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Dynamic backfield duo awaits Hawkeyes

BY MITCH SMITH | OCTOBER 21, 2010 7:20 AM

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Adrian Clayborn simply called John Clay a “beast.”

Listed at 6-1, 248 pounds, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year outweighs all three of Iowa’s starting linebackers.

Gang-tackling and wrapping up one of the nation’s elite running backs will be a focal point for the Hawkeye defense if it is to be successful against the 10th-ranked Badgers on Saturday.

Easier said than done.

Clay has rushed for more than 100 yards in 12 of his last 13 games, and he is averaging 113.7 rushing yards per game this season. His 104-yard performance against the Buckeyes on Oct. 16 was the first time in 29 games a player cracked the century mark against Ohio State.

While bringing down Clay will be difficult, the Hawkeyes are ready for the challenge.

One reporter asked Tyler Sash if tackling Clay was like stopping a piano from falling down a flight of stairs.

Sash compared it to tackling Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle.

“[Clay’s] just a big guy, a very explosive guy who can get downfield on you,” he said on Tuesday.

“You’ve got to wrap him up, you’ve got to gang-tackle him. We all have to get to the football because he can break tackles just being so big and powerful.”

Wisconsin averages 232 rushing yards per game, and much of that can be attributed to the play of Clay and newcomer James White.

They have differing running styles, but their play has complemented the Badger offense nicely. Broderick Binns said White likes to get outside, while Clay likes to run straight forward and bounce off tackles.

White has put up strong numbers backing up his All-Big Ten counterpart, accumulating 560 rushing yards in his freshman campaign and leading Wisconsin with 907 all-purpose yards.

The pair’s 1,356 combined rushing yards is tops nationally among running back duos, and the two are just one of two backfield tandems in the country to each average at least 80 yards per game.

“They’ve all been very, very productive,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “James White’s really kind of given them a change of pace. He’s been different than the big guy. Clay’s a very strong, tough runner and very explosive.”

While defending the pair of rushers will be a challenge for the Iowa defense, the same can be said for the Badger offense. Clay and White will be tested by a Hawkeye defense that has allowed only 83.8 yards per game.

“Our defensive line is a very good defensive line. They’re going to take it as a challenge,” Sash said. “Our whole defense is going to take it as a challenge, knowing that they’re going to come in and try to run the ball against us.”

Facebook event urges Iowa fans to cheer for Norm Parker

Although Norm Parker won’t be in attendance at Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, some Hawkeye fans are hoping to show their support for the Iowa defensive coordinator.

A Facebook event titled, “Chant for Norm Parker Iowa vs. Wisconsin” is urging fans to yell “Norm” on every Wisconsin third down as a way to honor and encourage Parker, who had his foot amputated because of complications from diabetes.

Parker hasn’t coached the Hawkeyes since he was hospitalized Sept. 10, prior to the Hawkeyes’ home contest against Iowa State.

As of Wednesday evening, more than 3,900 people have pledged to shout the 69-year-old coach’s name during Saturday’s contest.

Clayborn and Binns said they hadn’t heard of the Facebook group, but thought it was a great idea.

“I think that’s great,” Clayborn said. “He deserves it.”


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