Feature: Iowa’s lack of run game spells disaster

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock runs the ball in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. Rudock rushed for 11-yards on three carries. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 26-14. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock runs the ball in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. Rudock rushed for 11-yards on three carries. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 26-14. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

Iowa failed to reach the century mark on the ground the first time all year against Michigan State.

By Ben Ross

benjamin-d-ross@uiowa.edu

IOWA CITY — Saturday’s 26-14 loss to Michigan State featured a reversal of roles for the Iowa football team. It was the first time all season Iowa (4-2, 1-1) had failed to amass at least 200 yards on the ground. The Hawkeyes ended the day with 27 yards on 16 carries.

It was also just the second time the Iowa defense allowed more than 100 yards on the ground to its opponent. Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) racked up 135 yards on 37 carries. The last time Iowa surrendered over 100 yards on the ground was in its 30-27 loss to open the season against Northern Illinois on Aug. 31.

“We knew they were a tough team to run against. To run on them effectively you have to be mixed and balanced,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game. “I think any team is better when they’re balanced, you have to be to be able to run the ball effectively. We didn’t come in thinking we’d get 280 on these guys, that wasn’t our thought coming in, but we were hoping we could run it effectively. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge, we weren’t naive to that to any extent.”

Iowa running back Mark Weisman missed the entire second half, and the majority of the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury. He was held to season lows prior to coming out of the game, gaining just 10 yards on 7 carries.

This entire season, Iowa has lived off of handing the ball to Weisman and letting him dictate the pace of the game with his rushes. The holes weren’t there Saturday, and Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock was forced to attempt a career-high 46 passes.

“Yeah,” is all Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff had to say when asked if he takes it personally when a team stops what he and the rest of the offensive line do best. “…They held us to zero first downs in the first quarter.  We’re not looking for that. They’re a great defense, they had a great game plan for us. They moved guys around, they played better than us…. they came out and out-physicaled [SIC]  us.”

Iowa tight end Jake Duzey gets tackled by Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 26-14. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

Iowa tight end Jake Duzey gets tackled by Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes, 26-14. (The Daily Iowan/Tessa Hursh)

After the game Ferentz said he didn’t think any of the injuries his players sustained throughout the game held long-term implications. Iowa also has the entire week to rest, as the next game it plays doesn’t come until Oct. 19 at Ohio State.

For Iowa’s sake, it better hope that the team takes this time to rest up and find its identity once again. It doesn’t get much tougher than going into the house of the best team in the conference. Iowa’s best chances of winning ball games this year lies with Mark Weisman, and even though Ferentz and everyone else on the team preaches Iowa has 4 capable starting running backs, Iowa still only has one Mark Weisman. And there’s no replacing that.

“We were tough to run the ball against, maybe that was an understatement,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said after the game.

An understatement? Yes. But Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz put how important it is for this offense to run the ball effectively best.

“I think it just came down to making plays, we had a lot of 3 and out drives,” Fiedorowicz said after the game. “Offensively, I think we never got the ball really running on the ground today, and that really hurt us. …That hurts a lot, that was a very physical, good defense, there’s a reason they’re rated no. 1 in the country, but we still have to put up more than, what was it? Twenty-five yards on the ground.”

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