116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — As members of the Goodson family travel from suburban Atlanta to all of Iowa’s games, they’ve experienced a few stressful moments.
“I think my husband had a really rough go at it this season,” Felicia Goodson said with a laugh.
Her son — Tyler Goodson — is Iowa’s first running back since 2017 to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. The path to 1,000 hasn’t exactly been easy, though.
“This season has been a roller coaster in the run game,” Tyler Goodson said.
The offensive line in front of him entered the 2021 season with 38 career starts across the five positions. The 2020 offensive line, in comparison, had 68 going into the season opener.
That meant fewer open holes for the speedy Goodson to burst through.
“He’s been patient,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We've been a work in progress and still are up front.”
After rushing for 75-plus yards in all but one game in 2020, Goodson surpassed 75 yards in only three of the first eight games.
Goodson still had some electrifying runs during that stretch, including a 56-yard touchdown against Indiana, a 46-yard touchdown against Kent State and a 32-yard run against Purdue.
He had plenty of handoffs where he had nowhere to go, too.
The 5-foot-10, 199-pound tailback caused defenders to miss 30 tackles in those eight games, according to Pro Football Focus, yet his average rush was 4.1 yards — still respectable, but below his 2019 and 2020 levels.
Goodson stayed positive throughout the process, though.
“He never really criticized them,” his mother said. “If he was frustrated, he really didn’t show it. … Every week, he’d say, ‘OK, it’ll get better’”
Ferentz praised Goodson’s “really good attitude.”
“I appreciate guys — not that everybody's got a smile and all that — but I appreciate that guys look like they're excited to be doing what they're doing,” Ferentz said. “That's what he looks like.”
As Iowa’s offensive line has improved, so have Goodson’s opportunities. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry in Iowa’s four games in November.
Goodson credited the improvement to the offense being “consistent up front.”
The junior running back had 15 runs of 10-plus yards in the last four games, compared to 16 in Iowa’s first eight games.
That includes a 55-yard run against Nebraska that was instrumental in Iowa’s fourth-quarter drive to take a 28-21 lead.
He tried tapping his helmet beforehand to signal he needed a breather. The coaches didn’t see it, though, so he thought, “I’m going to stick it out.” Then the offensive line gave him a big hole to run through.
“It was funny because when he got up off the ground, he kind of put his hands on his waist,” his mother said. “I knew he was exhausted.”
The other Tyler in a starring role on the offense — center Tyler Linderbaum — has taken notice of Goodson’s breathtaking running.
“He’s been awesome this year,” Linderbaum said. “He's definitely made us look a little better at some times.”
Linderbaum said Goodson’s confidence is at an “all-time high” going into postseason play.
“That’s what you want in a college football player,” Linderbaum said. “It helps the team out a lot when they’re playing like that.”
Some of Goodson’s improvements have been in areas that don’t jump out on a box score.
“The thing that really excited me about his last game against Nebraska was just his ability in pass protection,” Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. “He cut down a couple of blitzers in a really effective way. ... Not a lot of guys in college football are really good at pass protection, and he’s really grown there.”
On the other side of the ball, Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg noticed Goodson “having a better idea of where the hole is going to be before the play happens.”
Goodson and the improved offensive line ahead of him will face a tougher task in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game.
Three of No. 13 Iowa’s four opponents in November are not bowl-eligible. Michigan, on the other hand, is No. 2 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. A win would almost certainly give the Wolverines a spot in the coveted four-team CFP.
“We’ve got to run the ball if we want to win the game,” Goodson said. “Going into the game, I know it’s not going to be big play after big play after big play. I know it’s going to be tough sledding.”
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