By SHANE STURTZ
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There’s sophomore Tyler Goodson, a shifty back that makes defenders miss. There’s senior Mekhi Sargent, a strong, patient runner who is hard to bring down. And there is also redshirt junior Ivory Kelly-Martin, a versatile back who has shined on special teams.
That is the makeup an unselfish running back group that has averaged 212 yards per game on the ground during the University of Iowa’s three-game winning streak.
“Every day I go in the meeting room, and I’m excited,” running backs coach Derrick Foster said. “Every day I get the opportunity to coach three great men, along with the other freshmen. These three young men are very unselfish and they’re pulling and rooting for each other in any way they can.”
The trio is helping the Hawkeyes put up some gaudy numbers. Iowa is averaging 41.6 points per game over the last three games — the most since 2002.
Having one of the best offensive lines in the country is always nice but having three interchangeable backs doesn’t hurt either.
“Each one is different,” Foster said. “Each one has their own unique style. That’s the enjoyable part because each one of them can doing something very dynamic, physical, strong, or tough, and make smart decisions. You appreciate that in all of them.”
Iowa’s one-two punch of Goodson and Sargent have six rushing touchdowns each, while two Spencer Petras quarterback sneaks and a Nico Ragaini jet sweep account for Iowa’s 15 rushing touchdowns – the second-most in the Big Ten.
“First off, it starts up front with our offensive line,” Foster said “You have to give those guys credit. (Offensive line) Coach (Tim) Polasek and the offensive line are doing a phenomenal job of getting in front of guys and moving guys. Once they’re able to do that, it’s up to the back to do the rest.”
Iowa’s wide receivers have helped on the outside and have done their part blocking downfield, too.
“At the end of the day, football is a team sport,” Foster said. “As long as you have 11 guys on both sides of the balling doing their job, it makes everything else a lot easier.”
What is never easy is winning in the Big Ten, especially on a short week against a border rival. Despite Iowa winning the last five meetings against Nebraska and averaging 244 yards rushing in those games, expect a close contest like the last two meetings.
“We understand it is a rivalry week and it is a rivalry game, but at the end of the day, like we always tell our players, it’s about what we do,” Foster said. “If we go out and take care of our business and do what we’re supposed to do in practice, move forward and continue to get better, then everything else will take care of itself.”
The Heroes Game will take place inside Kinnick Stadium on Friday at 12 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised on FOX.