Iowa wide receiver scored a touchdown on a play he never expected to. Hear him explain that, plus praise the role of the wideouts in general: Mark Emmert, firstname.lastname@example.org
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa was eager to put its offense on display Saturday, winning the coin toss and demanding the football first in its showdown with No. 7 Minnesota.
You quickly got the sense that things would be different in No. 22 Iowa’s 23-19 victory when true freshman Tyler Goodson jogged into the huddle to make his first career start at running back. Goodson was no longer the playmaker-in-waiting. His time was now, 10 games into his tenure.
Goodson ran for 26 yards on a third-and-1 play. He has a burst no other Hawkeye running back has, and he showed it. That Hawkeye drive ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Nate Stanley to Nico Ragaini.
An Iowa team that entered play with 22 touchdowns and 22 field goals needed that early success. It was the first time the Hawkeyes reached the end zone on their initial drive since the Sept. 28 blowout of Middle Tennessee State.
On the next Hawkeye offensive series, Goodson broke off a 21-yard run and then made another play only he on this roster could make. From the Minnesota 10-yard line, Goodson took a handoff and swept right, shedding two defenders grasping at his heels before plowing through another Gopher for the final two yards into the end zone.
Offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said he missed a block on that run. When he looked up, he saw that Goodson had made sure it all turned out OK.
Wirfs went to the rookie afterward and made him this promise: “Next time, he’s not going to touch you.”
It was the second touchdown of Goodson’s career. He became the first true freshman to start at running back for Iowa since Greg Garmon in 2012.
Iowa doesn’t let its first-year players conduct media interviews. But someone in the athletic department must have known how special this moment was because a Hawkeye staffer interviewed him afterward and provided this quote to the media:
“I was speechless when (running backs coach Derrick Foster) first told me (I was starting). For me, I didn’t focus on the fact I was starting, but focused on the next play and tried to make an impact that would help our team win the game.”
That’s what he did. Starting from the first series.
“He brings that life to the game, and when you get the ball in his hands you never know what’s going to happen,” junior wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette said of Goodson. “He made his presence felt and he gave that to the whole team.”
Iowa’s third drive belonged to Tyrone Tracy, another freshman playmaker. The wide receiver who brought the “sweet feet” label to the locker room grabbed a 15-yard pass on the first play. Then it was a 27-yard catch and run down Iowa’s sideline, an 11-yard run and a six-yard reception in quick succession. That set up Iowa’s third touchdown, on a 5-yard pass to Smith-Marsette.
Suddenly, the Hawkeyes, owners of an offense criticized for being stale, for too often sputtering when nearing the opposition’s goal line, had a 20-3 lead and the Gophers reeling.
Minnesota adjusted at halftime, started bringing more pressure on Stanley. But the early lead, when Iowa turned to its best players, when Iowa got touchdowns instead of field goals, held up.
Goodson finished with 94 yards on 13 carries before limping off the field in the fourth quarter. Iowa didn’t play Toren Young for the first time this season, relying on only two running backs (Mekhi Sargent had six carries for 18 yards).
“That kind of set the tone for him the rest of the game,” Stanley said of Goodson’s early 26-yard run. “And he did a great job really the whole game at pass protection, running routes, running the ball hard, making people miss. It was just another day for him, really. He’s a great player.
“We’re confident he can make those plays any day of the week.”
Tracy had 77 yards on a career-high six receptions, another game of excellent production in the absence of injured wideout Brandon Smith. He has 16 catches for 323 yards in his past four games.
“It's because he's worked hard, has a great attitude,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Tracy.
Goodson and Tracy are big-time recruits, the kind of skill position players the Hawkeyes don’t often get. So it makes sense that the Hawkeyes, facing the final ranked team they will see this regular season, took the wrapping paper off of them and let them show a national TV audience what they can do.
What viewers saw was the future of this offense. And on this day, it looked plenty bright.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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