AMES, Ia. — Closing in on Iowa running back Mark Weisman must feel a little like bearing down on a Clydesdale galloping under a head of steam in shoulder pads.
Remember 2008, when the Hawkeye playbook started with Shonn Greene, continued with Greene and ended with Greene? Iowa might be making a beeline for the nearest Xerox machine after a 27-21 victory Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Hawkeyes traveled to Story County with questions outweighing answers after splitting a pair of hard-to-sort games to open the season. Hoping to snuff out the memories of a frustrating four-win run a season ago, Iowa needed a win — with zero regard for the shape of the package or the color of the bow on top.
Iowa needed Weisman — left, right and center.
The junior back battered away at Iowa State’s defensive front in a 35-carry, 145-yard, run-over-and-through-guys performance that snapped Iowa’s two-game losing streak to the Cyclones.
“Mark’s been a workhorse for us,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, after his team muscled its way to 2-1. “… He was a little sore last week, as you might imagine. I’ll predict he’ll probably be sore every week.”
No secret decoder ring necessary: Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis know Iowa’s season, as least at this point, is likely to go as far as Weisman’s well-worn thighs can carry it.
Can the durable 6-foot, 235-pound running back — a north-south runner down to his bone marrow — withstand the wilting workload once the pad-popping proving grounds of the Big Ten arrive?
And, does Iowa need this much Weisman week in and week out to win?
Weisman, who is now averaging more than 28 carries and is on pace for a rugged 340, thinks that amount of duty between the tackles sounds like … fun?
“That’s what ice tubs and anti-inflammatories are for,” Weisman said. “I love being sore. It’s great.”
In 2008, Greene piled up the carries on the way to scooping up the Doak Walker Award and Big Ten hardware as its most valuable player — pushing the limits of punishment with 307 carries.
At halftime on Saturday, former NFL running back Ed Podolak smiled when asked if there’s a way to know how many carries are too many.
Podolak brought up Greene and 2008, too.
“The more times you get it, the better,” said Podolak, with a spark in his eye that gave the impression he’d like to grab a helmet and run into the huddle again. “The more a guy like that carries it, the more he gets into a groove.”
Weisman’s groove smells like sweat and helmet-to-helmet smoke, and it looks like bloody noses and bruises.
To understand a bit of the pistons driving Iowa’s most high-performance rushing engine, Weisman was asked if anyone has measured his thighs.
“I have no clue,” he said.
Then a grin, something Iowa players and coaches have sorely missed the past two seasons, stretched across his face: “They’ve got to be pretty big, because I chafe a lot.”
Weisman was the biggest reason Iowa piled up 83 plays — 20 more than Iowa State. He was the biggest reason the Hawkeyes had 16 more minutes of possession.
He was the biggest reason Iowa won, converting third-and-short plays until the Cyclones wheezed.
“Right now,” Iowa State play by play announcer John Walters said, “Iowa’s chewing clock like Kirk Ferentz chews gum.”
In what could be a preview of things to come from Iowa, the Hawkeyes ran the ball 13 straight times late in the second quarter in a drive that led to a field goal, a 10-0 lead and a critical cushion against Iowa State’s struggling offense.
Iowa dialed up Weisman for the first three plays of that stretch — averaging 5 yards a pop — and he touched the ball five more times to set up the kick.
“He’s a hard-nosed runner in a hard-nosed style of offense,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “… Old-fashioned football out there.”
Football fashioned that way could be Iowa’s best road to wins in 2013. Iowa ran and ran and ran — 60 times in all, tying a 2004 game against Kent State for the most in the 15 seasons Ferentz has coached the Hawkeyes.
In a season where rookie quarterback Jake Rudock is finding his way at a comfortable pace and ranked teams aplenty await, Ferentz promises his No. 1 rushing option will be sore.
Weisman knows it, too.
If it means more wins like Saturday, though, he’s more than happy to hammer away.
“Right now, it’s fine,” he said. “(Sunday), it’s probably going to hurt for sure. It always does.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football