IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jordan Canzeri was listed as the Iowa football team’s backup running back when the season started.
His status has changed dramatically since then.
Canzeri etched his name in the Iowa record book on Saturday by shredding Illinois for a career-high 256 rushing yards on 43 carries during a 29-20 victory at Kinnick Stadium.
His 43 rushing attempts broke the school record of 42 carries set by Sedrick Shaw against Michigan State in 1995. Canzeri’s rushing total also ranks third in school history for a single game.
Tavian Banks holds the school record of 314 rushing yards, which he set against Tulsa in 1997. Ed Podolak’s 286-yard rushing performance against Northwestern in 1968 is second on the list.
Canzeri said the offense was determined to do its part against Illinois after struggling during last Saturday’s 10-6 victory at Wisconsin.
“Last week was a big defensive game and we did not want anything like that to happen again, so we really had to produce,” said Canzeri, a senior from Troy, N.Y.
This marks just the second time that Iowa has started 6-0 in 17 seasons under head coach Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes won their first nine games in 2009 before finishing 11-2 overall.
“It’s just great to be a part of this team,” Canzeri said. “It’s just awesome.”
Canzeri was expected to share the rushing load this season with junior LeShun Daniels, who started the first two games of the season against Illinois State and Iowa State. However, Daniels was injured against Iowa State in the second game of the season and hasn’t been the same since. He didn’t even dress for the Illinois game, leaving the 5-foot-9, 192-pound Canzeri to carry the load almost exclusively.
Iowa also received a breakout performance from freshman receiver Jerminic Smith, who finished with four catches for 118 yards while starting his second game in a row. Smith started for injured senior Tevaun Smith, who isn’t expected to return from a leg injury until after the bye week later this month.
"It’s just good for him to get involved and make his first couple receptions as a college player," Ferentz said of Jerminic Smith, who is from Garland, Tex. "I think that is really going to help his confidence."
Iowa drove to the Illinois 16-yard line late in the fourth quarter, but had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Marshall Koehn that expanded the lead to 26-20 with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left to play. Canzeri had 11 consecutive carries on the drive, all of which gained positive yards.
Illinois took over at its own 25-yard line, but running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn fumbled on first down. Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell recovered the fumble at the Illinois 29.
Koehn then put the Hawkeyes ahead by two scores at 29-20 by making a 40-yard field goal with 2:11 left to play.
“It wasn’t like we had a lot of options or choices today,” Ferentz said of Iowa’s depth at running back. “It shows you the kind of commitment that he’s made to our football team and how he feels about his teammates.
“Certainly, in that fourth quarter, that was a special effort.”
Illinois tried a trick play to begin the fourth quarter, but it backfired when Iowa cornerback Greg Mabin intercepted a pass thrown by Illinois receiver Geronimo Allison.
The Hawkeyes took over at their own 20-yard line and were looking to build on a 23-13 lead. But the drive stalled when quaterback C.J. Beathard overthrew receiver Jacob Hillyer on third down.
Illinois trimmed the lead to 23-20 when quarterback Wes Lunt connected with Allison for a 53-yard touchdown pass with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 16-7 at halftime, Illinois made two field goals in the third quarter, slicing the lead in half.
Iowa answered back quickly on its next possession, though, as Canzeri scored on a 75-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. He burst through a huge hole and then outraced the Illinois defenders to the end zone.
It was Iowa’s longest touchdown run since 2008 when Shonn Greene also scored from 75 yards against Purdue.
Koehn made the point-after kick to expand Iowa’s lead to 23-13 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Iowa took the opening kick and drove to midfield before having to punt. The Iowa defense then forced Illinois on its first possession to punt after running three plays that gained two yards.
The Hawkeyes took over at their own 31-yard line and then marched 69 yards on seven plays for the first touchdown of the game. It came when Beathard hit a wide open George Kittle for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 8:30 left in the first quarter.
Kittle, a 6-4, 235-pound junior tight end, has scored a touchdown in each of the past three games.
However, Koehn missed the point-after kick, keeping Iowa’s lead at 6-0.
Illinois barely needed two minutes to score a touchdown on its next drive. Quarterback Wes Lunt completed back-to-back passes to Malik Turner and Allison that gained 34 and 27 yards, respectively, giving Illinois a first-down at the Iowa 4.
Running back Ke”Shawn Vaughn then scored on a 4-yard run with 6:29 left in the first quarter. Taylor Zalewski converted the point-after kick to give Illinois a 7-6 lead.
Iowa was on the verge of regaining the lead early in the second quarter, only to see the drive stopped at the Illinois 1-yard line. Ferentz chose to go for it on fourth-and-1, but Beathard’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
Illinois was forced to punt on its next possession, giving Iowa a first down at its own 42 after Desmond King returned the punt 10 yards. Iowa only needed five plays to score its second touchdown of the game, which came on a 17-yard pass from Beathard to Canzeri with 7:50 left in the second quarter.
Beathard also completed a 49-yard pass to Smith, giving Iowa a first down at the Illinois 17. Koehn converted the point-after kick, giving Iowa a 13-7 lead.
The Hawkeyes also drove to the Illinois 1-yard line late in the second quarter, but again they failed to score a touchdown. Iowa instead settled for a 19-yard field goal by Koehn with 15 seconds left in the second quarter, giving Iowa a 16-7 lead at halftime.
Iowa dominated the first half from a statistical standpoint, finishing with 299 yards, including 190 passing yards. Illinois finished the first half with 122 yards, but only 32 came on the ground.
On a more somber note, Iowa defensive end Drew Ott left the game in the second half with an apparent leg injury. Ferentz said it was too early to know if Ott would be available for next Saturday’s game at Northwestern.
Sophomore left tackle Boone Myers also missed his second consecutive game because of an injury.
True freshman James Daniels played extensively on the offensive during Saturday’s game, including seeing his first action at right tackle after starter Ike Boettger left the game with an injury. Iowa finished with 278 rushing yards, while Illinois (4-2) was held to 46 rushing yards.