RB merry-go-round continues in Iowa
Notebook: Penn State surging; Northwestern offense clicking
The Iowa running back position has been an unenviable role over the past couple of years. Mysterious departures, dismissals and injuries have turned one of the most vital spots on the field into a merry-go-round of horrors in Hawkeye country. Running backs sophomore Damon Bullock and freshman Greg Garmon added to the nightmare when they both went down with injuries a couple of plays apart in week 3 against Northern Iowa.
The Iowa City rushing epidemic seemed to be in full effect, until a little-known walk-on fullback saved the day.
Mark Weisman, an unknown commodity entering the season, took over as the Hawkeyes’ last resort against the Panthers and flourished with 113 yards and three touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ 27-16 victory. Weisman got his first career start the next week against Central Michigan and proved he was no fluke with a 217-yard, three touchdown performance against the Chippewas.
Last week, the big man from Buffalo Grove, Ill., led the way with 177 yards and one touchdown as Iowa took back Floyd of Rosedale with a 31-13 stomping of Minnesota.
The game against the Gophers was yet another chapter in the growing legacy that has, mostly in jest, become “Wesiman for Heisman.” But his numbers are no joke, as they also prompted head coach Kirk Ferentz to admit that the soon to be former walk-on has turned him into a believer.
“Yeah, after one game, you're kind of like, Hmm, hope I'm seeing it right. Then after two, you start thinking, this guy might not be bad,” Ferentz said. “After three games, I think a lot of us are starting to think, maybe this guy is a running back.”
Weisman’s play has provided a jolt to the Hawkeyes and has served valuable given the struggles of senior quarterback James Vandenberg this season. Weisman has accumulated 515 yards and five touchdowns since being forced into feature back duties, and most importantly has provided hope going forward for an Iowa team that floundered throughout non-conference play.
“We went into this five week block knowing that every week was really going to be important.” Ferentz said. “The rest of these weeks are going to be really important, too. The whole thing is to move forward and grow.”
Garmon may have returned from injury against Minnesota, but he only saw limited action in a back-up role. The bulk of the tailback duties were reserved for an undersized fullback who, according to his head coach, is about to change positions and possibly the complexity of Iowa’s season.
“His fullback days may be numbered,” Ferentz said. “He may be retiring from that spot.”
Illinois (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten)
• Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had a rough day against Penn State, throwing a pair of interceptions including one with seconds left in the first half at the Nittany Lion goal-line.
• The Illini have lost their last two games by a combined score of 87-31 and face a virtual must-win next season when they head to Wisconsin in a match-up of 0-1 schools.
Next Game: at Wisconsin Oct. 6
Indiana (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
• The Hoosiers fell down 27-0 early and couldn’t stop Northwestern when they needed in their 44-29 loss. Junior wide receiver Kofi Hughes was the lone bright spot on the day, catching five passes for 110 yards and a score.
• After starting 2-0, Indiana has lost its last two games and continues to search for its first conference victory in two seasons. It’ll take another shot when it hosts Michigan State in the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon.
Next Game: vs. Michigan State Oct. 6
Iowa (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten)
• Senior quarterback James Vandenberg had his best performance of the season, throwing for 192 yards and a touchdown as well as rushing for another score in the Hawkeyes’ 31-13 stomping of Minnesota.
• Iowa ended a two-game losing streak to the Golden Gophers and won its first trophy game since 2010 in what was head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 200th game as leader of the Hawkeyes.
Next Game: at Michigan State Oct. 13
Michigan (2-2, 0-0 Big Ten)
• Senior Quarterback Denard Robinson has had a lackluster season through the air thus far, throwing for six touchdowns and eight interceptions through four games including four against Notre Dame on Sept. 22.
• The Wolverines have won six consecutive conference openers with their last loss coming on Sept. 24, 2005 at Wisconsin. Michigan looks to extend the streak at Purdue this week.
