Oct. 16, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — With or without sophomore running sensation Mark Weisman, the University of Iowa football team will keep scrapping Saturday night in prime-time against Penn State.
“One thing about football, things are always changing,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz at his weekly news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “We went through that Saturday, all of a sudden Weisman is out, and you keep trying to find the winning combination. As long as everybody’s working hard at it, you’ve got a shot.”
Ferentz says the Hawkeyes need to prepare with the assumption Weisman — the team’s leading rusher with 631 rushing yards and eight touchdowns — will not play. With the top two running backs questionable, the Hawkeyes turn to freshman Greg Garmon and sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who has yet to play a snap in 2012.
“They’re going to let him work today a little bit,” Ferentz said of Weisman. “This is the varsity we are playing this week, so it’s a whole different deal. He would have to make a lot of progress to be able to play, so we’ll have to take the mental approach that he’s not going to be here. If he does join us, it would be great.
“We don’t have a lot of proven week-in, week-out players on our team right now. We are kind of scrapping along here, but Mike has entered that point I think in his career. We all have confidence in Mike right now. He has done such a good job.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz on place kicker Mike Meyer
“We have a limited pool of guys right now, so I think it’s realistic to think that (Canzeri) is thick into it. He has played one game, and they were tough carries, but at least he has played, been tackled at the Division I level, and has looked good in practice. Given our circumstance, it’s realistic to think he’ll play.”
Canzeri appeared in seven games as a true freshman, including a start in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma. He rushed for 114 yards on 37 carries in 2011, to go along with six receptions for 28 yards with one touchdown.
Ferentz says the Hawkeyes can’t abandon their running attack against Penn State, but the passing game needs to step up.
“We are not going to give up on the run, but we are going to try to compensate a little bit and spread it around and do what we can,” said Ferentz. “It’s not going to be easy. These guys get after you good up front; it’s going to be a good challenge for our line to try to neutralize their front.”
The Nittany Lions (4-2 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) have won four straight games heading into Kinnick Stadium. Penn State’s defense is 15th in the country in scoring, giving up 16 points per game; Iowa is 17th, surrendering 17.2.
Last season’s contest in Happy Valley fit the same defensive bill, a game the Nittany Lions won 13-3 to snap a three-game Iowa winning streak in the series.
“They beat us toe-to-toe,” said Ferentz of the 2011 game. “They beat a lot of people toe-to-toe last year. If you look at their defense right now, it’s not identical to what they have been, but they look very similar.
“They have three outstanding linebackers, their front four guys are really good, and they are very athletic in the secondary. They have a lot of good players on that team, and it’s going to be tough for us to try and match up against them, because they are very talented.”
With another defensive-oriented game on the docket, Ferentz feels fortunate to have an ace in his back pocket in junior placekicker Mike Meyer. The Dubuque, Iowa, native has made 14-of-15 field goals this season, including 13 straight dating back to the season-opener.
“We don’t have a lot of proven week-in, week-out players on our team right now,” said Ferentz. “We are kind of scrapping along here, but Mike has entered that point I think in his career. We all have confidence in Mike right now. He has done such a good job.”
Saturday’s game will begin at 7:01 p.m. (CT), and be televised to a national audience live on the BTN. Eric Collins, Derek Rackley and Jon Jansen will call the action.