IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — For Iowa, a week off after a potential season-saving win over Minnesota was just about perfect.
The Hawkeyes were teetering on the brink of a free fall heading into its Sept. 29 showdown with the then-unbeaten Gophers. It took a dominant 31-13 win to convince many frustrated Iowa fans that the up-and-down Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) might have a chance at a decent year after all.
All of it could fall apart, of course, starting with Saturday's game at Michigan State (4-2, 1-1). But after keeping their season from getting away from them, the Hawkeyes had an extra seven days to prep for its first true road game.
"We just have to try to block that out and be a little more focused than you would be at home," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I just realized it's going to be a pretty tough environment from that standpoint. The biggest thing is still the team on the field. That's more of a concern to us than maybe the stadium."
Iowa suffered through a rather dismal September despite playing four in a row at home. The month included a home loss to Iowa State that doesn't look so bad in retrospect and another one to Central Michigan that always will.
But the Hawkeyes did sort out one very important detail. Backup fullback Mark Weisman is now a starting running back — and a good one at that.
Weisman's 217-yard performance was overshadowed in the loss to the Chippewas, but he was even better in his first effort against a BCS defense. He rushed for 156 yards in the first half alone against the Gophers. Though he didn't match the yardage he put up against Central Michigan, he staked Iowa to such a big early lead it hardly mattered.
Weisman will have some help on Saturday as the starter he replaced, Damon Bullock, is back after missing nearly three games with a head injury.
"They're both guys who have promise and have potential to be good players," Ferentz said. "Biggest thing we don't want to do is screw one of them up and have them do too much. If they can both focus on playing that running back position, I think, if we can get that established, we'd be well ahead of the game from where we were six weeks ago."