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Canzeri proves solution to Iowa's running back, rushing woes

BY MATT CABEL | NOVEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa rushing game was in a funk. 

Then Jordan Canzeri, a running back some forgot about after he tore his ACL in spring training camp before the 2012 season, heard his name called on the sideline. The redshirt sophomore came in late in the game against Wisconsin with a 43-yard gain on his first carry. That single play sparked a stagnant offense in the loss to the Badgers, but wasn’t enough. Canzeri was finished with 58 yards on 5 attempts. 

Solution found. 

“Last week, he looked like he held a little bit more octane than the other guys,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We gave him a little bit more work than in the past. He took it and ran; he was really running well.” 

No one was surprised when his name was called  against the Boilermakers. And his impact was immediate and humongous. Canzeri finished the game with 165 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. 

“He’s got great vision out there,” running back Mark Weisman said. “He’s a lot more powerful than people think. He can make people miss, and he’ll try to run them over too, sometimes. He can do that, too. He’s an all-around back — he can do everything out there.”

Canzeri was lauded for his ability to find the holes opened up by his offensive linemen. He and running back Damon Bullock gained long runs of 18 and 15 yards respectively. Canzeri averaged 8.2 yards per carry, Bullock 8.5. 

“We didn’t have the running game that we wanted [in past games], and I thought we worked on the details well during practice, we got the game plan down well,” offensive guard Brandon Scherff said. “Jake [Rudock] did a heck of a job audibling us into the right plays. We did a good job blocking for [the running backs], the running backs hit the hole hard. They weren’t stopping at the second level, they kept going.” 

After the Nov. 9 performance, it’s safe to say that Canzeri has earned himself a spot in the running-back carousel. The team is left with numerous options with its rushing game for the first time in what seems like forever. It’s possible that Canzeri and Bullock could be the first- and second-down backs that the Hawkeyes need to run their offense to its highest potential.

“He’s quick,” Scherff said about Canzeri. “He likes to cut it back. He’s good at finding the hole. Once he hits the hole, he’s straight up field. We love blocking for him.”

This would push former fullback Mark Weisman into more of a third- or fourth-down back, or one who comes out for goal-line sets. It’s clear from the injuries he’s sustained over the last month — an elbow injury the latest one — that Weisman isn’t made for rushing 30 times in a game, although he’s willing to take on the load if need be. A key example of this was Weisman’s 4-yard touchdown run against the Boilermakers. Weisman hadn’t played a snap since early in the second quarter and came in with the purpose of scoring.

“It’s always nice to get touchdowns,” Weisman said. “Anyone who scores, it doesn’t matter. I’m just as excited if I score or if someone else scores — we just want to put points up on that board.” 

Iowa’s offensive unit may not ever be as high-flying as Oregon or Baylor, or as flashy, but it’s proven that it can put up numbers. The 38 points was the second most the team has scored all season; on Sept. 21, the Hakwks stampeded to a 59-3 victory over Western Michigan. Teams will know about Iowa’s emphasis on the running game, but if Nov. 9 was any indication, it seems that Canzeri’s presence in the backfield will lead to success. 

“It’s always fun if the line is doing a lot for you,” Canzeri said. “When they had the huge holes, all I had to do is see green and run through them.”


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