IOWA CITY, Ia. — When he sees Wisconsin’s jet sweep formation Saturday, the mind of James Morris will go into overdrive.
“Is this going to be an inside play or an outside play?” Iowa’s senior middle linebacker said, talking through his options. “When they run that play there’s the sense that it could be both. I might not know until one or two seconds into the play. Hopefully, not that long.”
Whether it’s Melvin Gordon getting the handoff with a full head of steam, or James White zipping up the middle, the jet sweep is the offensive trademark of a Badger team that enters the game ranked eighth nationally in rushing at 296.9 yards a game.
It’s that moment of indecision that fuels the jet sweep.
“You’re spreading the defense a little thin or making them unsure,” Morris said. “That’s probably the reason it’s been so successful.”
Saturday would be a great time for Morris and fellow senior linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey to put a kink in Wisconsin’s potent running game. They’ll end their careers in a bowl game if Iowa can upset the 24th-ranked Badgers at Kinnick Stadium.
Wisconsin has a blossoming quarterback in Joel Stave, and one of the nation’s best wider receivers in Jared Abbrederis. Defensively, the Badgers are sixth nationally in scoring defense and total defense. But if Iowa has any chance of winning Saturday, stopping Wisconsin’s running game is a must.
Gordon, a sophomore, is the nation’s fourth-leading rusher at 144.6 yards a game. White, a senior and a former prep teammate of Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is 29th nationally with 96 yards a game. White is the active leader among FBS schools with 39 career touchdowns.
“They always have good backs,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Boy, those guys are a good pair.”
Iowa’s defense has allowed just two 100-yard rushing games this season – Carlos Hyde had 149 yards and Braxton Miller 102 in Ohio State’s 34-24 victory two weeks ago.
Hyde had two rushing touchdowns, the only two Iowa has allowed this season. Gordon has 11, and Wisconsin has 24. The Hawkeyes have allowed just five red zone touchdowns, which leads the nation.
Iowa defense ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense and total defense. The Hawkeyes are allowing an average of 128.6 rushing yards a game, and held seven of eight opponents under their average.
If they make it eight of nine Saturday, it will likely be time to start making bowl plans.
Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and covers Hawkeye football for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football