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Gordon poses huge challenge

BY DANNY PAYNE | NOVEMBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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There wasn’t any hesitation in Mark Weisman’s answer when a member of the media asked him to compare his game with Melvin Gordon’s.

“There’s no comparison; he’s the best running back in college football,” Weisman said. “He’s unbelievable, and he’s a force to be reckoned with. It’s going to be a big challenge for us to be able to contain, to stop him, whatever it may be.”

As anyone who pays the smallest attention to college football knows, Gordon is coming off the best single-game rushing performance of any running back in NCAA history. He rushed for 406 yards in three quarters against Nebraska last weekend.

Iowa’s defense, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten and allows an average of 147.8 rushing yards per game, has been gashed by the league’s premier rushing attacks its faced thus far.

The worst performance came when Indiana’s Tevin Coleman — who ranks second behind Gordon with 167.8 yards per game — ran for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns on the Hawkeyes.

Adding another layer of importance of this game is that Iowa must win for any hopes of taking the Big Ten West title.

Iowa needs some help to make it to Indianapolis in December and knows that possibility will vanish with a loss to the Badgers.

“This is what you look for,” Iowa defensive end Drew Ott said. “You want to play the best competition, week in and week out. The more hype the better. I think, mentally, it brings people to their best.”

And yes, Iowa is going to have to be at its best. Ott said Gordon can do it all, and he’s correct. He ran both inside the tackles and stretched the Husker defense, averaging 16.32 yards per carry. He was valuable for explosive plays and short yardage situations, with touchdown runs of 26, 62, 1, and 5 yards.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz knows Gordon is going to make it to the second level of the Hawkeye defense because he is so good. This means Iowa’s safeties and corners will have to step up and make plays.

It’s been an up-and-down year in terms of stopping the run for those four players, and there isn’t any room for error against an elite back such as Gordon. Even one missed assignment or an arm-tackle could lead to a long run and, ultimately, points on the scoreboard and a disappointed Kinnick Stadium crowd.

“It’s going to be important that we’re all on our keys and we’re all in the right gaps and have the same communication,” free safety Jordan Lomax said.

With that said, even though Iowa has struggled against the run this season, and Gordon is a running back from a different planet, the Hawkeyes still like their chances against the Heisman Trophy candidate.

“I feel like we can do it; I feel like we can hold him under 100,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “It’s going to come with great technique, everybody coming to the ball, it’s going to take a lot.” 

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


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