Sophomore Adam Robinson brought the house down with his performance in the Hawkeyes’ 35-7 victory over Iowa State. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder rushed for a career-high 156 yards on 14 carries, including a career-high 75-yard run and a 39-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Sophomore Jewel Hampton saw his first action in 19 months and 14 games after missing last season with a torn ACL and responded with 84 yards and a 2-yard TD on 20 carries.
So, running back controversy in 3, 2, 1 …
“Oh no, not at all,” Hampton said with a laugh. “We’re both looking forward to helping the team. That’s what we’re thinking right now.”
Two running backs, no egos.
“I don’t think I ever go out and try to make a statement for myself,” Robinson said. “My main goal is to help the team, help the Hawks win. And if I do that, I’d say that’s good enough for me.”
Behind a dominant offensive line, the Hawkeyes rolled up 275 rushing yards, their best performance since 286 yards against Purdue in 2006. Iowa carried 50 times and averaged 5.5 yards an attempt.
At the heart of it was Robinson and Hampton.
They started the game alternating series, with Robinson getting the first series. Hampton got the first series of the second half. Robinson took one more, Hampton took two in a row and then the reserves took over.
Pretty even split. Pretty much the plan, especially with Hampton just taking his first steps on the field after more than a year off. During spring practice and fall camp, he wasn’t exactly roughed up.
“I think he was a little frustrated he didn’t get some of the holes he would’ve liked to have had,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Maybe [he] missed a cut here or there. The whole thing is getting him back with us.
“That’s the first live work he’s had. We haven’t tackled him, as you might guess, since he’s had the injury. Good to have that out of the way now. I think he can move forward. There’s no question, I think we have a good 1-2 punch when those guys are running together.”
Unless Iowa has a Shonn Greene, Doak Walker Award winner and New York Jet, the 1-2 punch might be Ferentz’s preference.
Last season, Robinson and Brandon Wegher split 30 carries a game nearly down the middle, with Robinson getting 16.45 and Wegher, who’s on a personal absence and not on the team this season, taking 13.50. In ’08, it was all Greene, with 23.6 carries to Hampton’s 7.0. It was a little more even in ’07, with Albert Young at 17.2 and Damian Sims at 8.3. In ’06, those two were close, with Young leading 13.7 to 10.1.
The fresh legs theory is sensible, unless you have a Greene-like talent,
“We both took advantage of our carries today,” Robinson said. “He scored, I scored. I think we both provided a spark for the offense. I think there are more than enough carries to go around.”
Perhaps the most telling plays were Ricky Stanzi’s quarterback sneaks behind center James Ferentz. Iowa ran five of those and got the yard it needed — including Stanzi’s first rushing TD in 31 career games at Iowa — four times. One was called back for a false start.
A month ago, Iowa’s O-line had three new starters and more than three question marks next to it. After Saturday’s performance, it looks ahead of schedule.
“We know where we’re at, I think coaches know where we’re at,” tackle Riley Reiff said. “But yeah, the way we’ve come out, I think we’ve kind of jelled a little bit.”