Wegher flourishes in first career start


Rob Johnson/The Daily Iowan
Iowa running back Brandon Wegher smiles as he hits the endzone for his third touchdown of the day against Indiana on October 31, 2009.
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There’s just something about the Indiana Hoosiers that seems to bring out the best in Iowa true-freshman running backs.

Last year, Jewel Hampton rushed for 114 yards and three touchdowns as a backup during a 45-9 win over the Hoosiers in Bloomington, Ind.

This year, Brandon Wegher gashed the Indiana defense, doing so in his first career start.

In the Hawkeyes’ 42-24 win over the Hoosiers in Kinnick Stadium on Halloween, the Dakota Dunes, S.D., native ran the ball 25 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the fourth quarter after Iowa had taken the lead.

“This guy’s got a hardness to him,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said during his postgame press conference on Oct. 31. “I think he rises to the competition. You know, I think he embraced the challenge this week.

“It was really good to see him do what he did, but I’m not shocked.”

Wegher’s first score came during the second quarter when the Hawkeyes trailed 14-0. He managed to punch the ball in from four yards out after a 37-yard completion by quarterback Ricky Stanzi to wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos got Iowa into the red zone.

Then, when the fourth quarter came and Iowa established a 28-24 lead after two touchdown passes to Johnson-Koulianos and sophomore Marvin McNutt, the offense put the game in Wegher’s hands.

He scored from six yards out to put the Hawkeyes ahead, 35-24, then sealed the victory by scoring on a 27-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minutes.

“Brandon’s a great player,” junior left tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid. He bounces back when he makes a bad cut or a bad play and doesn’t get yards. And he stays positive in the huddle, which is rare for a freshman to not get flustered or get concerned about stuff. He just keeps playing.”

The decision to trust Wegher probably shouldn’t come as a surprise for two reasons. First, he has proven reliable with ball security, not having lost a fumble this season.

But perhaps more importantly, he has gained the confidence of his teammates, from Stanzi to the guys up front paving the way for him.

“To be a freshman, and do the things he does with all the composure and poise, it’s tremendous to see that kind of effort out of him,” Stanzi said. “We didn’t expect anything less than what he did.”

Iowa-Ohio State kickoff set

As expected, the start time for Iowa’s game on Nov. 14 at Ohio State has been set for 2:30 p.m., Central time. The contest against the Buckeyes will be regionally televised on ABC. Those not in the ABC viewing market can watch the game on ESPN.

The Hawkeyes’ game against Northwestern on Saturday will have an 11 a.m. kickoff at Kinnick Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, and Chris Spielman calling the action.

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