Iowa football hoping to ‘set the tone’ for the season against Indiana

Kickoff of the Hawkeyes’ season-opener is set for 2:30 p.m. at Kinnick Stadium.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson hurdles MTSU’s Gregory Grate, Jr. during a football game between Iowa and Middle Tennessee State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, September 28, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Blue Raiders, 48-3.

Chris Werner, Football Reporter

That’s what Iowa’s junior running back Tyler Goodson said Saturday’s season-opening contest against Indiana could do for the rest of the Hawkeyes’ 12-game regular-season slate. 

The 17th-ranked Hoosiers will serve as the first ranked opponent Iowa has faced in a season-opener since 2000. Iowa begins the 2021 campaign one spot behind Indiana in those rankings at 18th.

Indiana’s high-powered offense from a season ago — which averaged 28.9 points per game — led the Hoosiers to a 6-2 final record after Tom Allen’s squad began the year perfect through it’s first four contests. 

Michael Penix Jr., Indiana’s starting signal caller and Ty Fryfogle, the Hoosiers’ No. 1 receiving threat are each returning from a 2020 team that was ranked as high as ninth in the nation. 

Penix Jr. threw 14 touchdowns, half of them to Fryfogle, against just four picks a year ago, and is back on the field after tearing his ACL in November of last year. 

“I think [this game] is very important,” Goodson said Tuesday. “[If] we go in here, win this game like we want to, I think that’ll give us momentum going into Week 2, Week 3, and later on in the season.” 

This Week 1 challenge will give the Hawkeyes an advantage of knowing where they stack up against a quality opponent a week before they take on a top 10 team in Ames in Week 2. 

Junior tight end Sam Laporta is excited to participate in the first of the team’s two marquee matchups to begin the season. 

“You see where you stand right out the gate,” LaPorta said. “We’re really excited to face a top-20 opponent but, you know, we’re a good football team, too.”

Penix Jr. and Fryfogel are two of the many upperclassmen on Indiana’s roster. That experience, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says, is one of the many reasons Indiana has had success over the past few seasons. 

“We’re looking at a veteran team, a good football team,” Ferentz said. “And they’re good in all three phases. So they’ve got a lot of good veteran players back. They’ve also added a significant amount of grad transfers that we don’t know a lot about and how they’ll factor in the equation.”

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While the Penix Jr.-to-Fryfogel connection will likely be a large piece of Indiana’s attack Saturday, the Hawkeye’s offense will presumably be more focused on the ground game, fueled by Goodson.

The junior from Suwanee, Georgia, has his sights set on the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back. Goodson ran for 762 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games last season.

Goodson shared carries with Mekhi Sargent in 2020, but his departure for the NFL ranks has opened up opportunities in roles backing up Goodson. 

“I feel good about our [running] backs,” Ferentz said. “And there’s some depth there. And probably the thing we’re most pleased with, we knew a lot about Ivory [Kelley-Martin] and obviously Tyler [Goodson]. But Leshon Williams and Gavin Williams have both done a good job. I think we have four good backs.”

Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, Iowa’s offense will need to put together a solid performance Saturday to hang with the Hoosiers in Kinnick.

Iowa’s potential tone-setting game is scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and will air on the Big Ten Network.

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