IOWA FOOTBALL VS MINNESOTA

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Tyler Goodson (15) scores against the Minnesota Golden Gophers Friday, November 13, 2020 at TCF Bank Stadium. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

IOWA CITY, Ia. – All week long, Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck talked

volumes about bringing Floyd of Rosedale back to the Twin Cities.

“It’s a really big game,” Fleck said. “It’s a really important game.”

Fleck was silenced, his team outcoached and outplayed, in a 35-7 loss to

the Hawkeyes at TCI Stadium Friday. The victory spoke volumes about

the direction this Iowa team appears to be headed.

“I like the way they’re growing as a football team right now,” Iowa

Coach Kirk Ferentz said after his team evened their record to 2-2

heading to Penn State next week.

Fleck-coached Minnesota teams are now 9-7 against five teams in the

Big Ten’s West Division, but 0-4 against Iowa. Floyd has resided in Iowa

City so long that he could vote as a resident, or qualify for in-state

tuition.

The Hawkeyes have won 16 of the last 20 games in the series, which is

now tied at 42-42-2 since the bronze beauty became the traveling

trophy in 1935. Iowa is now 17-4 in their last 21 trophy games against

the Gophers, Iowa State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

The next challenge is a Penn State team that is 0-4 after losing at

Nebraska Saturday, 30-23.

The Nittany Lions have flipped the series script with Iowa. Penn State

has won the last six meetings, including a walkoff touchdown at Kinnick

in 2017 (21-19), a 30-24 decision in Happy Valley in 2018 and a 17-12

decision back at Kinnick in 2019. Iowa had won eight of nine games in

the series before things changed in 2011.

An Iowa victory would be the 100th conference victory for Ferentz. He is

99-77 in league games. The Hawkeyes are also gunning for a third

consecutive victory. And many of my preseason assumptions have

proved to be incorrect.

I thought that offense would carry this team. A defense that finished

fifth nationally in scoring defense, 12 th in total defense, 14 th in rushing

defense and 19 in pass defense, had too many significant losses to play

at a consistently high level.

 

Gone were players like A.J. Epenesa, Michael Ojemudia, Geno Stone,

Cedrick Lattimore, Brady Reiff and Kristian Welch. There was also

linebacker Djmon Colbert, who opted out of 2020, and Dillon Doyle, who

transferred.

I should have realized that Phil Parker’s masterful touch was still back.

Parker flies under the radar when it comes to acclaim, but he’s the most

valuable member of Ferentz’s staff.

 

Friday night, Minnesota finished with 312 yards of total offense but

didn’t score until the final 15 seconds of the game against backup

defenders. Iowa’s Riley Moss and Jack Koerner had interceptions for the

second straight game. In fact, the Hawkeyes have had at least one pick in

the last 11 games (18 interceptions overall).

The offense, with playmakers like Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith

and Tyler Goodson, has been slow to find a rhythm.

Some of that, in retrospect, should have been expected. Quarterback

Spencer Petras had never started a game before this season started. The

absence of spring ball, and the traditional off-season development

program, not the mention a full-bore fall camp, have slowed his

development.

Offense coordinator Brian Ferentz has also had good moments and bad

as he tries to find a consistent rhythm. Friday against Gophers was a

good night.

Ferentz was quick to establish the running game, something Minnesota

has struggled to stop all season.

Seven of the first nine plays from scrimmage went to Goodson – five

carries, two receptions. But Ferentz was successful in keeping

Minnesota guessing all game. A perfect example was Iowa’s first

touchdown of the game, a 1-yard Dino Ragaini run on a jet sweep that

fooled most of the Minnesota defenders. So did Goodson’s 7-yard

touchdown out of the Wildcat formation in the second quarter.

Iowa’s offensive line has developed into a strength of this team, led by

center Tyler Linderbaum. Watching him is a highlight reel every week.

And this is an offensive line that played without starters Coy Cronk and

Tyler Schott for a second straight week. Mark Kallenberger has played

his best football the past two weeks.

Goodson ran through the Gopher defense for a career-best 142 yards

and two touchdowns. Mekhi Sargent added 86 yards in just nine carries.

Iowa finished with 235 yards in 35 carries, and is now 47-5 since 2015

in games where it has rushed for at least 100 yards.

The improving running game could play a big role Saturday against a

Penn State team that fell in a 27-6 halftime deficit at Nebraska, then

came back after Coach James Franklin changed quarterbacks late in the

first half.

Sean Clifford was benched in favor of sophomore Will Levis, who was

effective with his arm and his feet. Levis completed 14 of 31 passes for

219 yards and ran for 61 yards in 18 carries.

 

The Nittany Lions had it first and goal at the Nebraska 9 with 2:34

remaining down a touchdown. But Levis threw two incompletions, was

sacked and threw another incompletion.

After Friday’s game, Fleck said the loss was “100 percent on me.”

He’s never had the lead on Iowa in four games so far. The last time

Minnesota has held the lead in this series came in the fourth quarter in

2016.

That covers 245 minutes and 28 seconds of game time. A lot of

swimming upstream without a paddle.