IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa’s running game has had an up-and-down quality all season.
From 158 yards against Indiana to 67 against Iowa State. From 206 yards against Kent State to 54 against Colorado State.
It’s a ride the Hawkeyes want to correct, and they think that correction is coming.
“It’s part of the game,” running back Tyler Goodson said. “We’re facing good defenses every week. We know that.”
“Obviously, it sucks when you’re not running the ball like you want to, but it’s just little gains over time,” center Tyler Linderbaum said.
The Hawkeyes rank 12th in the Big Ten with 121.3 rushing yards per game. They’re 13th in yards per carry at 3.3.
Of course, they’re also 4-0 and ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, so there is that.
Goodson pointed back to Saturday’s 24-14 win over Colorado State, when he had 18 carries for 57 yards.
“We won, that’s all that matters, and I’m going to do all I can to contribute to our team winning,” he said.
Linderbaum said it’s about execution, and the Hawkeyes have struggled, especially up front.
Iowa’s offensive line was going to be by rotation at least for a while, something coach Kirk Ferentz expected. A foot injury to guard Kyler Schott before fall camp started shook up the rotation, and took an experienced player out of the lineup.
Schott is back now, easing into game shape, and that could make a difference in the future, Ferentz said.
“It should help us, but it's not the total answer,” Ferentz said. “We just have to keep getting better. That's the biggest thing. Just keep working at it. As I said Saturday, I think we've got to provide better direction maybe, a little better scheme, and execute better. It's a combination of both things to try to figure out what we can do well.”
Ferentz also pointed to the execution, going back to a play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win, when wide receiver Charlie Jones was brought down for a 13-yard loss on a running play when the Hawkeyes had a first down at the Colorado State 14-yard line.
“Bigger issue there is it kills momentum,” Ferentz said. “We had a little momentum at that point, just to the big play. Now we go back, however many yards it was, kind of takes the air out of the balloon a little bit. Luckily, Caleb (Shudak) came through with a good field goal attempt at that point.
“Those are the bigger concerns. The little (plays), if you run it up in there for one yard or something like that, it doesn't kill you, but those kinds of plays really kill drives. It's just all part of execution. A lot of it's concentration. A lot of it is just a little more experience and interaction with whatever situation might present itself.”
Colorado State’s defense was also stacked against Goodson, who had a career-high 153 yards the week before against Kent State.
“I think for any running back, having a game like I did two weeks ago, and then having a game like I did a week ago, it’s not the standard,” Goodson said. “But you have to know as a running back that not every game is going to be your best game.”
Avoiding frustration comes with experience, something Goodson, a three-year starter, has learned.
“Personally, for me, if I’m not having such a great game in the run game, I tend to tell myself to keep pushing, keep pushing, keep progressing,” he said. “So when that big run comes, or a big explosive play does come, I’ll be ready for it, be ready for any situation. For me, it’s all about getting stronger through the game.”
The running game is an area where the Hawkeyes want to get stronger, and they expect that is coming.
“We know it’s going to click. It’s going to click soon,” Linderbaum said. “It’s just trusting the course, trusting the coaches, trusting each other.”