AMES, Iowa — As Akrum Wadley was in the midst of putting together a reception that will be remembered in Iowa Hawkeyes lore, he heard those standing on his sideline scream for him to get out of bounds. One thought quickly entered his head.
Wadley couldn’t do it. He was going to finish running around and through the Iowa State defense, which he did on his 46-yard, game-tying fourth quarter touchdown on Saturday.
The play was vital in the Hawkeyes’ 44-41 overtime victory. It also highlighted the biggest difference in Wadley’s quest to become a star running back this season.
“We got to have it,” Wadley said. “I wasn’t stepping out of bounds. I had to score.”
He did, making five tacklers miss on one of the most important plays of the game. Common sense dictates a running back whose team is trailing 38-31 in the final 2 minutes will run out of bounds when near the sideline. It stops the clock and saves precious seconds.
But Wadley wasn’t going to do it. Wide receiver Nick Easley opened up a crease downfield with a block.
“Nick was blocking downfield, and it was murder,” Wadley said.
The opening gave Wadley room, where he works best. He sensed a touchdown was near and did everything possible to get into the end zone.
“It ain’t nothing big,” Wadley said.
It is though. Wadley, who amassed 190 all-purpose yards, is showing a desire to finish off runs this season in a way he didn’t before. He was always capable of turning a small crease into a touchdown or of turning a 2-yard run into a 20-yard gain with his array of juke moves.
But he is running with more purpose as a senior. He wouldn’t have gotten into the end zone against the Cyclones if he weren’t.
“It’s effort, and he has just grown so much as a player,” guard Sean Welsh said. “A lot can be said for experience. I think he has grown quite a bit.”
Literally too. Wadley topped the 190-pound mark — a longtime goal for the coaching staff — during the offseason and is playing at 185.
After forcing three missed tackles with his quickness and jump cuts on a dump off pass, Wadley stood 10 yards from the end zone. Wadley used a stutter step to get Iowa State defensive back Evrett Edwards off balance.
It was the opening Wadley needed to attack straight ahead and power his way through Edwards into the end zone.
Wadley tried to downplay the impact his added weight had on the run, but center James Daniels couldn’t hide his surprise when he learned Wadley ran over a defender. He lost sight of Daniels near the goal line.
“He ran somebody over?” Daniels said. “OK, wow, I didn’t see that.”
AKRUM WADLEY MAKES MAGIC pic.twitter.com/obx9zNMtqs
— HeavensBarstool (@HeavensHawkeye) September 9, 2017
Wadley was always a dangerous runner. His athleticism assured him of that. He will never be confused for a power back, but his added strength and new mindset gives his running a new dimension.
It’s turned a playmaker into a more dynamic back.
“When that guy is out there running there is no telling what can happen,” Welsh said. “He is all over the place sometimes. It could be a touchdown. He could be 20 yards. It could be 50 yards. You never know.”
Wadley did. He wasn’t running out of bounds. Daniels initially wondered why he turned up field. Then he watched how Wadley was running. He didn’t see Wadley get into the end zone but he knew there was only one way the play would end.
“I saw him go,” Daniels said. “He started [waving] the ball a little bit. I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s going to score.’”