A seven-hour catastrophe that started at 6:30 p.m. and concluded at 1:30 a.m. and was delayed by lightning three separate times. For players, fans and some of us media members, that one was unforgettable in the worst way possible.
But not for freshman running back Kaleb Johnson, who had the game of his life. In just seven carries he ran all over the Wolfpack for 103 yards and two touchdowns. In the same number of carries the first two weeks, he totaled just 14. Johnson got over his nerves, and it showed.
“I just got way too comfortable,” Johnson remembers.
The following week against Rutgers, Johnson rushed the ball a team high 15 times. His performance grabbed the attention of Brady Quinn, who was in Iowa City for Big Noon Kickoff for Iowa’s matchup against Michigan.
“I think he’s fantastic,” Quinn gushed.
“He’s got a burst, one of those slender backs that can get through the hole and make guys miss, and you’ve seen his touches go up over the course of the season.”
Johnson is indeed in his first season with the Hawkeyes as a true freshman. The Hamilton, Ohio native joined the Hawkeyes as a three-star recruit, and at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Johnson could be punishing Big Ten defenders for quite a while.
Through six games, Johnson has been the most efficient runner in the Iowa backfield, yet he’s still second on the team in touches behind sophomore Leshon Williams. Johnson has Williams beat in yards per attempt by almost a full yard (4.6 vs. 3.7) and leads the entire offense in touchdowns with three.
So what’s holding Johnson back from taking the reigns of the Iowa backfield, and perhaps giving Brian Ferentz’ unit a much needed spark?
“He has been in the program longer so you can trust him to do just about everything we do at a higher level than Kaleb because this is all still pretty new to him,” Ferentz said at last week’s presser. “But I expect him to continue to close that gap.”
Johnson agrees and in fact spent last week’s bye brushing up on the playbook.
“I actually went back at film and watched what I did wrong,” Johnson said. “Just knowing the playbook well enough for me to stay out there.”
While Johnson would surely like more touches, his goals for the second half of his freshman campaign are self-oriented.
“All I want to do is get better and to get ready for next game after the next game, and just stay positive and keep moving forward.”