Iowa Football

Iowa wins when Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson play H-O-R-S-E

Hawkeye tight ends combine for eight catches, 208 yards, 3 TDs and enough snaps for everyone


Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) runs for a 54-yard touchdown against Indiana in the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Iowa won 42-16. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) runs for a 54-yard touchdown against Indiana in the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Iowa won 42-16. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Tight end is one position you can definitively say the Hawkeyes have swagger, lore, tradition or however you want to term super-clutch, go-to, Swiss Army knife kind of players.

Iowa has had tight end All-Americans, a Mackey Award winner and a small army of NFL tight ends.

When the question of Iowa tight end history came up to T.J. Hockenson after the Hawkeyes treated Indiana like an escalator to the end zone in Saturday’s 42-16 victory, the junior from Chariton knew exactly what to say.

“I love it,” he said. “There are some tight ends who’ve gone through the University of Iowa. Just to have your name even announced with theirs is an honor.”

Iowa has really bought into the Iowa tight end thing this season. According to Pro Football Focus, most teams in FBS football run two tight ends 13 percent of the time in games. Iowa is close to 40 percent.

Of course, Iowa has two really good tight ends and so, yeah, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is playing to his personnel’s strengths.

And Saturday was a show of power.

It looked like a game of H-O-R-S-E between Hockenson and junior Noah Fant.

Hockenson caught four passes for 107 yards and two TDs. The TD count is where Hockenson got Fant, who caught four passes for 101 yards and a TD.

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This was the first time this season Iowa had two 100-yard receivers in a game. The last time was Pitt 2011, when Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis did it. This also likely is the first time Iowa has had two tight ends go for more than 100 yards in one game.

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“Those big tight ends were tough for us to match up with, more difficult than I was hoping it would be,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “Those big bodies, they could run. 87 (Fant) and 38 (Hockenson), both of them outran us, which it is what it is.”

It is.

Weird week for Fant. A leaping run on a tight end jet sweep last week at Minnesota landed him in concussion protocol. After the game, Fant family members took to social media to complain about snap counts.

Fant made it back and mattered. His 58-yard reception was Iowa’s longest play of the day. He also caught a 28-yard TD pass, the 18th of his career.

Maybe head coach Kirk Ferentz made a snap count comment.

“Our plan was, I don’t know how many snaps he got today, but we weren’t ... somebody is counting those, we weren’t going to play him a lot,” Ferentz said. “I couldn’t resist that, it was so easy, but we weren’t going to play him a lot.”

OK, Ferentz went there, but there seems to be harmony. The numbers certainly show it.

All-Americans get Fatheads (life-size photo graphics) put up in the position group meeting rooms at Iowa. That tight end room has got to be getting crowded.

“The history that we have here is really special, especially in the tight end room,” Hockenson said. “There is no word for it. It means a lot and we’re just trying to work toward that.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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