Just how valuable is Tyler Goodson to Iowa football? Look no further than the win vs. Kent State

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — When dissecting how Iowa might offer enough offensive juice to supplement its regularly scheduled defensive dominance, the conversation often revolves around one individual.

The quarterback of any attack garners the most attention, good or bad, and it's no different with Spencer Petras. The talks hone in on his every move — the throws, the errant passes, the overall progression, the dynamic ability he does or doesn't provide — and Iowa's offense is graded as such. But, after three games to start what could be an unforgettable campaign in Iowa City, it's clear Iowa's weekly offensive assessment will actually be determined by running back Tyler Goodson

We knew entering 2021 that Goodson was approaching workhorse status. But his importance has been underestimated by even the loftiest prognostications. Saturday's 30-7 win over Kent State again accentuated Goodson's value to a Hawkeyes offense still very much finding its footing.  

Iowa junior running back Tyler Goodson celebrates with the student fans after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against Kent State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

As part of an offensive performance that landed somewhere between large leap forward and detrimental backpedaling, it was Goodson who consistently pushed the Hawkeyes back on track. The box score speaks for itself — 22 carries for 153 yards and three touchdowns — but it's when those back-breaking runs arrived that magnified Goodson's importance. 

"Just to see him go off like that," wide receiver Tyrone Tracy said, "you can't do anything but smile for the guy. I really hope he keeps going because with him doing that, it's just going to make the whole offense better."

More:Iowa football vs. Kent State report card: Offense improves while defense remains elite

The first scoring scamper was as easy as they come — and Goodson basically admitted as much postgame with how lopsided Kent State's defensive alignment was before the 46-yard run around the left side. But Iowa, at the time, was already facing its third third-down situation of the opening quarter, and couldn't afford to waste the great field position its defense helped generate with a timely safety. Goodson was the unquestioned call in that situation.  

His next end-zone celebration was easily the most pivotal. With the Hawkeyes needing a third-quarter boost after surviving Kent State's red-zone trip — and the Iowa lead only a modest nine points — Goodson was the man to make it happen.

His 35-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-9 arrived after nine consecutive plays gaining single-digit yardage. Without that substantial scamper, the Hawkeyes were likely looking at a long field goal incapable of completely burying Kent State. In that spot, a clock-chewing drive that soaked up more than six minutes couldn't end with three.

"We knew Kent State had a good defense. They had some good athletes," said Goodson, who capped the career day with a 2-yard touchdown run in the final five minutes. "But our guys up front did a good job of getting to their assignments and making sure the running backs had just a split second to get to the open field."

While running backs crediting their offensive line is a cliché match made in football heaven, there's more substance to Goodson's praise given the situation. Even with senior Kyler Schott returning in limited fashion, the Hawkeyes consistently rotated between Justin Britt, Connor Colby, Cody Ince and Schott at both guard positions. Expect that to continue in the games ahead. 

More:Leistikow's thoughts: Iowa football takes care of business vs. Kent State behind usual formula

As Iowa searches for flawless up-front cohesion, Goodson's dazzling efforts are pivotal in creating confidence for a unit featuring several new faces. Watching No. 15 zoom by several Golden Flashes provides promise to the process that's so crucial early in careers. 

"T-Good is the one who gets the glory with the ball in his arms," Petras said, "but it's only possible with those guys up front who bust their tails and make a hole for him. With a guy like T-Good — if the offensive line makes a hole — he’s going to take advantage.”

More:Iowa football's Kirk Ferentz criticizes overturned completion vs. Kent State: 'I hope they clean it up'

Whenever the little number next to your name turns into a single digit — as it did this week for Iowa in both the Associated Press and Coaches poll — everything goes under the microscope. Each game, each drive, even each play, shapes public opinion on if such a ranking is deserved. Call it the nature of the beast in college football's crazed world.             

Which means Iowa's offensive scrutiny likely isn't going anywhere, especially if the Hawkeyes maintain their highly ranked status for an extended stretch. The Kent State performance was a microcosm of success until further notice.  

On Saturdays, that starts and ends with Goodson.

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.