CHICAGO — Damon Bullock brushed off his 30 carries. No big deal, all part of the plan.
“Surprised? No,” said Bullock, who rushed 30 times for 150 yards in the Hawkeyes’ 18-17 victory over Northern Illinois. “Whatever the coaches want me to do is what we’re going to do.”
Well, 30 carries are a big deal.
In the last five years, Iowa running backs have had 30 carries in a game just eight times. In 2008, Shonn Greene did it just two times. He won the Doak Walker and carried the ball 307 times that season, second most in Iowa history. Marcus Coker, the 6-0, 230-pounder, had 30 attempts three times last season, when he rushed for 13,84 yards. He also had one 30-carry game in 2010.
Albert Young and Adam Robinson had just one 30-carry came in their careers.
This was Bullock’s first start and he now has one 30-carry game on his resume. Last season, the sophomore from Mansfield, Texas, had just 10 carries.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “First of all, for him to play almost the entire game, for him to carry the load out there . . . it was muggy and I was worried about that.”
Of course, these all were career highs for Bullock, who also caught three passes for 26 yards.
“I really don’t know [if 30 attempts were in the gameplan],” Bullock said. “It’s whatever the coaches want me to do. Today, it was 30.”
It might’ve been a hot-hand deal with running back. Bullock made the start and found the groove almost right away. True freshman Greg Garmon also played, rushing for 8 yards on four carries. True freshman Michael Malloy didn’t play. Ferentz said all three running backs will be counted on.
There simply was no reason to go away from Bullock on Saturday.
“Damon did a lot of good things there, and I mentioned the touchdown run,” Ferentz said. “You know, he did a nice job there getting us the first down at the end of the game, too. Those are tough, hard yards. Those are things he hasn’t done probably since he was a junior in high school, so that’s a positive step there.”
Bullock was the positive step for the offense. The passing game never found its footing, so the offense found itself in too many third-and-longs to make a real living.
Obviously, Iowa (1-0) is going to need that dimension this week against Iowa State (1-0), which held Tulsa, No. 27 in the nation in total offense last season (440.4), to 358 total yards and 4.0 yards per pass attempt in a 38-23 victory at Jack Trice Stadium last week.
“I can’t put an exact finger on it,” said quarterback James Vandenberg, whose 3.9 yards per attempt was a career low. “They did a good job of getting us into third-and-longs. You can’t be a good offense on third-and-longs.”
ISU quarterback Steele Jantz had a career day against Iowa last season. His 25 completions and 279 yards were career highs until he went off against Tulsa, completing 32 of 45 for 281 yards and two TDs.
Once Iowa shut down Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch’s draw rushes, Iowa’s defense held up. Perhaps the biggest hold came after Lynch went right at Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde a 15-yard pass interference and a 25-yard completion to Martel Moore.
The Huskies had first-and-10 at Iowa’s 12 and came away with just a 28-yard field goal.
“If we come out [against Iowa State] the way we did today, we’re probably not going to win,” linebacker James Morris said. “That’s just a fact.”
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