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Running-game woes continue for Iowa

BY JACOB SHEYKO | SEPTEMBER 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Midway through the third quarter, Iowa trailed Ball State, 13-3. Within the course of an 11-play, 59-yard drive, Iowa running backs Jordan Canzeri and Mark Weisman shared most of the carries.

Canzeri and Weisman combined for 41 yards on 7 carries that drive. It was classic Iowa football. It was also the most effective drive, as far as rushing goes, for the Hawkeyes all year.

Aside from that drive, the rest of the Iowa’s 17-13 win over Ball State was an active description of what Iowa’s running game has been this season: an inconsistent, almost disorienting group of backs who haven’t found their footing.

“It just didn’t look good,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game. “Part of it was it appeared to me, at least from the sidelines, they weren’t going to let us run the ball the way we want to.”

Iowa has other issues, too; kicking is the first thing that comes to mind, as well as explosive plays. But none of these problems are more perplexing than a Ferentz-coached team that has failed to establish a consistent running game.

Part of the reason is that Iowa has used numerous running backs each game. That depth may be what’s playing a factor in the running game’s struggles.

Iowa has spent the first two weeks of the season trying to figure out whom to give the ball to and when. The Hawkeyes have put themselves in dangerous situations because of it. They were on the brink of losing on Sept. 6 against Ball State.

“We struggled getting it going, but we have faith in our guys, faith in our offensive lineman, faith in our running backs and Coach Brian Ferentz that we’ll get them going,” said Rudock, who leads the team with 53 rushing yards.

Against Northern Iowa and Ball State, there was no consistency about who will carry the ball and when those carries will come. In turn, the results have been just as erratic.

Against Ball State on Sept. 6, the Hawkeyes seemingly abandoned the running game during a good portion of the second quarter. From just under the three-minute mark in the first quarter to halftime, Iowa passed the ball 23 times and ran the ball just six times — and two of those were scrambles from Rudock.

The Hawkeyes quickly established the run on their first drive of the third quarter, but because they trailed Ball State late, they opted for the air shortly thereafter.

“We love the running game,” offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said. “We love to be physical. We love to be the boys of the Big Ten, so we got a long ways to go. We have to fix a lot of details.”

Using four running backs — Canzeri, Weisman, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels Jr. — seems to be what Ferentz is sticking to, unless a big change is in the plans for week three.

“Coach [Chris] White says, ‘Whoever has the hot hand will continue to get the ball.’ In a sense, none of us are selfish,” Canzeri said. “We’re all for it, we’re all happy for whoever is in.”

 It never hurts to have options at running back, a position that before this season was shallow in depth.

But that isn’t what’s missing in Iowa’s run game. It’s consistency, something that’s been a point of pride during the Ferentz-era.

“This is Iowa, we like to run the ball,” Rudock said. “We’ll get it going.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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