Oct. 30, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It has been a long month, but life and football are no longer fuzzy for University of Iowa running back Damon Bullock.
Bullock was injured early in the second quarter while leading the Hawkeyes on a go-ahead drive against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15. Before the injury -- a concussion -- Bullock was playing the best football of his young career. The sophomore from Mansfield, Texas, averaged 5.9 yards on 13 carries, with a long of 27.
Then, after gaining two yards on a run up the middle, Bullock sustained a blow to the helmet and lay unconscious at the Panther 26-yard line for more than a minute. He has since watched the play on television, but does not recall the event "in real life."
Bullock was OK'd to return to game action Saturday at Northwestern, and he picked up where he left off, mixing power running with quick, change-of-direction moves to the tune of 107 yards on 22 carries. In workmanlike fashion, his biggest gain was nine yards.
"It has been a long five weeks, seeing everybody play and having fun," Bullock said. "I tried to get back out and help my team win. It has been awhile."
The original estimated return date for Bullock was Oct. 13 at Michigan State. But a whack to the helmet during drills leading up to the East Lansing trip sidelined him again.
"It's good to get good players back anytime. Damon played a good game, but it is more remarkable given the fact he hasn't been on a game field in six weeks. He had fresh legs and I was impressed with his awareness. Everything he did was pretty doggone good. That is encouraging; it was a good return for him, and that's something we can all be optimistic about."
UI head football coach
So he waited as the Hawkeyes defeated Michigan State 19-16 in double overtime. And he waited during a loss at home to Penn State. The wait now appears to be over.
With sophomore running back Mark Weisman aggravating an existing ankle injury against the Wildcats, Bullock returned to the backfield. On his first series he picked up 7, 8, 7, and 6 yards. By the end of the quarter, he had 43 yards on seven attempts.
"It feels great coming back out with the team and fighting with them," Bullock said. "I want to do anything I can to help the team win."
Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, a victory eluded them Oct. 27 during a 28-17 decision at Ryan Field. The return and ensuing effort from Bullock was a highlight of an offense that gained 336 yards, 23 first downs, and controlled 34:25 of clock. Bullock was also the team's second-leading receiver with five catches for 41 yards and long of 13.
"It's good to get good players back anytime," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Damon played a good game, but it is more remarkable given the fact he hasn't been on a game field in six weeks. He had fresh legs and I was impressed with his awareness. Everything he did was pretty doggone good. That is encouraging; it was a good return for him, and that's something we can all be optimistic about."
Bullock also survived a helmet-to-helmet collision with no negative after-affects.
"I got up, shook it off, and came back to the huddle," he said.
Before Bullock left the Northern Iowa game, he was Iowa's leading rusher on the season with 280 yards on 65 carries. During his absence, Weisman ran for 623 yards in the next four games. Both Bullock and Weisman are youngsters; Bullock has played in 10 college games, Weisman has played in eight.
"Hopefully we will have both guys in there and that will help us," Ferentz said.
Nolan MacMillan has replaced an injured Brandon Scherff at left tackle since Bullock last carried a football. Like Scherff, backup Andrew Donnal suffered a season-ending injury against Penn State on Oct. 20.
"We miss (Scherff and Donnal), but I felt the line played well," Bullock said. "Jordan Walsh and MacMillan came in and did a good job. We picked up where we left off."
And Bullock picked up where he left off. For the Hawkeyes that could mean blurry days are a thing of the past.