Weisman, as in 'Heisman,' finds a job at Iowa

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Derrick Wells had his hands full trying to bring down Iowa’s Mark Weisman, who was one big all-day headache for the Gophers.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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IOWA CITY - Mark Weisman came to Iowa as a fullback looking for a home, a transfer student who left the Air Force Academy after one semester. His performance against the Gophers on Saturday likely assured him of keeping his new place in the Hawkeyes' offense.

Weisman, a sophomore, ran for 177 yards on 21 carries in Iowa's 31-13 victory. Three games ago, he was pressed into service at running back after injuries had created a gaping void. Now he has 519 yards, the most by an Iowa player at the five-game mark since Shonn Greene's 665 yards in 2008.

Iowa students already have begun chanting "Weisman for Heisman" at Kinnick Stadium. Coach Kirk Ferentz is happy to see him rolling up the yards after originally hoping he could simply be a solid blocker as a fullback.

"After one game, you're kind of like, 'Hmmm, hope I'm seeing it right,'" Ferentz said of Weisman, who has topped 100 yards in three consecutive games. "Then after two, you start thinking, 'This guy might not be bad.' After three games, I think a lot of us are starting to think, 'Maybe this guy is a running back.' His fullback days may be numbered. He may be retiring from that spot.''

At 6 feet and 225 pounds, the native of suburban Chicago is not blessed with nimble moves, but he is strong and fearless. In the first half Saturday, he ran for 155 yards, more than twice the 75 total yards the Gophers managed. He often bulled his way through Gophers tacklers.

"If you don't wrap up, no matter how big a running back is, you're not going to bring him down," safety Brock Vereen said.

Henry shakes off tough break

Mike Henry may have set a school record on Saturday -- most catches by a player with a broken bone.

The junior fullback, whose role in the offense for two seasons has been limited to clearing a path for Gophers tailbacks, faked a block during a third-quarter drive and hustled toward the left sideline, where Max Shortell hit him with a short pass. Henry raced 27 yards with his first career catch.

Not bad for a guy with a broken hand. Henry is pretty sure he injured his right hand -- well, he objects to the term "injured," because he refused to be put on the injured list -- during the first quarter against Syracuse, when he noticed as he came off the field that his hand had swollen up. He had it taped up and led Donnell Kirkwood on a pair of touchdown runs.

X-rays after the game found the fracture, but the Mahtomedi High graduate practiced all week with his hand wrapped so thick, it looked like he was carrying a small balloon. Somehow, he used that hand to haul in a couple of passes.

"He's a hard worker," Shortell said of his new go-to receiver, who also caught a 1-yard gain later in the game. "Hard workers, they just find a way to get open. It's funny how that works."

Etc.

• Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey, who recovered a fumble by K.J. Maye and intercepted a Shortell pass, is the nephew of former Gophers defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey.

• Starting center Zach Mottla remained out of action, though he did suit up and was available. But left guard Tommy Olson and quarterback MarQueis Gray, both out because of ankle injuries, were not included on the Gophers' 70-man traveling roster. Freshman receiver Andre McDonald also did not travel with the team.

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