IOWA CITY | Stopped in its tracks by Michigan State, Iowa’s football team will attempt to get the legs back under its rushing attack Saturday when it visits Ohio State.
“It would be that way no matter who was on the schedule this week. We need to get something going on the ground again,’’ running back Mark Weisman said Tuesday. “What happened in our last game wasn’t Iowa football.’’
The Spartans put the brakes on what had been an effective Hawkeye rushing attack, ending a string of five straight performances of 200-plus yards by limiting Iowa to 23 yards on the ground in a 26-14 win on Oct. 5 at Kinnick Stadium.
The result? The Hawkeyes were forced into a season-high nine three-and-out situations on offense – more than twice the number Iowa dealt with in any of its five prior games – and a one-dimensional attack that didn’t work more frequently than it did.
“If you are going to be successful in the Big Ten, you have to be able to run the ball and we didn’t do a good enough job up front against Michigan State to make that happen,’’ offensive guard Andrew Donnal said. “It was a frustrating game in a lot of ways and that was among the biggest frustrations of all.’’
Weisman, who entered the game rushing for an average of 123 yards per game, totaled nine yards on seven carries against the Spartans.
A foot injury factored into his performance, but by the time he was ready to return against Michigan State, something he insists he was capable of doing, the Spartans had put Iowa in a position where it had to throw to football.
“That’s Damon (Bullock) and his game more than me,’’ Weisman said. “It was just a tough day all the way around. It was a shock to us.’’
Weisman said his foot healed during the bye week and should not be a factor this week against Ohio State.
The Hawkeyes also spent time during the past week healing mental wounds, working to regain the edge the team had built with its rushing attack.
“The run will be big for us this week. We need to get that going again, but at the same time, it will depend on what the defense is giving us,’’ quarterback Jake Rudock said. “We always will look for that balance, though. That’s how we are built, and the running game for us opens up opportunities in the passing game. That’s the way it works.’’
There are no guarantees that things will be much easier against the fourth-ranked Buckeyes in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. test at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State is among five Big Ten defenses that rank in the top 10 nationally against the run, holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground.
The Buckeyes rank second in the league and sixth in the Football Bowl Subdivision while holding foes to 86.2 rushing yards, nearly mirroring the work of an Iowa defense that rates eighth nationally against the run at 88.5 yards per game.
“It’s a tough deal when the run game gets shut off,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That said, there are some teams that are going to make it very difficult for you to run the football, so you better find some other ways. When you get in a game like that, it’s not a lot of fun.’’
Weisman said the Hawkeyes now have a clear understanding of that.
“We’ve seen how tough it can be and I think we learned from it,’’ he said. “I think one of the things we learned was that if things don’t go well right away, that you have to keep working, have to be patient and keep fighting no matter what.’’
- Ferentz said it appears the handful of Hawkeyes injured in Iowa’s Oct. 5 game against Michigan State will be on the practice field this week.
“We would have been in a little bit of trouble if we would have played (last) Saturday. Fortunately, we didn’t,’’ Ferentz said. “Based on what we saw over the weekend, it looks like everybody’s ready to go. We’ve just got to get through the week now.’’
- Former Iowa State assistant Tom Herman is in his second season as the Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and Ferentz expects the Hawkeyes to see some familiar looks from the Buckeyes.
“It’s not like you pull out that (Iowa State) game film, look at it and say, ‘Okay, we got this down.’ They’ve got a lot of things going on,’’ Ferentz said. “But, there are some plays in there we saw a month ago that definitely will show up.’’
- Iowa senior C.J. Fiedorowicz is among a pared-down list of 29 players on the midseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, presented to college football’s top tight end. He is one of five Big Ten players on the list.