WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Jordan Canzeri's family has made the trek to see him play a couple of different times this season.
The Canzeris live in Troy, N.Y., where Jordan's dad, Brian, is a game warden with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Plane tickets aren't cheap. So, the Iowa running back flew solo Saturday before 41,038 fans at Ross-Ade Stadium.
The texts from the dingy opponent's locker room started flying through the ether minutes after the Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) clubbed Purdue, 38-14, and clinched bowl eligibility.
Canzeri led a reawakening of Iowa's running game with a career-high 165 yards on 20 carries. After being held to 136 yards or less over the last four games, Iowa's running backs and offensive line punched their way to 318 rushing yards, the most for the Hawkeyes in a Big Ten game since they rushed for 365 against Minnesota on Nov. 16, 2002.
Canzeri went into the game with 29 carries for 173 yards this season. He almost it those numbers against the Boilermakers (1-8, 0-5). It was a performance definitely worth texting about.
"My family can't really make it out to a bunch of games," said Canzeri, whose previous career high was 73 yards against Western Michigan on Sept. 21. "It is hard, but I know they're all watching me. They told me they watched from home. I heard from them after the game, it was good to get some texts from home."
As it turned out, Canzeri's performance last week against Wisconsin got his foot in the door. Or in the batting order, as Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz called the Hawkeyes' running back rotation. So, Damon Bullock rushed for 85 yards while batting second. Mark Weisman hit cleanup with 30 yards and a TD.
"Last week it looked like he had a little more octane than the other guys," Ferentz said, "so we gave him a little more work than in the past and he took it and ran. . . . He gave us a nice jump and gave us a boost."
Sometimes, batting orders need shaking up. On the first drive of the game, Weisman and Bullock were stopped and the Hawkeyes went three-and-out. Canzeri took over the next two drives. He capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run. It was Iowa's longest TD drive of the season.
"Whoever goes in, we're in it for each other," Canzeri said. "It's hard having four backs who can all do the job. Whoever goes in or whoever is hot at that moment gets the carries. That's why it seems so hard [to figure] out sometimes."
During the week, Iowa's offensive line was asked about not having left its stamp on a game since it cleared the way for 246 yards in a win at Minnesota.
They all smiled at that question in Saturday's postgame. The Hawkeyes averaged 6.1 yards on 52 carries. That's more than leaving a stamp, that's leaving a crater.
"We did," tackle Brett Van Sloten said. "Honestly, that's the running backs. They ran hard and made our jobs easy. Some guys did a good job blocking up front, but running backs were awesome. That makes our job a lot of fun and today was a lot of fun."
Quarterback Jake Rudock wore a brace on his left knee after last week's sprain and completed 12 of 20 for 191 yards and two TDs with a brisk 10 mph wind shaping the game. Tight end George Kittle led Iowa with three catches for 37 yards. Senior wide receiver Don Shumpert had two catches for 69 yards, both of his long receptions fueled TD drives.
Rudock popped the game open with his 22-yard TD pass to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley with 1:57 left before halftime. The throw beat Purdue corner Ricardo Allen, who made a late stab at the ball, and hit Martin-Manley in the numbers.
"It was one of those where we didn't have much real estate, I couldn't loft it up," Rudock said. "I just had to get it in there. The offensive line gave me a chance to step into it."
Maybe most importantly, Iowa scored three TDs in the second half. The scores were the first in the second half of a Big Ten game since Ohio State. Going into Saturday, Iowa had just 16 total points in the second half of Big Ten games.
Purdue kept it close in the first half. Freshman quarterback Danny Etling made Iowa pay for a muffed punt by Martin-Manley with a 2-yard TD to fullback Kurt Freytag to tie the score 7-7 with 5:44 left in the second quarter. Iowa clamped down from there, holding Purdue to just 18 yards rushing in the second half.
"I thought we left some plays out there in the first half and in the second we did a pretty good job of buttoning things down," linebacker James Morris said.
There weren't a lot of high fives or backslaps over gaining bowl eligibility. Iowa went into Purdue, which is in the first year of an extreme team makeover under coach Darrell Hazell, and crossed off a lot of the things that have kept it running in place the last four weeks, which three of the Big Ten's top three defenses.
It now goes bye week, Michigan and at Nebraska. Those would be high-five, backslap kind of victories. In the meantime, they know they won't be home for Christmas.
"I don't know if I've ever had a longer holiday break," Ferentz said. "You can only sit in front of the fireplace so long."
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