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Back to the basics

BY JACOB SHEYKO | NOVEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Perhaps no one Iowa football player preaches the 24-hour concept more than running back Mark Weisman. Win or lose, after 24 hours pass, his mentality is always on the next opponent.

Maybe this is one of the reasons Iowa has yet to drop consecutive games this season, responding to each of its three losses with impressive offensive performances.

The common thread in these bounce-back victories is Weisman, who, while not the most effective running back this season — at just 3.98 yards per carry — has been a rock for this Iowa offense. The numbers show he’s carried the load after losses to help right the ship and get Iowa back on track.

Historically, the knock on Weisman had always been his high number of carries. That hasn’t quite been the case this season. Early in the year, Iowa coaches limited his carries in an attempt to preserve him for later games.

While Kirk Ferentz and Company have preserved Weisman, they’ve particularly given him the reins to the offense following losses.

Following losses this season, Weisman has carried the ball 65 times for 316 yards, which is nearly half of his total rushing output this season. Those games were against Pittsburgh, Northwestern, and Illinois.

Iowa has gone to Weisman early and often in these games. Of these 65 carries in games following losses, 23 of them occurred in the first quarter.

Even more, Weisman has taken nearly two-thirds of the Hawkeyes’ first-quarter rushing attempts in these games.

In general, Weisman receives a higher percentage of attempts in games following a loss — 47.8 percent of rushing attempts, to be exact, and that includes when the quarterback is sacked.

In Iowa’s other seven games — in which it has gone 4-3 — Weisman has taken just 39.6 percent of the rushing attempts.

Giving Weisman a hefty number of carries seems to be a good idea — at least statistically.

The last time Iowa lost a game in which Weisman had at least 20 carries was the 2013 season-opener against Northern Illinois. Iowa lost, 30-27, and Weisman ran the ball 20 times for 100 yards.

That’s not the end-all be-all of stats. Obviously, there have been games in which Weisman hasn’t been effective, but Iowa still won. And Weisman has feasted on the not-so-good rushing defenses that Pittsburgh, Northwestern, and Illinois have. 

But Iowa, as a whole, is much more effective when the running game gets going.

In their losses this season, the Hawkeyes have rushed for 109.7 yards per game. In wins, that number balloons to 186.3, meaning it’s much more than just Weisman doing the work.

As a team, Iowa’s two-best rushing performances occurred following losses — Northwestern and Illinois. In all three bounce-back wins, the Hawkeyes rushed for a combined 658 yards on 136 attempts.

Ferentz knows this, and he has said, on several occasions, that if Iowa is throwing the ball a lot, it’s probably not winning.

And if Iowa does lose, one can be sure to see plenty of handoffs the following week. Leading that charge, as usual, will be Weisman.

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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