Sept. 17, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa fullback/running back Mark Weisman spent a semester at the Air Force Academy. On Saturday he acted more like a Boy Scout, making the most of that group’s “Be Prepared” motto.
Weisman, pressed into the spotlight because of injuries to Hawkeye backs Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon, was the star of the game as Iowa rolled to a 27-16 victory against Northern Iowa inside Kinnick Stadium. Weisman carried the ball 24 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
“You always have to be ready. During the week I prepared to be a fullback and a running back because I know I can get carries,” Weisman said. “Everyone expects me to do my job out there, so I was ready and it happened.”
Weisman is a 6-foot, 225-pounder from Stevenson High School in Buffalo Grove, Ill. As a prep senior he rushed for 1,657 yards and 22 touchdowns. Until Saturday, he was still a relative unknown on the University of Iowa campus; his rushing workload in college consisted of two carries for eight yards during a season-opening 18-17 win against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1.
“I don’t think many people know me,” said Weisman, who earned a souvenir shiner on his left eye late in Saturday’s contest. “I’m just trying to run hard and as fast as I can and hope for the best.”
“That was not scripted, I can assure you. I can’t say enough about him. It’s one thing to do it in practice, but to go out and do it in a game in a circumstance where guys are trying to nail you…he did a great job and it’s a credit to him.”
UI head football coach
The Hawkeyes accumulated 90 rushing yards on 16 first-half carries by Bullock and Garmon before Weisman became the feature back late in the second quarter. At that point in the game, Weisman already had two carries for two yards and two touchdowns.
“He wore us down,” Panther head coach Mark Farley said. “We missed some tackles we don’t normally miss; we missed too many tackles.”
Several of those missed tackles were because UNI defenders were on their backs or being dragged across Kinnick’s FieldTurf — compliments of Weisman.
“I’m a fullback at heart, so I tend to try to run through people,” Weisman said. “Maybe I need to work on having looser hips out there.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said the game plan was to get Weisman reps against Northern Iowa, but 24 carries and three pass receptions (for 33 yards) exceeded anyone’s expectations.
“That was not scripted, I can assure you,” Ferentz said. “I can’t say enough about him. It’s one thing to do it in practice, but to go out and do it in a game in a circumstance where guys are trying to nail you…he did a great job and it’s a credit to him.”
Ferentz had one basic question of Weisman during spring camp: Will he block?
“Will he block? He answered that question pretty well and he’s done some other things,” Ferentz said.
Most of Weisman’s Saturday was spent following blocks, not delivering them. His performance wasn’t a surprise to senior center James Ferentz, who said the Hawkeyes appreciate Weisman’s effort in practice on a day-to-day basis.
“He’s like that Tuesday through Friday during game week,” James Ferentz said. “He’s a tough runner, hard to bring down, and he has a lot of pride. We’re excited to have him on our team, and to block for him.”
Said UI quarterback James Vandenberg: “You could tell the first week he was on campus that he meant business. He’s a nice guy who doesn’t talk much, and he is extremely intelligent. We’re happy for him; he’s a guy we can count on going forward.”
For Weisman, there is no comparison between Air Force basic training and spending Saturday’s on the gridiron.
“I am having fun out there playing football and knowing what my job is,” Weisman said. “Boot camp is more mentally tough than playing a football game.”
Weisman was still in the postgame interview area when his focus shifted from being the current Hawkeye hero to what was ahead in seven days.
“I’m thinking about Central Michigan now,” Weisman said. “They are a tough opponent and we have to get better every day. We’re still making mistakes and we know we can do things better. We have to keep getting better and better.”
The Hawkeyes (2-1) play their final nonconference game of the regular season Sept. 22 against the Chippewas (1-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. (CT); the game will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network.