Iowa hopes running woes end against Cyclones


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Here in Iowa City, the issue through the first two weeks of the football season has been an uncharacteristic one: The Hawkeyes haven’t had too much success running the ball.

But 137 miles west, the worry is almost the exact opposite: Iowa State seemingly can’t stop the run.
When the two teams square off on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium in the annual Cy-Hawk football game — kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. — one of the two struggles should, in theory, prevail over the other, if only for one game.

“We’re just going to keep working at it,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It hasn’t been to the point where we’d like it to be, and our opponents have had something to do with that, too.

“So we’re going to keep working on it, but the bottom line is we’ll try to do whatever it takes to win.”

It’s no secret that the Hawkeyes (2-0) have failed to establish a consistent running game so far this year. Seven different ball carriers have combined on 65 rushes for 264 yards and just 2 touchdowns in the season’s first two games.

Perhaps the strangest part is that starting quarterback Jake Rudock leads the team in rushing with only 53 yards on 11 attempts. Most of his “carries” have come by way of scrambling out of the pocket.

Jordan Canzeri leads all of Iowa’s traditional running backs with 48 rushing yards on 12 attempts.

This inconsistency in the running game has forced Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis to rely more on the passing game against both Northern Iowa and Ball State. Rudock has thrown 93 passes in two games — good for almost 47 attempts a game — a total that’s currently the fifth-most in the country.

“Bottom line is we have to get better, and there are ways we can do that, I think,” Ferentz said about Iowa’s rushing attack. “Hopefully, those things will start to show up as we go along. But I’m hardly ready to hit the panic button.”

If there is any good week for a breakout performance from Iowa’s running backs, now might be it. Through the first two games of the season, Iowa State has surrendered, on average, 267 rushing yards per game, which ranks 121st in the country among 127 teams.

North Dakota State ran the ball 43 times for 299 rushing yards in a season-opening 34-14 win over the Cyclones. Last week, No. 20 Kansas State rushed 41 times for 232 yards against Iowa State in a 32-28 victory.

Even history shows that Iowa has had success against Iowa State on the ground. Just last year, when the Hawkeyes won 27-21 in Ames, running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock combined for 195 rushing yards on 48 carries.

“They’re going to establish the running game. That’s who they are,” Cyclone head coach Paul Rhoads said. “I don’t have any doubt that’s what we’ll see from them. They’re figuring things out just like every team in America right now.”

Ferentz has shown he’s not afraid to run the ball, but he still appears hesitant to give one running back more carries over another. Even more, Iowa’s rushing attack has proven it can be dangerous in spurts.

But the coaches and players all agree that, now in the season’s third week, it’s time to figure this issue out.

“We have a lot of guys out there who can play,” Weisman said. “It’s unfortunate the way we had to come back last game and throw the ball more in most of the second half, because we started to get the running game going.

“Whatever happens in the game happens. It doesn’t matter what happens as long as we get that running game going. That’s what we want to do this week.”

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