My how things have changed. Four weeks ago, Hawkeye fans were down. The Hawks suffered, arguably, the worst loss in the Ferentz era after falling 32-31 to Central Michigan. Many college football writers predicted that the Hawkeyes would struggle to win 3 games during their Big 10 schedule. How could you blame them? The Hawkeyes season looked about as hopeless as a snowball in hell. But the Hawkeyes really don’t make sense, do they?
Coming into the season the talk was about how the rush offense was going to struggle without Marcus Coker. However, after an ugly first game, running back Damon Bullock was a rare bright spot, rushing for 151 yards. Hawkeye fans had hope. However, a week 2 loss to Iowa State was a gut-punch to Hawkeye faithful that sent them back to hopelessness.
Week 3 against UNI started out as more of the same. The Hawkeyes were struggling to put away an FCS football team and they lost their top two running backs, Bullock and Garmon, to injuries. What was left? Hasn’t this team run out of running backs? It turns out that all that was left was a walk-on fullback.
“Mark Weisman. Who the hell is that?” many people asked when the 6’0″ (on a good day) walk-on set foot in between the Kinnick Stadium lines. But people were quickly intrigued by Weisman as he rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns in his first game.
Well, that was against an FCS school, right? We’ll see how he does against an FBS school. In week four Weisman rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns against Central Michigan.
Well that was against a bad defense. Let’s see how he does against a Big 10 team. Week five Weisman rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota. All of the sudden, after a 31-13 dominating victory against the previously unbeaten Golden Gophers, there was hope in Iowa City again.
But there was no way that the Hawkeyes could go into East Lansing and beat Michigan State. Surely the speed and tenacity of the Spartans would wear the Hawkeyes offense down. The opposite happened.
The Hawkeyes’ steady and persistent running game wore down the Spartans’ defense and helped create a nine play, 68 yard touchdown drive with 4:52 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 13. One problem remained: late in the fourth quarter, their stud fullback turned running back was walking gingerly on the sideline and was not coming back into the game. Nevertheless, the Hawkeyes pulled out a victory in double overtime to better their record to 4-2 and an astounding 2-0 in the Big 10.
Many Hawkeye fans began talking Rose Bowl as they are sitting alone atop the Big 10 Legends Division. While that may be farfetched, the fact that the Hawkeyes are in this position is remarkable.
Let’s rewind for a second. What if, at the beginning of the season, someone would have told you that the Hawkeyes would be 4-2 and 2-0 in the Big ten, that their two losses would be to Iowa State and lowly Central Michigan and finally, that person would tell you that James Vandenberg would only have two touchdown passes and that a walk-on fullback would be your starting running back?
I know I wouldn’t believe that the Hawkeyes would be in sole possession of first place in their division. But once again, there isn’t a lot about the Hawkeyes that does make sense.