A struggling Iowa offense would benefit from giving more opportunities to sophomore running back Tyler Goodson.
Through two weeks, the Iowa Hawkeyes have been completely unrecognizable on offense compared to recent years. Due to multiple factors, the Hawkeyes are 0-2 for the first time since 2000. Sticking out like a sore thumb, though, is the negligence of the running game.
Kirk Ferentz’s traditional pro-style offense – often equipped with multiple tight ends and sometimes an extra offensive lineman – has long been known for establishing the run. In Iowa’s first two games, it’s been the exact opposite.
For whatever reason, the Hawks went away from the running game on Saturday, despite leading Northwestern 17-0 after the first quarter. With a first-year starting quarterback in Spencer Petras, it goes against conventional wisdom.
Petras, who made just his second career start against Northwestern, threw the ball 50 times in Saturday’s 21-20 loss. It was the most pass attempts by an Iowa quarterback since 2014. For comparison’s sake, former starter CJ Beathard never eclipsed 40 pass attempts, while Nate Stanely never hit 50.
It becomes even more puzzling when factoring in the success Iowa has had when utilizing sophomore running back Tyler Goodson. Goodson led the Hawkeyes in rushing yards last season (638), becoming the first freshman to do so in program history.
In two games this season, Goodson has just 29 rush attempts, an average of 14.5 per game. Though a small sample size, Goodson’s lack of opportunities is concerning to say the least. Iowa rushed the ball just 23 times on Saturday, with Goodson garnering just 13 of those carries.
“Yeah, we didn’t run the ball effectively enough today.” said coach Ferentz after the loss to Northwestern. “I’ll go on record saying that, we don’t want to play that way. Looking for a lot more balance than that.”
While Iowa didn’t have much success running the ball under center, it was a different story when operating out of shotgun formations.
According to Chad Leistikow, the Hawkeyes averaged just 3.97 yards per play on shotgun passes, contrasted by an average of 5.88 yards on shotgun runs. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called for shotgun formations 49 times, but only eight times were those running plays. Out of shotgun, Goodson had a 15-yard touchdown rush and a 13-yard gainer on a critical third-and-12.
“Certainly, we had a couple good runs, hit on a couple of them, but with not enough consistency,” Ferentz said. “So that’s something we’re going to have to get addressed.”
Iowa’s reluctance to stick with the run has been confusing, especially with the presence of an inexperienced quarterback. The Hawks have one of the Big Ten’s most dynamic players in Tyler Goodson. There was a reason he was named to the pre-season Doak Walker award watch list, which is given to college football’s top running back. It’s time to start feeding Goodson the rock.