IOWA CITY, Iowa — No. 13 Iowa lost one of the Big Ten’s best running backs in Jordan Canzeri.
The Hawkeyes (2-0) haven’t missed a beat so far.
Iowa’s dominance on the ground, which was crucial in its first 12-0 regular season in 2015, has only gotten stronger through the first two weeks on 2016.
The decision to split carries between senior LeShun Daniels Jr. and junior Akrum Wadley has been a brilliant one so far. Daniels has racked up 195 yards and three touchdowns on just 25 carries, and Wadley has 170 yards — with a Big Ten-best 8.1 per carry — and three TDs as well.
Iowa, 10th nationally with 6.3 yards per run, will likely look to lead with its rushing attack yet again when it wraps up non-conference play Saturday against North Dakota State (2-0), which has won the last five FCS championships.
“If we can control tempo the entire game and keep their offense off the field, have long drives, fatigue their defense and get points on the board, it only helps the team as a whole because it keeps our defense fresh and allows them to get stops and allows us to get back on the field,” Daniels said.
At 6-foot and 225 pounds, Daniels is the kind of straight-ahead power runner that has often thrived in Iowa’s pro-style offense. The 191-pound Wadley has more speed, but problems with turnovers plagued him early in his career.
By playing them both, Iowa has been able to maximize their talents and keep them fresh.
Daniels earned the No. 1 spot last season, rushing for 123 yards in the opener. But an ankle injury kept Daniels on the back burner for much of the year, allowing Canzeri — a player plagued by bumps and bruises himself — to show his skills.
Daniels returned to post his signature effort last November, with 195 yards against Minnesota and a game-clinching 51-yard touchdown in a 40-35 win.
“He’s looks faster than I’ve ever seen him,” quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “He’s done a good job running downhill and making guys miss and running tough.”
Wadley flashed potential as freshman despite lacking size. The Hawkeyes had to use him during a road matchup against then-unbeaten Northwestern last season because of injuries to Daniels and Canzeri. Wadley set a school record with four touchdowns in a 204-yard effort that helped Iowa thump the Wildcats 40-10.
Though Daniels is more than capable of serving as Iowa’s main ball carrier, Wadley’s play as a sophomore forced the coaching staff to find room for him in 2016.
“He’s had talent since he’s got here. But he’s grown as a football player,” Ferentz said.
Last week’s 42-3 domination of rival Iowa State encapsulated what Daniels and Wadley can give the Hawkeyes when they’re at their best.
Wadley, the better receiving threat of the two, split a linebacker and safety for a 26-yard touchdown catch that made it 14-0. He later gave Iowa a 35-3 lead on a 3-yard TD run.
Daniels capped the scoring a few minutes later, taking advantage of a big hole and a defense sick of tackling him with a straight-ahead, 43-yard touchdown run.
“When you have a guy that you can rotate like that, and we can each go in there and make plays, it makes it easy on both of us,” Daniels said of Wadley.
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