Iowa faces Western Michigan
By ERIC OLSON
AP College Football Writer
IOWA CITY — Jaziun Patterson might be the most popular third-string running back in the country this week.
No. 25 Iowa (2-0) hosts Western Michigan (1-1) in Iowa City on Saturday, and Patterson is coming off his best performance in the Cy-Hawk Game at Iowa State.
The redshirt freshman’s first run went for 59 yards, he finished with 86 and a touchdown, and he had fans doing double-takes when he took out two pass rushers with one block.
“I knew my time would come and when it comes, I’m going to show up,” Patterson said. “I know anything can happen at any time.”
The four-star recruit out of Pompano Beach, Florida, saw limited action in two regular-season games last year. He ran four times for 23 yards and caught a short pass in the Music City Bowl win over Kentucky.
“We get to watch guys improve during the course of a year and during practice. He’s done that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Hopefully he’s got a lot of good football in front of him right now.”
Patterson was still listed third behind Kaleb Johnson and Leshon Williams on this week’s depth chart. Patterson surely will get more opportunities if he plays like he did in the 20-13 win over Iowa State. Johnson is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry, and Williams has struggled in pass protection.
The 5-foot-10 Patterson added 17 pounds in the offseason to get up to 205, and he has proved to be the kind of pass blocker Ferentz likes to see in his running backs.
That was apparent in the third quarter against Iowa State. On a third-and-1, Patterson dived to take blitzing safety Malik Verdon out of the play and simultaneously had oncoming lineman Tyler Onyedim clip his legs and stumble to the ground. That gave Cade McNamara time to connect with Erick All for a 23-yard gain and help set up a field goal.
“I slowed my body so I could get both of them,” Patterson said. “I did it on purpose.”
McNamara appreciated it.
“Jaz did such a good job of picking up corner blitzes,” he said. “A lot of those secondary pressures are tough blocks for a back to make, and he’s consistently making them right now.”
Western Michigan is picked last in the West in the Mid-American Conference preseason coaches’ poll after finishing 5-7 and firing Tim Lester. The Broncos opened with a 35-17 win over FCS team Saint Francis (Pa.) and a 48-7 loss at Syracuse.
SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE
WMU has lost 45 of 51 games against Big Ten opponents. The Broncos’ most recent wins came two weeks apart in 2016, against Northwestern and Illinois, with the P.J. Fleck-coached team that went 13-0 before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
WMU lost 59-3 to Iowa in 2013 but won 28-19 in the final regular-season game in 2007 to keep the Hawkeyes from going to a bowl.
“It’s a great opportunity, one that our guys are excited about, excited about this challenge,” first-year coach Lance Taylor said. “They understand the history and tradition of Iowa. And as much as anything they know we didn’t play well enough last week, and they are excited to go out and prove again that’s not who we are.”
Broncos quarterback Jack Salopek thrown 13 interceptions over his last nine games, which is not a good sign against an opportunistic Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes have 220 interceptions since 2009, second-most nationally, and their 34 interception returns for touchdowns are third-most over that span.
Iowa starting cornerback Jermari Harris returns after serving a two-game suspension for his involvement in sports wagering. He missed the entire 2022 season because of injury. He has four interceptions in 20 career games.
The Hawkeyes say they’re resisting the temptation to look ahead to next week’s visit to No. 7 Penn State for their Big Ten opener even though they are 28 1/2-point favorites against the Broncos, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“It doesn’t matter who we play or where we play or what time we play,” receiver Nico Ragaini said. “If we don’t come ready to play, any team can come in here and beat us, and then that ruins our goals.”