By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Though it didn’t always seem like it, Brian Ferentz excelled as a play caller against Nebraska this past Friday.
With his quarterback struggling to make plays, and with Nebraska flirting with an upset, Brian Ferentz stuck with his running game in the second half, and was eventually rewarded for his patience and persistence, and for his trust in sophomore running back Tyler Goodson.
Iowa only had 35 rushing yards at halftime, so it would’ve been easy for Brian Ferentz to panic and abandon the running game, as he did against Northwestern when Spencer Petras attempted 50 passes during a 21-20 loss.
To throw 50 passes in Iowa’s offense makes little to no sense under almost any circumstance, but even more so in this case against Northwestern since Petras was making just his second career start.
Iowa also has three proven running backs, and two of the Big Ten’s top offensive linemen, so it would make no sense under any circumstance to abandon the running game.
But that’s what happened against Northwestern, and Iowa paid a heavy price for it. Goodson only had 13 carries for 43 yards against Northwestern, and that’s just not enough carries for a player as talented as him.
Goodson has been a playmaker since his very first game last season, and the sophomore from Suwanee, Ga., continues to get better.
But until the Nebraska game, Goodson hadn’t been asked to carry such a heavy workload.
He gained 87 of his 111 rushing yards in the second half against Nebraska, but none of the yards came easy. Goodson also had 19 of his 30 rushing attempts in the second half.
He basically put the offense on his shoulders and led the way to a 26-20 victory with his fourth career 100-yard rushing game.
With Goodson moving the chains, Iowa was able to control tempo and work time off the clock.
Petras only attempted 11 passes in the second half, which is probably about the right amount based on how he was performing.
Petras struggled with accuracy throughout the Nebraska game, and he made some poor reads and ill-advised throws.
So seeing that his quarterback was struggling, Brian Ferentz put his faith and trust in Goodson, and in his offensive line, to lead the way to victory.
Goodson’s longest run only covered 13 yards, but it takes just 10 yards for a first down, and sometimes, an offense has to work really hard for first downs.
Credit to Nebraska’s defense for being physical and for tackling well in space because nothing came easy for the Iowa running game.
It’s reasonable to think that Illinois will load the box against Iowa on Saturday in hopes of making the offense one-dimensional.
Petras hasn’t performed well enough to strike fear in any defense, so why not dare Iowa to pass?
Goodson already had shown in previous games that he is explosive, elusive and versatile. But against Nebraska, he showed endurance and durability. He also took care of the football despite running in heavy traffic, and despite having defenders grabbing for it in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t Goodson’s most productive game as a Hawkeye, considering he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry, but it might have been his best game because of the circumstances.
Brian Ferentz trusted Goodson to carry the load, and Goodson met the challenge.
Senior backup Mekhi Sargent only had five carries for 18 yards against Nebraska. But he also scored a touchdown and is always there in case Goodson’s needs a break.
Goodson is clearly Iowa’s featured running back, and with that comes a big responsibility.
His offense needed him to rise to the occasion, and though it wasn’t easy, Goodson seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.
He is evolving as a running back, and the same could be said for Brian Ferentz as an offensive coordinator.