Iowa abandons run game in loss to Maryland


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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Mark Weisman took Iowa’s final four carries of the third quarter for a combined 48 yards. The most important of those runs was, arguably, the second one, a 2-yard plunge into the end zone that brought the Hawkeyes within 3 points.

What Weisman didn’t know was that those would be the final four rushes any Iowa running back would attempt at Byrd Stadium, as the Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) abandoned the running game during the fourth quarter of their 38-31 loss to Maryland (5-2, 2-1).

“We forced them to throw the ball. They threw the ball 56 times. If you go back and try to find out when the last time Iowa threw the ball 56 times, I think you’re going to be searching for a while,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said.

Indeed, starting quarterback Jake Rudock threw 56 passes against the Terrapins, the most for his career. He completed 32 for 317 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception that Maryland cornerback William Likely took 45 yards for a touchdown.

Those 56 passing attempts were the second-most for an Iowa quarterback under Kirk Ferentz. Scott Mullen threw 60 passes against Indiana in 1999. The Hawkeyes lost that game, 38-31, too.

What’s more, though, is that Rudock threw 32 of his 56 passes in the fourth quarter. Only twice did the Hawkeyes record legitimate rushing attempts in that final frame — and both were runs by Rudock.

For most of the game, the Hawkeyes struggled running the ball. At halftime, they had just 56 rushing yards on 19 carries, good for fewer than 3 yards per carry. Weisman had 30 of those yards on 6 attempts, including a 1-yard score early in the first quarter.

“Coming into this week, I think we had a good week of preparation,” Maryland defensive lineman Darius Kilgo said. “We were physical in practice, making plays and not allowing the scout team to run on us. I think that carried over on to the field.”

But in the third quarter, Iowa’s running game found new life. On just 8 carries, the Hawkeyes amassed 69 yards. Weisman again found the end zone, making the score 24-21, Maryland. Iowa’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Terrapins’ next drive. Optimism was high.

Weisman took those final two carries in the third quarter for 5 and 3 yards. It was assumed he’d get a third-straight carry on third-and-2 to open the fourth quarter, that he’d convert for a first, and that Iowa would continue to chew the clock en route to a potential go-ahead score.

Instead, Iowa opted to pass. Rudock’s first fourth-quarter pass, intended for tight end Ray Hamilton, fell incomplete. The Hawkeyes punted, forced another three-and-out, and continued to pass.

Rudock missed one to wide receiver Tevaun Smith on first down, then connected with Smith for 4 yards on second down. Then Rudock threw the interception that Likely took 45 yards to the house to, essentially, seal the Terrapin victory.

“We just weren’t executing out there,” Weisman said. “We’ll watch the film, fix it, move on, and get better.”

In all, Iowa ran for just 116 yards, well below its season average. For the 10th-straight game, dating back to last season, no one Hawkeye rushed for 100 yards in a game.

It’s an odd problem for Iowa to have, but when asked, players and coaches always came back to a lack of execution as the reason the Hawkeyes haven’t established a more potent running game seven games into the season.

“That’s the reality of the situation,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The things that we are known for doing when we play well, I can’t think of one of those things that we did today.”

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