116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Tyler Goodson called it.
“I think the running game is definitely close,” the Hawkeyes’ starting running back said last week.
Four days later, Goodson and the Hawkeyes proved their case.
Iowa accumulated 185 yards on the ground against Northwestern, which were second only to its 206 rushing yards against Kent State.
The showing was a stark contrast from a challenging October for Iowa’s running backs. The Hawkeyes had almost twice as many rushing yards against Northwestern as they did in the losses to Purdue and Wisconsin combined.
Opponents have tackled Iowa’s offense for a loss 73 times through the first nine games. No other Big Ten West offense has been tackled for a loss more than 59 times.
The player leading Iowa’s revival of the running game is not much of a surprise.
Goodson, who was on the 2021 preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, had an especially productive evening in Evanston, Ill. His 141 yards were the most for an Iowa running back in a Big Ten game since he ran for 142 yards last year against Minnesota.
His 6.7 yards per carry against Northwestern was also his best since averaging 7.0 yards against Kent State.
Outside of Goodson, the Hawkeyes’ revival of the rushing game involved a few faces that weren’t at the top of the depth chart at the beginning of the season.
Wide receiver Arland Bruce IV, along with his three receptions, had a 10-yard touchdown run in the first half.
Running back Gavin Williams, who moved up on the depth chart because of Ivory Kelly-Martin’s foot injury, picked up 41 yards on just 10 carries.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Kelly-Martin remains “day-to-day” with the injury and did not list him on this week’s two-deep depth chart.
Ferentz said Williams “plays older” than the redshirt freshman is and is a “really mature guy.”
“Gavin is kind of a quiet, reserved guy, at least around us,” Ferentz said. “But he plays strong and steady. He's really a detail guy. He's kind of older than he is chronologically.”
He complements Goodson well, too.
“He's a different type of runner than Tyler,” Ferentz said. “That does give us a good balance there.”
Gavin isn’t the only running back with the last name Williams who has impressed Iowa’s coaching staff.
“We’re high on Leshon, too,” Ferentz said. “We have three guys right there that are on the right path right now.”
The path ahead for Goodson and the two Williams backs is going to be more difficult than going up against Northwestern, though.
The Wildcats allow 5.4 yards per carry. Iowa’s last three regular-season opponents are much more adept at defending the run.
Minnesota allows 3.5 yards per carry. Illinois? 4.1. Nebraska? 3.7.
Even with the difficult schedule ahead, Bruce said the offense’s success on the ground against Northwestern “gives us a lot of confidence heading into these next few games.”
That confidence doesn’t solve quite every problem, including the lack of experience Iowa has on the offensive line that blocks for the running backs.
Outside of center Tyler Linderbaum, who has 30 career starts, the rest of the first-team offensive linemen on this week’s depth chart have a combined 31 career starts.
“We've got plenty of room for growth,” Ferentz said. “That's where these days in between the games are so important to have a chance to work.”
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