All the chatter leading up to Iowa vs. Purdue was centered around former Hawkeye receiver Charlie Jones.

But the buzz during and after Iowa’s dominant 24-3 triumph surrounded a skill player (still) wearing black and gold. Freshman running back Kaleb Johnson had the game of his young career: 22 carries for 200 yards and a touchdown. It’s the first time a Hawkeye has rushed for 200 yards since Akrum Wadley back in 2015.

The apex of his performance was this 75-yard scamper to open the second half, with nothing but green grass ahead of him. The typically stoic Johnson didn’t short himself after the game.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had since I’ve been alive,” Johnson beamed. “I’m not going to lie this feels so good. I thank everybody for giving me a shot.”

Kirk Ferentz admitted after the game that the stable of running backs weren’t completely healthy, which is why Johnson got the workload he did. Johnson himself admitted he’s still learning the playbook which has in part kept him off the field.

“He still doesn’t know what’s going on,” Kirk Ferentz joked. “He’s a great young guy. He’s got a great personality, great to work with. He’s still figuring it out but he did pretty good today.”

It’s on-brand for Ferentz to temper praise, especially with Leshon & Gavin Williams remaining in the mix. But Johnson’s teammate Sam LaPorta took a jab at those who thought running the ball was Iowa playing things on the safe side:

“Someone might say, ‘You’re gonna run the ball for five yards and a cloud of dust.’ But with number two back there he makes one guy miss, gets to the corner and goes 80 yards,” Petras said. “You never know what the big play is going to be, and if we continue to execute those plays a lot more are going to pop.”

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