Hawkeyes tight end Sam LaPorta was off to another hot start.
He first had a 58-yard catch-and-run to set up an Iowa field goal in the first quarter. He followed that up with three more receptions, including a 24-yard catch on a fourth down at the Minnesota 12. But on that play, LaPorta was injured and had to leave the game.
Iowa scored on that drive, but the Hawkeyes could only muster 114 yards in almost 44 minutes of play after that. A 10-0 first quarter lead withered away, and Minnesota had the Hawkeyes in the palm of their hands like a Gopher getting ready to devour an appetizing acorn.
Minnesota owned the ball at the Iowa 10, with the game tied at 10.
But linebacker Jack Campbell gave the Hawkeyes a chance with two huge turnovers — forcing a fumble at the Iowa 10 and intercepting a pass to the Minnesota 45 (and it should’ve been a touchdown) four minutes later.
Iowa’s well-criticized offense had to make a play and get points on the board. And on the first play, quarterback Spencer Petras faked a handoff and rifled a pass over the middle of the field. The man on the receiving end of it? Sophomore tight end Luke Lachey, who caught the ball effortlessly in stride down to the Minnesota 12 yard line.
“I just went around and looked for the ball,” Lachey recalled after the game. “I didn’t really run the full route because I knew it was going to be there. So I turned and Spencer threw a great ball and just had to make a finish from there.”
The catch was Lachey’s 5th of the game for 77 yards. He’s not a stranger to seeing the ball. He’s third on the team with 273 yards receiving and leads the Hawkeyes in touchdowns.
With LaPorta leaving the game for good, Iowa knew everybody needed to elevate their game.
“The whole line was talking, Sam’s out, everyone’s got to do a little more,” Lachey said. “And I think that’s what everyone’s mentality going into it was.”
“It was awesome to see Luke step up like he did,” quarterback Spencer Petras said. “We all knew what kind of player Luke was. Obviously Sam is going to get the majority of the reps if we’re at a one tight end set. Obviously, Luke didn’t flinch.”
How about making a mid-route adjustment with the game on the line, and taking the lead as TE1? Lachey’s 77 yards were more than all receivers combined not named Sam LaPorta.
The Hawkeyes of course kicked a game winning field goal and won 13-10. The Floyd of Rosedale trophy goes back to Iowa City, and it likely couldn’t have been done without Lachey.
“Luke, we’ve seen it and he’s done a lot of good things on the field this year, even last year,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s just been a kid who’s continually grown. You’re helping guys improve and grow, and he’s done that and he’s a great young guy. He’s a really positive football player. It’s a luxury when you have two guys like him and Sam.”
Safe to say Tight End University is in good hands. Now, and moving forward.