If you saw the box score, your heart probably skipped. If you actually watched the game, you ran around the living room/rec room/Legendary Kinnick Stadium in your underwear. Unheralded true freshman Jewel Hampton rushes nine times for 68 yards and two touchdowns, and looks good doing it. Give him the rock 10-15 times! Do it now! We'll never have to throw the ball again!
Even the more moderate excitement is ridiculous, of course. Jewel Hampton is exactly where he should be in the depth chart, and if he makes even one start this year, Iowa is probably in trouble.
First things first: Jewel Hampton can scoot. Both his touchdowns were from pretty far out--19 and 22 yards, in that order. He showed both speed and power on those rushes, and his others were impressive, if not as productive (obviously). Most true freshmen aren't already third on their depth charts, you know. So this isn't Dump Session 2008.
But at the same time, guys, it's fucking Maine. Moreover, both touchdowns came in the fourth quarter; as the Bears' head coach explains, Hampton wasn't facing the stoutest of defenses:
Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said he sat his All-American defensive end, Jovan Belcher, and others the entire fourth quarter because they were so beat up.
"Physically, we had a hard time standing up to them,’’ he added. "It’s obvious they have a lot of kids who have played a lot of games in the Big Ten. It was really hard for us to stand up to them, especially in the run game.’’
Hampton's first TD run, his first carry of his career, came just two snaps after Seamus Patel Eamonn Gupta Paki O'Meara's TD run; the intermediate play was an interception by Pat Angerer. Maine's defense was just coming off facing 10 straight rushes and had barely any time to rest; that the beaten-up starters and cold replacements immediately gave up a TD run to a fresh-legged freshman is no surprise.
Most importantly, though, overstating the importance of this week's performance necessarily sets us up for disappointment; what's to happen when Hampton gains, say, 11 yards on 6 carries against Iowa State, or is stoned twice at the line and never returns against Pitt? What would normally be a normal stop in a freshman's arc of success (which started against fucking Maine) is now all of a sudden fodder for criticism of either Hampton or, somehow, the coaching staff ("they didn't call the touchdown play! fire them!").
Look. Hampton did great against a very overmatched team. If he learns the playbook and figures out how to pick up blitzes, he'll eventually earn the #2 spot this year.
But Hampton is definitely not Shonn Greene. The starting spot belongs to Greene as long as he can run forward and his grades hold up. Hampton may push Greene for a starting spot in 2009 (and after that Brandon Wegher), but in the meantime, he'll have to enjoy the worst of New Media constructs: Internet Message Board Stardom. Just put him next to Richard Kittrell and Imaginary 2001 Brad Banks and we'll be set.