inside the 20-yard line.
“He said open the holes, and that he’ll find them and take care of business,” Hawkeye left tackle Brandon Scherff said.
Tyler Sievertsen provided Northern Iowa a 10-7 lead with a career-long 49-yard field goal, however the Panthers’ lead didn’t last long.
Iowa responded with a 64-yard drive, finalized by Weisman’s second 1-yard touchdown run that resulted in a 14-10 Iowa lead.
This series of plays included Bullock’s injury, from which he did not return after rushing 13 times for 77 yards.
“You always have to be ready,” said Weisman, an Air Force transfer. “During the week, I prepare to be a fullback and a running back.”
Keeping the can’t stop the opponent theme alive, Sievertsen pulled Northern Iowa within a point with a 22-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Garmon got hurt on the ensuing possession, a series of plays that ended with Meyer’s 24-yard field goal as Iowa led 17-13 with 2:46 left in the half.
Iowa scored on its first possession of the second half, this time covering 70 yards in just four plays, Weisman’s 2-yard run behind center James Ferentz and Meyer’s third PAT resulting in a 24-13 lead.
It was the first time an Iowa running back scored three touchdowns in a game since Adam Robinson did it against Eastern Illinois in 2010, and the drive included a 51-yard catch-and-run between Vandenberg and Kevonte Martin-Manley.
Weisman, however was the MVP on this day.
“We call him the juggernaut,” Vandenberg said of Weisman.
What does the defense call him?
“The defensive guys – he’s the Sherman tank,” defensive end Steve Bigach said.
Ferentz didn’t have a nickname for him, and for good reason.
“What he did was not scripted, I can assure you,” the coach said. “We thought he might play a little.”
He played a lot.
“He’s a day-to-day guy,” center James Ferentz said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday, you’re going to get his best effort.”
Like what happened Saturday.
– Tailback Jordan Canzeri, who underwent ACL surgery during the spring, participated in pregame warmups. He didn’t play.
– Safety Collin Sleeper played Saturday after serving a two-game suspension for an undisclosed incident that happened last year during preparation for the Insight Bowl. Oklahoma defeated Iowa 31-14 in Tempe, Ariz.
– Reserve running back Michael Malloy wasn’t in uniform Saturday because of an illness. The true freshman from Sioux City suited up in the first two games.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football