The Day After: Hawkeyes' Running Game Struggles
Iowa's running game couldn't get going in Saturday's 19-10 win over Illinois at Kinnick Stadium.
Tyler Goodson had 21 carries, but only 38 yards. Mekhi Sargent had just one carry for six yards. Toren Young had three carries for seven yards.
It was bad enough that coach Kirk Ferentz joked that quarterback Nate Stanley, who averaged 5.5 yards on four carries, might be at running back next week against Nebraska.
Goodson has the most speed among Iowa's backs, and he needs to get as many carries as possible. It would be wrong not to keep feeding him. But Illinois seemed to know where he would be for most of the day, and it was hard to get him going.
Sargent and Young have power, and Iowa may have to lean on them a little more in Friday's game against Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes had topped 100 rushing yards in three of their previous four games, so maybe this is just a blip.
But if the Hawkeyes can't run the ball on Friday at Nebraska...
They can throw it
Stanley threw for 308 yards, although he wasn't quite as sharp as other times this season. He was 18-of-35 passing, and he had one interception.
Seven Hawkeyes caught at least one pass on Saturday. Five of Stanley's completions were to his tight ends — Sam LaPorta, Nate Wieting and Shaun Beyer.
If Iowa can get the short passing game going, with more tight end usage, it might be able to open up the running game.
Iowa had 387 yards of offense on Saturday. That's a good number.
But Ferentz will want to be more balanced.
There is no doubt about Kristian Welch's impact at middle linebacker.
Welch had a team-high 12 tackles on Saturday. Ten of those were solos.
Welch's recent absence because of a stinger forced some changes to Iowa's defense, but his return makes the defense that much stronger.
Welch leads Iowa with 70 tackles despite missing three games.
"He's done a good job, don't get me wrong, but this is the year where it's started to really click for him," Ferentz said. "We played him on special teams right off the bat, but this is where it really started to click for him, and then just when it's starting to click, he gets hurt."
He's healthy now. And Iowa's defense is better for it.
Duncan is MVP
A kicker being the most valuable player is something that seems so Hawkeyes.
But Keith Duncan has been a big part of Iowa's season. He's had three games of four field goals — all wins — and he's been accurate, going 27-of-32 in field goals and 22-of-22 in extra points.
Duncan set a Big Ten single-season record in field goals on Saturday. He's impressed Ferentz with how he's been since losing the starting kicker's job after the 2016 season.
"I didn't know he could break the record today. I had no idea," Ferentz said. "But to me it's more about his attitude, the work ethic he's displayed, and he's a great teammate. Every day you see him, he's got a smile on his face. He's a positive guy."