Hawkeyes, Cyclones both looking to establish run
Iowa has a stable of talented running backs bolstered by an impressive line. The Hawkeyes also have issues in the receiving corps and a sophomore quarterback, Jake Rudock, making his road debut at Iowa State on Saturday.
The Cyclones also have a number of skilled backs, young wideouts and a sophomore quarterback, Sam Richardson, coming off a sprained ankle.
Oh, and neither team has a defensive line that opponents might currently describe as imposing.
It sure sounds like the matchup in Ames could be an old-time showdown of teams looking to run, run and run some more.
“This is a game that’s generally won in the trenches, and I think Iowa’s offensive line is outstanding. I think they’re extremely well-coached. I think they have a long tradition there of playing well at offensive line and opening holes and grinding out defenses,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
That could be exactly how the Hawkeyes (1-1) hope to win on Saturday. The same might be true for the Cyclones (0-1).
Iowa ran the ball 58 times in a 28-14 win last over Missouri State. Only twice before have the Hawkeyes run so much in 15 seasons under coach Kirk Ferentz, and they finished with their most rushing yards, 296, in eight years.
Though Mark Weisman has established himself as Iowa’s No. 1 back, the Hawkeyes will look to keep him as fresh as they possibly can after he racked up a career-high 30 carries last week.
That could mean more attempts for Damon Bullock, Jordan Canzeri and freshman LeShun Daniels – especially against the Cyclones.
Iowa State allowed 199 yards to Northern Iowa running back David Johnson.
“The good news again is we have three other guys that are very capable of playing well. But if somebody gets a hot hand too, we’re going to stick with that person,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But I think we can probably spread things around a little more this year.”
Like Iowa, the Cyclones will likely look to establish the run early, both to control the tempo and take pressure off of their inexperienced defense.
The Cyclones listed five backs on their depth chart for the opener, and four of them got multiple attempts in a 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa. But Aaron Wimberly, Shontrelle Johnson, James White and Jeff Woody combined for just 23 rushes – only two more than Richardson.
Iowa State insists that Richardson’s ankle will be healed by kickoff, and his ability to run out of the Pistol is crucial to what Iowa State wants to do. But they’d also like to see at least one of their running backs scare defenses enough to take some pressure off of Richardson.
“It’s not whatever comes to us during the game, expect for the potential for somebody getting really hot and running very successfully. We’ll have a set plan going into it and then adjust from there,” Rhoads said.
Iowa State has spent the past two weeks trying to shore up its run defense. The Cyclones have five new starters in their front seven, and it didn’t help that senior linebacker Jeremiah George played poorly in his first game as the leader of the defense.
The Hawkeyes’ front has actually been better at stopping the run than getting after quarterbacks, but Iowa State should be the best rushing they’ve seen so far.
The team that best controls the ground – without putting it on the ground, of course – will likely spend the next year with bragging rights.
“It’s one game. But then there’s 364 days where the winner gets to talk about it and the loser has to take it, and rightfully so,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said.