Hawkeyes look to fix the run game production

After a bad week on the ground, Iowa’s running backs and offensive line are looking to be better.

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Hawkeyes look to fix the run game production

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent runs the ball during the Iowa/Northwestern game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 14-10.

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent runs the ball during the Iowa/Northwestern game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 14-10.

Katina Zentz

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent runs the ball during the Iowa/Northwestern game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 14-10.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent runs the ball during the Iowa/Northwestern game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 14-10.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

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Iowa’s running game needs only 336 more net yards to surpass last season’s total, but it  must perform better than it did against Northwestern.

But if Northwestern is as bad as it gets for Iowa’s running game, then this season isn’t too bad.

For a team that has built a legacy around its running game, 64 yards gained is a low point for the season, especially when it lends its hand to a three-game losing streak. However, in 2017, things were a lot worse.

Against Michigan State on Sept. 30, Iowa’s running game only collected 19 net yards on 25 carries. Running back Akrum Wadley had 17 of those carries for 30 yards, and his low production was a low point.

Now, with the low sitting at a comparable high of 64, the new trio of Hawkeye running backs have a chance to turn it around quickly.

“[Northwestern is] a really good football team,” running back Mehki Sargent said. “I feel like we practice hard, we’re detailed in practice, we’re hustling, but the football game’s not going to be perfect. I feel like to be better; it’s running the ball overall as a unit.”

Following that Michigan State disaster, Iowa’s running game turned it around the next week (against, ahem, Illinois) to record 191 yards on 38 carries.

As the Hawkeyes go to face the Illini on the road this year, there’s a need to turn around both the running game and the entire team to break the skid. That comes from work both on and off the field.

RELATED: Iowa football looks to improve run while getting back to the basics

“We’ve been watching film, just cleaning up all the mistakes,” Sargent said. “I feel like we could do really a better job than what we were doing; that’s going to come. We have a young running-back group.”

Iowa’s rotation of running backs includes three sophomores: Sargent, Ivory Kelly-Martin, and Toren Young.

For the season, excluding injuries, those three have all seen playing time during every game, creating a question about lack of consistency. However, Sargent said, that hasn’t been the case, and the coaches giving them an equal number of carries during the games has helped.

“I think it’s a matter of us being a little bit more cohesive and trying to — we’ve got to push this thing through,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s kind of like our team overall; we’ve just got to push this thing through and do things a little bit better.”

The offensive line is another key group that has taken it upon itself to fix the running game.

Sargent said there wasn’t a problem with a lack of gaps for the running backs against Northwestern, but regardless, the offensive line is working to get better. 

“Every play starts up front, starts with us, which we do take that personally, just like we take it personally when Nate [Stanley] gets hit and stuff like that,” offensive tackle Tristian Wirfs said. “We’ve just got to do better, be better.”

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