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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — During a weekend of celebrating everyone’s heroes — the military veterans — University of Iowa junior Akrum Wadley excelled everywhere except by sea.
In the air: Wadley had game-highs with five receptions and 52 yards. In the first half alone, he had three catches for 37 yards and a long of 27. His 3-yard touchdown reception with 1:27 left in the second quarter pulled the Hawkeyes within two points of No. 2 Michigan in a game Iowa eventually won, 14-13.
Through six games and entering Saturday’s primetime contest in Kinnick Stadium, Michigan led the Big Ten, allowing opponents just 130.3 passing yards a game.
On land: Wadley carried the ball 23 times for 115 yards and a long of 22. It is his seventh career 100-yard rushing performance.
Through six games and entering Saturday’s primetime contest in Kinnick Stadium, Michigan led the Big Ten, allowing opponents 91.2 rushing yards per game.
It is just the second time this season that an individual rushed for more than 100 yards against the Wolverines (Michigan State’s L.J. Scott ran for 139 yards on 22 carries on Oct. 29).
“Akrum is a slippery guy and he has good feel,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The way (Michigan) plays defense, there isn’t much wiggle room in there and he got away once or twice from those guys.”
In its previous four games, Michigan averaged 52.5 points. But the Wolverines were held to a season-low 13 last night and they were on the short end of the final yardage total, 230 to 201. Iowa owned a 5 ½ minute advantage in possession time.
“Hats off to our defense,” Wadley said. “They held a great Michigan offense and we got our motivation and courage from the defense.”
Call it motivation, courage, or belief, the Hawkeyes possessed all three against Michigan. Ferentz said it took guts for the Hawkeyes to “get off the mat” a week ago after a 41-14 loss at Penn State.
“Hats off to our defense. They held a great Michigan offense and we got our motivation and courage from the defense.” — Akrum Wadley
“Once we got to game time, it was a matter of our players believing in themselves, their teammates, and playing with the heart it takes to compete every snap,” Ferentz said.
Against Penn State, Wadley rushed for 28 yards. He had 22 alone on his seventh carry of the first quarter and 44 after the first 15 minutes.
“The blockers gave me that confidence I needed in the backfield,” Wadley said. “They told me they were going to open it up and that’s exactly what they did.”
On land, Wadley and senior running back LeShun Daniels, Jr., rushed for 169 yards on 37 attempts.
In the air, Wadley has led or tied for the team lead in receptions in each of the last three games with 17 catches, 156 yards, and two touchdowns. When quarterback C.J. Beathard isn’t handing Wadley the ball, he is looking for him on a pass route out of the backfield.
“He’s a great weapon,” Beathard said. “He has an opportunity to break a big play any time you get him the ball. You can see by the way he runs. It’s not easy to tackle him and he does a great job.”
Nine of Wadley’s 23 carries against Michigan gained five-or-more yards. He opened the second half with back-to-back 12-yard runs.
“There were a couple times he made guys miss with little space to move and he turned 3-yard runs into 8-yard runs. Those are big,” Beathard said.
Iowa improved to 6-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten Conference, becoming bowl eligible for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons. Michigan (9-1, 6-1) suffered its first loss since a setback against Ohio State on Nov. 28, 2015.
The Hawkeyes hit the road to play Illinois on Nov. 19 in Champaign, Illinois.
“We get to enjoy this 24 hours — it was a great victory,” Wadley said. “Next week we have to stick to the game plan and we have to take it one day at a time like we did this week.”