Tight ends fuel Hawkeye’s passing success

MINNEAPOLIS — Fingerprints from Iowa tight ends were seen all over the frozen field at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Saturday.

Veteran starter Sam LaPorta was injured in the first half of the Hawkeyes’ 13-10 win over the Golden Gophers but was involved in the tight ends in a big game for Iowa.

He caught a 58-yard pass on Iowa’s first game from scrimmage and finished with a collection of four receptions for 95 yards during two scoring drives in the first quarter.

LaPorta didn’t make it alone in a game that ended narrowly on the receiving end of 10 of the 15 balls quarterback Spencer Petras completed in the Hawkeyes’ fourth straight win.

Sophomore Luke Lachey led Iowa with five catches for 77 yards, including one for a 33-yard gain on the first play of a drive that led to Drew Stevens’ game-winning 21-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining.

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Freshman Addison Ostrenga, who scored extra snaps in two tight sets after LaPorta was forced to the touchline, caught Petras’ first pass in the second half for a six-year win.

“When Sam went down, it was time to step up,” Lachey said. “He’s worked with all of us all season, he’s really helped me since I’ve been here and we were ready to do our job when called upon.”

Lachey’s 33-yard reception on a pass down the middle in the crucial minutes of the game allowed Iowa to build on the momentum it gained from a 30-yard interception return from Jack Campbell.

“It was a ball that had to be rocket, had to be on a line and he did a great job coming over, making the catch and then picking up a few yards to finish it,” said Petras.

It was a game Iowa needed at a time when it needed it most, and it came during a game where Lachey was recording a career-high receiving total.

“It’s a good confidence boost,” Lachey said. “I’ve improved and I’ve been able to make some plays and it’s something to build on, definitely a step forward and now I want to move on.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz anticipates this and says he is pleased with the job first-year assistant Abdul Hodge is doing in working with Hawkeye tight ends.

“We’ve seen Luke do some good things for us on the pitch this year and that continues,” Ferentz said. “He’s a great young guy and he and Sam have done a lot of good things for us.”

Ferentz also likes what he saw of Ostrenga.

“It was great to see him getting into such a tough Big Ten game in November,” Ferentz said. “He’s a bit like Kaleb Johnson in that everything he’s done since August hasn’t been overwhelmed and he came through today.”