It’s something that every Iowa football player should have figured out by now, given that the bronzed pig trophy has been in the Hawkeyes’ possession for a while.
Floyd of Rosedale, you see, is heavy.
Iowa’s 35-7 win at Minnesota on Friday night means Floyd stays, and the Hawkeyes didn’t mind hauling him back from Minneapolis.
He’s a big load.
“I was the first person in the locker room,” said defensive end Chauncey Golston. “Tried to pick it up all by myself. A lot heavier than I thought.”
Running back Tyler Goodson, pumped up after a career-high 142 rushing yards, tried to do the same thing.
“It’s a little too heavy,” Goodson said. “I needed a couple of linemen to help me pick it up.”
It was the sixth consecutive win for Iowa, and 16th in the last 20 games, in the rivalry series with the Gophers, and while the Hawkeyes were trying to lift some post-game victory weight, there’s another weight that’s been lifted from them.
Iowa was once 0-2, but back-to-back wins have evened the record at the halfway point of this condensed Big Ten-only season. Suddenly there is confidence, not the funk from the first two weeks.
“Everybody seemed down on us after those two losses,” safety Jack Koerner said. “Internally, we know what we’re capable of. We know we have good players.
“I think this team can be as good as it wants to be.”
“The big thing,” coach Kirk Ferentz said, “is we are improving right now.”
Ferentz, of course, had to throw out caution — “Hopefully, now, we’re not trying to have a parade or something like that because we’ve won two games. It’s still a long road in front of us,” he said — because he understands that every season, even this thrown-together sprint to get to December, has its cascade of conflicting emotions.
“Those of us who have been around the game for a while realize there are ups and downs over the course of a season, typically,” he said. “It’s not always wins and losses, but you’re going to be dealing with something. You’ve got to worry about that.”
But it’s clear the Hawkeyes have a rhythm that wasn’t there in the first two games against Purdue and Northwestern. They’ve allowed just 14 points over the last two games while scoring 84. The offensive line is opening doors for Goodson and fellow running back Mekhi Sargent — the two combined for 228 of Iowa’s 235 rushing yards in this win, and the Hawkeyes had four rushing touchdowns. The defense has a chemistry that is cooking pressure up front and creating turnovers in the back — Koerner and Riley Moss had interceptions in this game, extending the Hawkeyes’ streak of games with at least one interception to 11.
“Just a lot of highlights, certainly,” Ferentz said.
There were bumps, of course. The offense had its stagnant moments in the first half — “When we were stalling out, it was all our own doing,” said quarterback Spencer Petras, who threw a first-half interception and completed just 9-of-18 passes for 111 yards.
But Iowa’s defense was stifling, holding Minnesota scoreless until the final drive of the game, when the Gophers left their starters in while the Hawkeyes started emptying the depth chart.
Even that was impressive, Golston pointed out.
“You see how long it took them to score,” Golston said of the 15-play, 75-yard drive by Minnesota that took 6 minutes, 23 seconds to complete.
Minnesota came in averaging 36.3 points per game. The Gophers had to scramble to erase the zero.
“I think everyone came out with a hunger,” Koerner said.
And a little swagger.
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, anxious to get those points at the end, called a timeout with 19 seconds left with the Gophers on the Iowa 4-yard line. Ferentz responded by using all three of Iowa’s timeouts.
“They called a timeout, I guess, to get a look at what we were doing, or reconsider,” Ferentz said. “So we just wanted to make sure we got a good look at what they were doing. No sense taking (the timeouts) on the bus with us, I think you guys have reminded me that a couple of times over the last 22 years.
“Figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here.”
The Hawkeyes left with Floyd, and a winning streak, and confidence with the second half of the season looming.
“There’s a lot of football left,” Ferentz said. “And we have a lot of improvement to make.”
“It’s a great feeling,” Goodson said. “For sure.”