Top 5 Worst Years of Iowa RB Curse
AIRBHG is not an all-caps, misspelled version of the safety feature on your car. It’s the acronym for a malevolent deity, “The Angry Iowa Running Back-Hating God” — first created by Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants — who has sidelined scores of Hawkeye runners going all the way back to 2001. At this point, it isn’t a question of whether AIRBHG is real. It’s, “In what years was he particularly vengeful?”
We start with 2009 when reigning Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene opted to turn pro rather than return to Iowa City. "No worries," thought the Hawkeyes coaching staff, "we have Jewel Hampton" (pictured). Hampton's seven rushing TDs the previous season were an Iowa freshman record.
Alas, Hampton tore his right ACL during the summer. Fellow RB Jeff Brinson, who was injured and redshirted the year before, was still hurt and had one carry all year.
Fortunately, none of that stopped Iowa from going 11–2 and winning the Orange Bowl. Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher combined for over 1,500 rushing yards and 13 TDs, but the Hawkeyes’ success was really attributed to an opportunistic defense and Ricky Stanzi’s late-game heroics.
If Hampton had been healthy, Iowa might have run the table. More on him later.
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Mika’il McAll rushed for 61 yards in the season opener before suffering a broken ankle. He played just one more game for Iowa, against Purdue last November, before being suspended for the final two games and then leaving the program completely.
Star back Marcus Coker (pictured) ran for 1,384 yards — second most in the Big Ten — in a continuation of a breakout Insight Bowl performance the year before. Then he was suspended, sat out the Insight Bowl and transferred to Stony Brook in January.
Considering the history of the AIRBHG, the Hawkeyes must have considered themselves lucky to enjoy Coker’s season before he left town.
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The reigning Orange Bowl champs thought they had their leading ground-gainer (Robinson) and rushing touchdown-maker (Wegher) returning, along with a healthy Jewel Hampton. Wrong.
Wegher left the team due to personal reasons before the season even started. (Those personal issues have reared their head fairly recently.) And after tearing his right ACL the previous year, Hampton tore the left one in a September 2010 loss to Arizona.
But it was Robinson (pictured) who really demonstrated the potency of AIRBHG. He rushed for 941 and 10 TDs but also suffered a concussion, stopped doing his classwork (“academic indigestion” indeed) and got busted for marijuana possession.
Typically, AIRBHG curses Hawkeyes backs with injury, academic problems or arrests. In Robinson’s case, he hit the trifecta.
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Before it’s all said and done, 2012 might be No. 1 on this list. After all, it’s already No. 2 and the regular season hasn’t even started yet.
There were the transfers of both McCall and Coker out of the program. Then Jordan Canzeri — who started in Coker’s place in the 2011 Insight Bowl and scored a touchdown — tore his ACL during practice in March.
As a result, a lot of hopes were pinned on incoming freshman Greg Garmon (pictured), a four-star recruit from Erie, PA. But before even setting foot on the Iowa campus, Garmon was pulled over by cops in his hometown and found to have a small amount of marijuana in his car. It remains to be seen what punishment awaits Garmon.
Is now a bad time to mention that Jewel Hampton is competing for an NFL roster spot after a productive and injury-free season spent at Southern Illinois?
If your entire football team had three players suffer ACL tears during the season, you’d consider it a year of bad luck with injuries. Now imagine dealing with three ACL tears among just your running backs. In the Big Ten.
That was Iowa’s 2004.
We start with the gut-wrenching struggles of Jermelle Lewis (left). Lewis was quite good in 2002 backing up Fred Russell in Iowa’s Orange Bowl season. But then he suffered separate ACL tears in the spring of 2003 and the 2004 regular season, the last of which ended his Iowa career for good.
This after Iowa had to deal with ACL injuries to two other running backs, Marcus Schnoor and Albert Young, earlier in the season. (Like Lewis and Hampton, Young would also endure two separate ACL tears. Unlike them, he wound up with a decent career in Iowa City.)
Throw in nagging injuries suffered by replacements Marques Simmons and Champ Davis — not to mention the failure of future star Shonn Greene to qualify out of high school — and the result is a leading ground-gainer, Sam Brownlee, who accumulated all of 227 yards on the season.
That Iowa managed to go 10–2 and share the Big Ten title is miraculous. Maybe “The Angry Iowa Running Back-Hating God” is merciful after all...
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