IOWA CITY — About midway through the third quarter Saturday, the Hawkeyes were without running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler. You know, the two running backs you’ve actually seen play.
Wadley had a minor ankle thing and was on the bench before halftime. Butler suffered an unsightly elbow injury in the third.
Enter freshmen Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin.
The two combined for 30 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ 31-14 victory over North Texas at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa went two tight ends and fullback a lot in the second half and wore down the Mean Green. With Iowa clearly in run and clock mode, the two freshmen were more than happy to carry the load.
“Feels good,” said Young, a redshirt freshman from Madison, Wis. “I was eager. Last year, I was excited about this season. The first two games went by and I was just patient. I want what’s best for the team. I finally got my opportunity and it felt good.”
Making their efforts all the more impressive was the fact that they did it without a safety net.
Wadley tried to leave the locker room after the game without ice on his ankle. The Iowa staff sent him back, so he’s probably OK for Penn State next week. Butler’s elbow injury looked gruesome. He did return to the bench with it in ice. Ferentz said Butler is wait-and-see for next week.
You knew Iowa would need more running backs. It always seems to year in and year out. Young and Kelly-Martin, a true freshman from Plainfield, Ill., combined for 28 second-half carries. Iowa leaned on the freshmen, passing just eight times in the second half.
Just last Tuesday Ferentz was asked about Young. Ferentz said he made a point to talk to him after a practice last week and told him the right time to use Young hadn’t presented itself.
And, yeah, that was nice for Young, that the head coach sought him out and told him to keep doing what he’s doing, but Young quickly countered with . . .
“It’s cool, but that’s everyone’s job, to come to practice and work hard.” said Young, a 5-11, 220-pounder.
Right situation? Ta dah. There it was against North Texas.
“Both those guys have really practiced well,” Ferentz said. “They really conduct themselves well. Toren is a tough, hard-nosed runner, that’s his deal, and Ivory, 5-11, 195 pounds, has impressed us with his ability to focus. He’s a really quietly serious guy and that’s unusual for a guy just out of high school like that.”
In the last two games, Kelly-Martin has seen his role grow from special teams to kickoff return (two for 44 yards against North Texas) and now to primary back, albeit due to injury.
“He’s very quick and he does not like to get tackled,” Young said of Kelly-Martin, whose two TD-performance was the first for an Iowa true freshman since Marcus Coker in 2010. “He runs hard and is able to make a move on people and run past guys.”
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