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THE EPILOGUE 2015: THE REBIRTH OF THE RUN GAME

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Iowa running backs got it done in 2015.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

IOWA OPENED 2015 WITH A NEW QUARTERBACK. C.J. Beathard was named starter for the 2015 season in January and led Iowa to 12 consecutive wins beginning his career as a starter 13-0 before losing the final two games of the 2015 campaign. He replaced two year starter Jake Rudock, who went on to lead the Michigan Wolverines to a 10-3 season and became one of the "most statistically successful quarterbacks in Michigan history" as their one-and-done starter. It was change that worked for both schools.

Wins aside, Beathard's numbers were slightly better than Rudock in 2014. Beathard had the extra games and the slight advantage in rushing yards but the overall productivity from the QB position were mostly the same.

QB GAMES ATT COMP % YDS YDS/ATT TD INT RTG ATT/G YD/G
RUDOCK '14 12 345 213 61.7% 2436 7.1 16 5 133.46 28.8 203
BEATHARD '15 14 362 223 61.6% 2809 7.8 17 5 139.52 25.9 200.6

In the run game, Rudock finished 2014 with 176 yards on 67 carries in those 12 games. He added three TDs and had five the year prior. Beathard surpassed that with 237 yards in 2015 on 100 carries. He totaled six rushing TDs, too. Clearly, Beathard's running ability was hampered by injury as he racked up 142 of his yards in the season's first three games. To be fair, Rudock had injury issues during the 2014 season too and had 92 yards in the first three games before injuring a knee that lingered all season.

SO HOW WAS THIS OFFENSE SO DIFFERENT? Kirk Ferentz has now had five teams in his career average over 30 points per game (2001, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2015). Coincidentally, those five seasons are also the best five seasons Iowa has had rushing the ball under Ferentz.

TEAM ATT YDS AVG TD ATT/G YDS/G
2002 552 2785 5.05 24 42.5 214.2
2008 515 2453 4.76 30 39.6 188.7
2015 568 2544 4.48 35 40.6 181.7
2001* 444 1926 4.3 29 40.4 175.1
2005 436 2096 4.8 19 36.3 174.7

The 2002 Hawkeyes had Freddie Russel and Jermelle Lewis and six NFL linemen. The 2001, 2005 and 2008 teams had NFL running backs in LaDell Betts, Albert Young, and Shonn Greene. The 2015 team had three two-star recruits at running back and one three-star, the starter LeShun Daniels.

It wasn't one player that carried the load like the other four teams listed above. Sure, Jordan Canzeri led the team in carries (183), yards (984) and touchdowns (12). But Canzeri was also running back 1B to open the season behind Daniels.

LeShun opened the year with 123 yards against Illinois State. He had issues with a high ankle sprain and would end second behind Canzeri with 146 carries and 646 yards. His shining moment came against Minnesota in the 10th game of the season, where he he ran 26 times for 195 yards. He added eight touchdowns in his junior season.

Derrick Mitchell began 2015 as a wide receiver before April but flashed clear running back ability and laid claim to Iowa's third down back position by season's end. That was after missing the opener to injury and being sent home from Ames. His 162 yards came on only 25 carries, ending the year with a whopping 6.48 yards per attempt.

Mitchell and Akrum Wadley share a slash behind Daniels on Iowa's early 2016 depth chart, but Wadley could still be the starter game one when Iowa opens against Miami of Ohio next September. After an early season struggle with fumbles, Wadley exploded onto the scene with a 204 yard performance on the road at Northwestern. He'd break 100 yards again two games later after an electrifying long TD to open up the scoring against Indiana. Injuries and the return of Daniels and Canzeri later in the season pushed Wadley back down the depth chart, but he was Iowa's most explosive player in the second half of the Rose Bowl.

It was a team effort between a group of players that all have a unique set of skills. Canzeri broke 100 yards five times. Wadley and Daniels did so twice apiece. Both Canerzeri and Wadley eclipsed 200 yards once and Daniels came five yards short of joining that club. Canerzi will be missed, that's for sure. But things look good for 2016 with three of Iowa's Four Deadly Horsemen returning.

* The NCAA did not begin to include bowl results as official stats until after the 2001 season, hence the 11 games played. Here is the link to the 2001 Alamo Bowl box score. Iowa rushed 44 times for 178 and one touchdown.