To defeat Iowa, Gophers must stop Weisman

Iowa running back Mark Weisman has had success against Minnesota the past two years.

by Grant Donald

Iowa running back Mark Weisman arrived in Iowa City, Iowa, as a walk-on in 2011 after initially committing to play for Air Force Academy.

Since then, Weisman has earned a scholarship and has crushed the hopes of his northern neighbors multiple times.

In his two career games against the Gophers, the 6-foot, 240-pound senior has combined for 324 rushing yards and one touchdown, leading Iowa to blowout victories in both games.

“[Weisman has] put a lot of good games up against a lot of people. He’s a good football player,” Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said.

In each of the last two matchups with Iowa, Minnesota has come in undefeated. But the team was unable to come away with a victory against Weisman and the Hawkeyes.

This year, Minnesota is coming off a loss against Illinois, which has set up essentially a must-win game against Iowa if the Gophers want to keep their Big Ten West title hopes alive.

“If you follow Iowa in the past, they are always a football team that gets better,” Kill said. “Everybody says things, and then all of a sudden they just keep going in [their] direction. That’s the nature of who they are.”

Iowa started off slow again this year, but after defeating Northwestern 48-7 last week, the Hawkeyes joined Minnesota and Wisconsin in a three-way tie for second in the Big Ten West.

Weisman is yet again at the forefront of Iowa’s turnaround after running for 94 yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern.

Weisman’s longest run against the Wildcats was only 18 yards, a testament to the Hawkeyes’ ground-and-pound style of running.

“The one thing [Iowa does] is they put so many guys in the box,” Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “They’re going to block your front seven, your front eight — your secondary has got to tackle well.”

A major reason that Iowa has had success running the ball is their offensive line, one that Claeys said will be the best to face the Gophers so far this year.

“They’re coached very well.  They have a system that they believe in,” Claeys said. “They concentrate on execution and make you get off blocks and try to get the ball to the secondary.”

Senior defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli has had plenty of experience against Iowa’s offensive line and said he is ready for a physical matchup.

“What’s going to help us compete is not some trick play; it’s going to be having a low pad level, great fundamentals and being tough and aggressive up front,” Botticelli said.

Combine the Hawkeyes’ physical offensive line with a running back of Weisman’s size, and it is easy to see why the Hawkeyes’ calling card is running the football.

“Much like Iowa’s offensive line, Mark Weisman has some good size to him,” Botticelli said. “There’s one common theme, and it is getting back to the fundamentals and aggressive play. That is what is going to help us out.”