Next Game: at Purdue Oct. 6
Michigan State (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
• Junior running back Le’Veon Bell was shut down for the second consecutive week, amassing only 45 yards on 17 carries in the Spartans’ 17-16 loss to Ohio State. Bell also failed to gain a first down for the first time since his freshman season.
• Michigan State has dropped the last four home meetings against the Buckeyes and have dropped out of the polls for the first time this season. It will try to keep the Brass Spittoon when it heads to Bloomington to face Indiana.
Next Game: at Indiana Oct. 6
Minnesota (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
• The Golden Gophers’ offense struggled throughout the day and sophomore quarterback Max Shortell threw three interceptions as Minnesota handed back Floyd of Rosedale with a 31-13 loss to Iowa.
• The visit to Iowa City was a reality check for the Gophers who were off to their best start since 2008. Minnesota has a week off to regroup before hosting Northwestern in what will be a critical divisional game for the Maroon and Gold.
Next Game: vs. Northwestern Oct. 13
No. 22 Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
• The Cornhuskers trailed 27-10 before rattling off 20 consecutive second-half points to avoid an upset loss to Wisconsin, edging away at the end 30-27. Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez threw two touchdowns in the late rally and finished with three on the day.
• Nebraska’s come-from-behind victory was the second-largest in program history, trailing last year's 21-point rally against this week’s opponent, Ohio State. The Huskers head into Buckeye country looking to get a leg up on the Legends Division, a position that has fluctuated during the last couple of weeks.
Next Game: at Ohio State Oct. 6
Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
• The Wildcat offense set a school record with 704 total yards of offense in it’s 44-29 win against Indiana. Junior quarterback Kain Colter had a field day on the ground, rushing for 161 yards and four touchdowns.
• Northwestern now sits at 5-0 for the third time in five seasons and is the only undefeated bowl-eligible team remaining in the conference. It faces a rejuvenated Penn State squad in a cross-divisional road contest Saturday.
Next Game: at Penn State Oct. 6
No. 14 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
• Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller committed three turnovers, but responded with a pair of touchdown passes including the winner with 3:05 left in the third quarter in the Buckeyes’ 17-16 victory against Michigan State.
• Head coach Urban Meyer was victorious in his inaugural Big Ten contest and became the third coach in school history to begin his tenure 5-0. Ohio State looks to be the conference’s top team, and can make a statement this week when it hosts Nebraska.
Next Game: vs. Nebraska Oct. 6
Penn State (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten)
• Senior quarterback Matt McGloin had a solid outing, throwing for 211 yards and amassing three scores in the Nittany Lions’ 35-7 blowout victory at Illinois. A Scranton, Pa., native, he has thrown 10 touchdowns compared to two interceptions this season.
• Penn State has responded to a disastrous start to the season to rattle of three consecutive victories could establish itself as one of the conference’s top teams in a down year with a victory next week against undefeated Northwestern.
Next Game: vs. Northwestern Oct. 6
Purdue (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
• Senior quarterback Caleb TerBush threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns and Purdue was able to hold off Marshall for a 51-41 shootout victory. Three of TerBush’s scores came in the first half as Purdue led 42-14 at the break.
• The defense was erratic against the Thundering Herd, allowing 524 yards -- 439 through the air -- but had a pair of interception returns for touchdowns en route to forcing four turnovers. Purdue hosts Michigan this week in the Big Ten opener for both schools.
Next Game: vs. Michigan Oct. 6
Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
• The Badgers blew a 17-point second-half lead in their 30-27 loss to Nebraska, squandering a golden opportunity to start conference play on a high note after a rather low non-conference season.
• Senior running-back Montee Ball rushed for three touchdowns, but his biggest play was a lost fumble on a fourth-and-1 with less than two minutes remaining to seal the defeat. The Badgers limp home to take on ant Illinois team that has been blown out the last two weeks in a match-up of 0-1 schools.
Next Game: vs. Illinois Oct. 6