Saturday, September 29, 2012
Iowa brings home bacon, exposes Gophers
By Adam Rittenberg
Iowa's empty trophy case finally has some hardware.
After reaching a recent low point last week in gagging away a game against Central Michigan, the Hawkeyes brought home the bacon -- the Floyd of Rosedale trophy -- in dominating fashion against Minnesota. Kirk Ferentz's team took control from the get-go and crushed the Gophers 31-13, handing Minnesota its first loss of the season. Iowa ended a two-game slide against Minnesota and claimed a rivalry trophy for the first time since the 2010 season. Hawkeye fans chanted "We want Floyd!" in the closing seconds.
You can never count out a Ferentz-coached team, and Iowa was a fed-up bunch that took out its frustration on Minnesota. The Hawkeyes stormed out to a 24-0 halftime lead and outgained Minnesota 328-75 in the first 30 minutes. Iowa's Mark Weisman continued to pulverize defenders for 155 first-half yards (177 for the game), while quarterback James Vandenberg turned in by far his best half of the season (13-for-19 passing, 165 yards, 1 TD) and finished the game with 192 pass yards. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who took some justified criticism early this season, also deserves credit for a nicely called game.
Perhaps more important, Iowa's defense re-established itself after being shredded by Central Michigan last week. Safety Tanner Miller made a nice interception to stifle a trick play, and the Hawkeyes' defensive front overwhelmed a shorthanded Minnesota offensive line, surrendering only 48 rush yards in the opening half. Linebacker Christian Kirksey capped the day with a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Saturday provided a reality check for Minnesota, which came off of a nice win against Syracuse and had folks buzzing in the Twin Cities. It's clear the Gophers haven't turned the corner yet, and while they faced a tough matchup on the road against a ticked-off team, they needed to perform better than this. Quarterback Max Shortell's struggles (20-for-33 passing, 197 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) weren't entirely surprising in a tough road venue, but the Gophers' defense entered Saturday allowing just 307 yards per game. Minnesota's defense looked overwhelmed against Weisman and suffered several breakdowns in the secondary.
An open week comes at a good time for Minnesota to get healthy -- especially top quarterback MarQueis Gray (ankle) -- but the entire team, and particularly, the defense, needs to regain its swagger.
Iowa, meanwhile, can feel a lot better about itself after a very poor non-league performance. The Hawkeyes still have a favorable schedule and could make some noise in the Legends division.