Iowa Football

Iowa football notebook: Defense hasn't given up big runs, though Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor await

'As good a running back as we've seen in our time here,' Kirk Ferentz says

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. (Associated Press)
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. (Associated Press)

IOWA CITY — The raw numbers show you Iowa’s football team has a tremendous defense.

The Hawkeyes give up just 10.1 points per game. They allow just 265.9 yards per game, including 87.5 on the ground.

They have surrendered only nine touchdowns in seven games. They have two shutouts, against Rutgers and Northwestern.

Then there’s this little nugget that seems especially appropriate with Wisconsin being the opponent this week. The number of running backs with a carry of over 20 yards against them this season is zero.

Not a one. Iowa is the only team in the country that that claim that honor.

And, yes, that’ll be tested Saturday by the Badgers’ always humongous offensive line and All-American running back Jonathan Taylor.

“As good a running back as we’ve seen in our time here,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz.

“Not only is the dude big, but he can run, too,” Iowa linebacker Djimon Colbert said. “He’s a track athlete at that school. You get him out in open space, he’s got good feet, and he can make you miss. He can kind of do it all. He’s the workhorse for their offense. We all have a lot of respect for him.”

Taylor ran 25 times for 113 yards last season for Wisconsin in its 28-17 win at Kinnick Stadium, though his long run was “only” 17. He had 157 rushing yards on 29 carries two years ago with a long of 19 as a freshman in a Wisconsin win at Camp Randall Stadium.

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The Badgers always lean on their boys up front, and those boys average 320 pounds from tackle to tackle. Add a 252-pound fullback in John Chenal, and the Hawkeyes must, absolutely must be ready for a physical encounter.

“You know they are going to come out with a lot of running backs, a lot of tight ends. Pull a bunch of guys,” Colbert said. “So if we’re not in that gap we’re supposed to be in, that ball can go for 60 or 80 (yards). It’s very important for us to be in those gaps, very important for the result of the game. If we’re not in the right spot, that could blow the game with the right call. That’s very important for us this week.”

Shooter back in the mix, perhaps lineup

Ferentz said injured wide receiver Brandon Smith (ankle) remains out “awhile.” He was seen leaving the complex during Tuesday’s media availability with a noticeable limp.

Linebacker Kristian Welch (stinger) and tight end Nate Wieting are wait-and-see guys this week, with Ferentz saying he’s not optimistic they’ll be ready.

Offensive lineman Kyler Schott is back practicing full go and could get the start at right guard, Ferentz said. The walk-on from North Linn was the starter before being hurt in practice and missing five straight games.

“We plan on playing him, and we’ll play him extensively if he’s able,” Ferentz said.

ISM's slick mitts

Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette was asked Tuesday about his crazy good one-handed catch two weeks ago against Northwestern.

Smith-Marsette has 30 receptions this season and three touchdowns. His hands have very noticeably improved since two years ago when he was a true freshman who at times seemed to have developed a case of the dropsies.

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“Y’all used to say that I guess I had trouble with catching the ball the first two years. Whatever y’all wanted to say,” Smith-Marsette said. “But I’ve just been taking that into account. Just going out there and grabbing every can I can ... That’s the mentality I have taken since fall camp.”

It was pointed out to Smith-Marsette that he may have been the one who pointed out in previous interviews that his hands could improve.

“No, y’all said it,” he said, with a smile.

Wisconsin Hawkeyes

While Wisconsin has no Iowans on its 2019 roster, Iowa has 15 Wisconsinites on its roster. You surely know about quarterback Nate Stanley (Menomonie), running back Toren Young (Madison), defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon (Kenosha) and linebacker Kristian Welch (Iola).

The others are punter Ryan Gersonde (Green Bay), wide receiver Max Cooper (Waukesha), linebacker Mike Timm (Delafield), defensive back Thomas Hartlieb (Madison), fullback Johnny Plewa (Franklin), fullback Joe Ludwig (Middleton), tight end Tommy Kujawa (Greendale), offensive lineman Cody Ince (Luck), lineman Jack Plumb (Green Bay), defensive lineman Jake Karchinski (DePere) and kicker Lucas Amaya (Muskego),

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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