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Tyler Goodson sparks strong Iowa rushing game, just in time for showdown with Penn State

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The reason Iowa keeps handing the football to Tyler Goodson is because of what he did on the final play of the third quarter Friday.

The Hawkeyes were leading Minnesota 14-0, but the offense had just been planted on the sideline for 11 minutes. It seemed like hours since Goodson’s 7-yard run had produced Iowa’s second touchdown.

Quarterback Spencer Petras handed the ball to Goodson and sent him into the middle of the Gophers’ defense, where he found so much space that he was able to gallop for 45 yards to set up a third Hawkeye touchdown.

Entering the game, much of the discussion centered around Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who was averaging 190 yards rushing per game. Goodson was the back being talked about afterward.

The sophomore from Georgia gained a career-high 142 yards on his 20 carries, for a 7.1-yard average. He scored two touchdowns for a second consecutive week. Ibrahim got to 144 yards but required 33 carries for a 4.4-yard average. He was held out of the end zone in Iowa’s 35-7 victory.

“We’ve seen what Tyler can do with the ball in his hands. He’s dynamic,” Petras said. “We were chopping away in the run game. We were getting solid yardage every play, and one of them was bound to pop.”

Goodson has 375 yards rushing this season, averaging 6 per carry. He has helped the offense score 84 points, all on touchdowns, in the past two games. That puts the Hawkeyes at 2-2 heading into a 2:30 p.m. Saturday showdown at Penn State on BTN.

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson scores his second touchdown against Minnesota on Friday, and his fifth of the season. Goodson, a sophomore, rushed for a career-high 142 yards in a 35-7 victory over the Gophers. But Iowa has found it difficult to gain yards on the ground against Penn State in recent years. Goodson will look to turn that around Saturday.

More:Hawkeyes are seething at 0-2 start, with an offense looking to restore balance

The Nittany Lions have won six consecutive meetings with Iowa. Last October in Kinnick Stadium, Goodson was the Hawkeyes’ leading rusher … with 35 yards. He got 29 of those on one carry. Penn State won 17-12.

The Nittany Lions are 0-4 this year, coming off a 30-23 loss at Nebraska. But the run defense remains stout, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. This will be a prime opportunity for Goodson to show how much he’s grown since his freshman year. Or maybe how much Iowa has begun to lean on him with first-year starting quarterback Petras coming off his worst game so far (9 of 18 for 111 yards with a touchdown and an interception).

“We’re really finding out who we are as a team,” Goodson said after Iowa beat Minnesota for a sixth consecutive time.

“It builds our confidence knowing that we can beat any team. We expect great things in the future, and I believe this team can make those things happen.”

More:Iowa's new quarterback, Spencer Petras, knows he has the firepower around him to succeed

Goodson, and backup Mekhi Sargent (nine carries for 86 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota), are running behind an offensive line that has been able to assert its will the past two weeks. Center Tyler Linderbaum is playing at an all-Big Ten Conference level. Left tackle Alaric Jackson has been walling off the edge and allowing Goodson to flourish on stretch plays.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 13: Spencer Petras #7 of the Iowa Hawkeyes hands the ball to teammate Tyler Goodson #15 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second quarter of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on November 13, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

But, as Petras pointed out, a successful run game requires more than that. Fullback Monte Pottebaum has been blasting linebackers out of Goodson’s way. And Iowa’s wide receivers were integral in the effort against Minnesota because the Gophers like to keep their safeties low and heavily involved in run defense. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz praised Tyrone Tracy Jr. for a block he threw right in front of the team’s sideline on one long gain Friday.

“I think we’ve just got a lot of guys putting vertical pressure on the defensive linemen, getting after it,” Linderbaum said of an Iowa rushing attack that has churned out 461 yards in the past two games.

“(Goodson) is a quick and elusive back, can read holes real well. Put anyone out there, they’re going to find that seam and hit the hole hard.”

Linderbaum said Goodson’s 45-yard run Friday — the longest play of the game by either team — was an example of an offensive line that wanted to “finish on our terms.” It has long been the Hawkeyes’ preference to wear down opponents with running plays.

That’s something Iowa has not been able to do against Penn State, however.

Here is Iowa’s rushing output in the last four meetings with the Nittany Lions:

  • 2019: 70 yards, 2.3 per carry
  • 2018: 135, 3.6
  • 2017: 82, 3.6
  • 2016: 30, 1.2

If the Hawkeyes can rush for more than 200 yards for a third consecutive week, against a Penn State team that yields ground grudgingly, it would be a testament that maybe Goodson is correct about the potential of this year’s team.

Goodson praised his offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks and really anyone in a Hawkeye uniform, for his performance Friday. Then he offered some analysis that you would expect from an Iowa running back.

Iowa offensive lineman Justin Britt (63) lifts running back Tyler Goodson (15) in celebration after Goodson scored a touchdown against Minnesota during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

“I can’t thank those guys (the fullbacks) enough for allowing this running back room to be successful in the run game,” Goodson said.

“The more successful we are in the run game, the better chance we have of winning.”

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.