IOWA CITY, Ia. – Brandon Scherff doesn’t mind doing the dirty work for Mark Weisman.
“He’s a smart, physical runner, I’ll tell you,” said Scherff, the Hawkeyes’ left tackle. “I love blocking for him.”
Weisman, Iowa’s junior running back, ran for 180 yards in 30 carries in a tougher-than-expected 28-14 victory over Missouri State on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Weisman also eclipsed 1,000 career yards in just his 12th game as a Hawkeye.
“That just shows you how good the offensive line is,” said Weisman, a portrait of humility and power running.
Weisman now has six 100-yard rushing games in his Iowa career. And in his first two games after transferring from the Air Force, Weisman had two carries for 8 yards in the 2012 opener against Northern Illinois and no carries the second week against Iowa State.
Weisman’s big day Saturday helped Iowa rush for 296 yards, the most for a Hawkeye team since 301 against Illinois in 2005. And the 489 yards of total offense was the most since 562 against Ball State in 2010.
All that despite the fact that 11 penalties, dropped passes and missed opportunities in the red zone left this far from a rah-rah victory.
“We can’t be shooting ourselves in the foot, that’s the first thing,” said Weisman, who now has 1,095 career yards.
Even the head coach agreed: Iowa continues to be a team that can’t get out of its own way.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa had six penalities for 35 yards in a season-opening 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois. Eleven for 100 yards on Saturday, the most penalties for a Hawkeye team in the last seven seasons.
“We can’t have that many if we want to have a winning season,” Iowa senior cornerback B.J. Lowery said.
For a team trying to find their footing coming off a 4-8 season, those penalties are magnified.
“Unless you’re really a gifted team, it’s hard to overcome those kinds of miscues, “ Ferentz said, adding that false starts, holding penalties and the like “really take away from an offensive team’s tempo.”
Iowa had a 7-0 halftime lead, and the locker room wasn’t a party atmosphere. Quarterback Jake Rudock said the message from the coaches was simple – you’re better than this.
“In the first half we were not being physical enough,” Weisman said. “We were not consistent enough. That’s not acceptable.”
Iowa is still trying to find a rhythm in Greg Davis’ second season as offensive coordinator. Rudock remains a work in progress, but the downhill running of Weisman is a good place to start.
“He just wants the ball,” Rudock said. “I’ll tell him, ‘Hey, Mark, we’re going to you, we’re going to keep keep going to you, keep riding you.’ He’s like, ‘OK.’ He just keeps going and going.”
Iowa scored on four of six trips to the red zone Saturday. But the two scoreless trips were hard to fathom. On the first, in the second quarter, Iowa had first-and-goal at the Missouri State 8. A false start on first down and a sack on third down led to a 33-yard field-goal attempt by Mike Meyer. He missed it.
And on the Hawkeyes’ first possession of the second half, Iowa had fourth-and-1 at the Missouri State 2. Weisman got stuffed for no gain.
“Moving the ball is one thing,” Ferentz said after the 489-yard day. “But you’ve got to finish drives.”
Iowa’s defense was solid, led by senior linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Coming off what Ferentz considered the best game of Hitchens’ career in the opener, the linebacker Saturday had a team-high eight tackles, Iowa’s first sack of the season, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
“I was really pleased the way he played last week, and I think he continued to go forward here,” Ferentz said.
Iowa held the Bears to 67 yards in 28 first-half plays and 197 yards for the game.
Hitchens, who was right in the middle of it all, credits first-year assistant coach Jim Reid for his fast start.
“Coach Reid is making my reads so much easier,” Hitchens said. “I can play free, with less things to worry about.”
Hitchens also got called for a personal foul in the second half.
“Not a good thing,” Hitchens said.
That was the theme of the day: Some good. Some not-so-good.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football