AMES — Kirk Ferentz admitted Saturday that he’s a little gun shy when it comes to freshmen.
“There are times when I’m afraid to throw a guy out there, I guess,” Ferentz said, before adding facetiously, “It’s only running back. If he fumbles, don’t worry about it.”
Brandon Wegher is here to calm your fears.
The true freshman from Sioux City went from special teamer in last week’s tight victory over Northern Iowa to “the guy” in Saturday’s 35-3 victory over Iowa State.
In his first action in the backfield, Wegher carried 15 times for 101 yards and a 1-yard touchdown dive. He teamed with red-shirt freshman Adam Robinson, who had 69 yards on 12 carries, to boost Iowa’s running game from last week’s 2.8 yards an attempt to 5.5 against the Cyclones.
Ferentz said he needed to “get over some things” when it came to young players. Wegher was there for his coach that way Saturday.
“Brandon looked sharp out there,” Ferentz said. “He really was hitting things, played tough and it looked to me like the offensive line got a little something going there.”
Wegher was just OK until the second-quarter screen pass. He sort of stood out there.
First, with quarterback Ricky Stanzi under a heavy rush, Wegher plucked the ball out of the air with one hand. Then he spun linebacker Fred Garrin waist-deep into the turf. It was only a 13-yard gain and the drive ended with a Stanzi interception, but this play as much as anything else helped Ferentz get over that young player thing.
“That got everybody really, really excited,” Robinson said. “It was an excellent play and a tough catch. He concentrated, brought the ball in and got some yards after the catch. I’m really proud of him.”
After an Iowa interception, Wegher burst for 14 yards and then, after a review reversed one, he scored his first TD on a dive that went from the goal line to the middle of the “W” in the Iowa State painted in the end zone.
On Iowa’s final TD drive — a 6-yard Stanzi pass to freshman Keenan Davis, a Cedar Rapids native — Wegher carried six times for 66 yards.
This is now officially “running back by committee.” Robinson will start and, if the pattern remains the same, Wegher will come in on the third series next week against Arizona. They’ll split after that.
Going into Iowa State, Wegher wasn’t listed on the depth chart.
“I wasn’t trying to be coy last week. We hadn’t seen the guy play in a real game,” Ferentz said. “We were a little bit worried about it.”
Saturday was the first step in Wegher’s helping his coach overcome his fear of freshmen.