IOWA CITY, Iowa – University of Iowa sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri wanted to ignite the fans in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday when he entered the game on the Hawkeyes’ final drive of the third quarter against Wisconsin.
Forty-three yards later, the crowd of 69,812 was in an uproar as Canzeri took the ball from his own 40 to the Badger 17.
“Any time you’re put in the game you have to take advantage of your opportunity,” Canzeri said following a 28-9 loss. “I wanted to do something to provide a spark. The line had great blocks and I read off that. It was a good moment.”
Canzeri hadn’t carried the ball since a 23-7 win at Minnesota on Sept. 28 when he gained 13 yards on the final three plays of the game. He did not have rushing attempts against Michigan State, Ohio State, or Northwestern.
Wisconsin (6-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten Conference) entered Saturday’s game with running backs averaging 9.5, 7.4, and 6.2 yards per carry. On this day it was Canzeri who showed the most break-away ability. He ran the ball five times for 58 yards, an average of 11.6 yards per attempt.
“It was an inside zone run,” Canzeri said of the longest rushing attempt of the season for the Hawkeyes. “The line opened it up, I saw the safety coming down hard toward the right side, so it was a nice cutback and the receiver on the outside had a great block too.”
The Hawkeyes (5-4, 2-3) ended the drive with a 29-yard field goal by Mike Meyer – his third of the game — to pull within 14-9 with more than 16 minutes to play.“He came in and he hit the hole hard.” UI junior left tackle Brandon Scherff said. “They caught him, but that gave us a little boost.”
“All three of them are bigger than me, so they can all deal with the power game better,” Canzeri said. “If I can be the smaller back to squeeze through holes to get breakout runs, then that is what I’m going to do. We’re all fast and everyone is running well. If I bring a little extra, then I’m happy I can contribute.”
A career highlight for Canzeri came during his true freshman season when he started the 2011 Insight Bowl and carried the ball 22 times for 58 yards. He scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass — one of his six receptions in the game.
Canzeri suffered a knee injury during spring practice in 2012 and redshirted, missing the entire season. His most productive game this season was against Western Michigan when he picked up 73 yards on 13 carries with a 16-yard touchdown run.
“It’s hard to get four backs in the game, really hard,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Maybe some (teams) are doing it, I’m not sure they are. Mark (Weisman) was nicked up today and couldn’t finish the game, so the other thought was to give Jordan a chance to give us a spark, which he did. He made a really nice run, and hopefully we can get him integrated. But it’s tough when you have four guys.”
“It’s hard when one guy is in and he’s doing a good job and everyone is healthy right now which is a good thing,” Canzeri said. “We didn’t have that last year. It’s better to have a full rotation of four than to have two backs struggling through medical problems. I was happy to get the opportunity to play today.”
The Hawkeyes return to the road — where they have a 2-1 record this season — Saturday, Nov. 9, against Purdue (1-7, 0-4).