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IOWA CITY — There are going to be a lot of stories about Iowa’s offensive line this week. And they’re going to be good.
Upperclassmen Sean Welsh and James Daniels guided this group through a complete and total narrative makeover during Saturday’s stunning 55-24 victory over No. 6 Ohio State.
By the way, Welsh and Daniels are from Ohio, Springboro and Warren, respectively. As of 30 minutes after the game Saturday night, no word on if either of their Ohio homes were egged.
“My folks just moved, so maybe the address hasn’t gotten out yet?” Welsh said.
Welsh, Daniels, rotating guards Keegan Render and Ross Reynolds and freshmen tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs did work.
“Talking about our line growing up, I thought the guys I need to give credit to are James and Sean Welsh, our two elder statesmen,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Both happen to be Ohio natives, but those two guys are our veteran guys, and I think they’re starting to show the other guys how to act a little bit.”
Going into Saturday, the Hawkeyes were 12th in the Big Ten, averaging just 3.57 yards per carry. After the “Iowa’s offensive line struggles” narrative-ectomy, the Hawkeyes walked through the Buckeyes, averaging 6.4 yards on 38 carries.
Running back Akrum Wadley rushed for 118 yards on 20 carries. Senior James Butler rushed for 74, including a 53-yard gain that set up a score. Freshman Toren Young rushed five times for 47 yards, including a 34-yarder that set up his fourth-quarter TD.
The Hawkeyes wore some crazy, outer-space uniforms against Ohio State, but that was classic Iowa football.
“Tonight we looked more like we want to look like, an Iowa football team,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully, that’s a good step, and hopefully — with young players what they need is to gain some confidence, and you can’t hand it to them.”
Iowa’s 243 rushing yards on 38 carries (6.4 yards per) was a season-high. The Hawkeyes rushed for more yards against Ohio State than they did vs. North Texas. This was Iowa’s highest yards per carry in a 15-game span (6.9 yards per carry at Purdue in 2016).
Welsh laughed while reporters probed for the big, dramatic turnaround moment. This just doesn’t work that way, or rarely does it on the offensive line. Mountains are made in a day or, sometimes, even a season.
“Our two tackles played a really good game and I think we had a lot of guys just grow up today,” Welsh said. “I think it is (dramatic), I really do. When you have a good week of practice, it gives you so much confidence. We had by far our best week of preparation.”
This was a big week for Daniels. You know that he’s an Ohioan. His dad, LeShun Sr., played O-line for the Buckeyes. One reason Daniels picked Iowa over Ohio State was because of what it means to play O-line at Iowa. He was at the Hawkeyes’ 2013 loss at Ohio Stadium and something stuck with him.
Daniels was more vocal this week and addressed the entire team on Friday.
“The reason I came here is how the Iowa offensive line plays and how we do things here,” Daniels said. “I said ‘Tomorrow, we need to show what Iowa offensive line is about.’”
“That simple,” Daniels said with a laugh. “I said a little bit more, but that’s pretty much the summary of it.”
Is Daniels’ house going to get egged out there in Ohio?
“I hope not,” Daniels said with a laugh.
Maybe Josh Jackson intercepts those eggs, anyway.
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