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Pat Harty: Winning in vintage Iowa fashion

[ 0 ] November 9, 2013 |

It took longer than it probably should have for the Iowa football team to assert its superiority over lowly Purdue on Saturday.

But that’s about all you could find wrong with Iowa’s 38-14 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.

Saturday’s game wasn’t just about Iowa winning. It was about winning by enough points to avoid a public relations setback.

Iowa (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) is now bowl eligible for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons under coach Kirk Ferentz. And it and earned that distinction by doing what it does best under Ferentz: running the football over and over and over.

The final tally Saturday was a season-high 318 rushing yards on 52 carries, highlighted by sophomore Jordan Canzeri’s career-high 165 rushing yards.

“I think the other (running backs) are a little bit tired right now, and he gave us a nice change of pace out there and really did a good job and ran tough,” Ferentz said about Canzeri on his postgame radio show. “It was great to see him give us a spark.”

The victory was vintage Iowa football under Ferentz: beating down an inferior opponent by mixing in play action with a power rushing attack and a stingy defense.

Naysayers will bring up how horrible Purdue (1-8) is and that Iowa only led 14-7 at halftime against a team that has been outscored by at least 30 points in five games this season. But Iowa can only play the teams on its schedule, and it’s not as if the Hawkeyes eked out a win.

Speaking of the schedule, there was a time when facing Michigan and Nebraska in back-to-back games to close a regular season would’ve been considered almost a death march.

The 1990s are long over, though, and the Wolverines and Cornhuskers are both far from being invincible.

Iowa also will have two weeks to prepare for its next game against Michigan on Nov. 23 at Kinnick Stadium. It’ll be Senior Day, so Kinnick Stadium should be rocking.

The possibilities for this season are wide-ranging. Iowa could defeat Michigan and Nebraska, win a bowl game and finish 9-4 — perhaps even ranked. Or the Hawkeyes could lose out, including a bowl loss, and finish 6-7, which would be the first time that Iowa has had back-to-back losing seasons since Ferentz’s first two seasons as coach in 1999 and 2000.

Iowa could finish 5-3 in the Big Ten or 3-5, which is a huge difference, not only in regard to the Big Ten standings, but also with bowl consideration and momentum for recruiting.

“It’s just a good team win; we needed that badly being on the road,” Ferentz said. “There is nothing like going into a bye coming off a win first and foremost. And then secondly, this will give us a good chance to give the guys some rest. They’ve been working long and hard for a lot of weeks like everybody else in the conference. We’ll regroup here a little bit, get rested up and try to mount a charge here in these last two games.”

Purdue was surrendering an average of 211.8 rushing yards per game, but the Hawkeyes surpassed that by more than 100 yards with the 5-foot-9, 192-pound Canzeri leading the way.

Actually, it was the giants in front of Canzeri on the Iowa offense who led the charge by carving out holes that were big enough to fit four Iowa running backs through. It was a drastic change from last Saturday when Iowa had little room to run during a 28-9 loss to Wisconsin.

“We had to come out and take it, and I thought we did a good job of that,” Iowa junior left tackle Brandon Scherff said. “The defense stood up for us and they got us the ball back and we just went on from there.”

Canzeri was in the right place at the right time for a change, and the Troy, N.Y., native seized the opportunity. He has persevered through injuries and being buried on the depth chart, and now he’s being rewarded for it, if only for one weekend, although it’s hard to see Canzeri not playing a significant role from this point on.

“He’s been practicing well,” Ferentz said of Canzeri, who has flashed while at Iowa, including rushing for 58 yards and catching six passes for 28 yards in a loss to Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl. “He’s practiced well last fall when he got back and throughout the spring.”

Iowa now has four running backs who have played in key moments this season if you include true freshman LeShun Daniels. Juniors Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock had their moments Saturday, but they’d be the first to say the more the merrier, especially with the aches and pains of November setting in.

Iowa has lost four games this season against teams that had combined for just three losses heading into Saturday. The Hawkeyes aren’t a good team yet, but they did move in that direction on Saturday, one successful run at a time.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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