Gophers' FG attempt goes wide with 28 seconds left

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Another week brought another narrow win for Iowa.

These Hawkeyes aren't into aesthetics -- they're still in the Big Ten race, with a great chance to play on New Year's Day.

Rhys Lloyd's 51-yard field-goal try drifted left with 28 seconds remaining, allowing 19th-ranked Iowa to hold on for a 29-27 victory over Minnesota on Saturday -- the Hawkeyes' sixth straight.

"We're definitely not a statistics team, but this is one of those years when we find some way to get things done," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We've got eight wins and they can't take any of them away."

Drew Tate completed 24-of-39 passes for 333 yards and two long touchdowns for Iowa (8-2, 6-1), which began the weekend one game behind Wisconsin and Michigan in the Big Ten. Clinton Solomon caught nine of Tate's passes for 157 yards and a score.

"With everything we've had to fight through, we've done a great job of keeping winning," said Tate, a sophomore who has had a shining season -- his first as a starter.

Laurence Maroney rushed 19 times for 156 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and Marion Barber III carried 29 times for 167 yards for the Gophers (6-5, 3-5).

The Hawkeyes, whose last four victories have come by a total of 16 points, lost their fifth running back this year when Sam Brownlee left in the second quarter with an ankle injury. They netted only 6 yards rushing, and the defense -- which entered with a
conference-best average of 68.2 yards rushing allowed per game -- was trampled by the record-setting duo of Maroney and Barber.

But Iowa had no turnovers, forced Minnesota into four and did just enough to keep Floyd of Rosedale -- the bronze pig that goes to the annual winner of this rivalry -- for the fourth straight time. The Hawkeyes, who got a school-record five field goals and 17
points from Kyle Schlicher, host Wisconsin next week.

"Credit Minnesota for playing extremely hard, especially in the second half," Ferentz said. "We were fortunate to get out of here with a win."

It was a gut-wrenching way to end the regular season for the Gophers (6-5, 3-5), who lost five of their last six and aren't guaranteed to go to a bowl game. The best they can probably do is an invitation to the Music City Bowl, which has the sixth choice of Big Ten teams, but the Motor City Bowl appears to be a better bet.

"We deserve what we get," Maroney said.

After forcing a punt, the Gophers got the ball near midfield with 2:50 left. They ran six times, including on third-and-12 from the 35-yard line. Barber was stopped for a 1-yard gain, forcing Lloyd out for his kick -- which had plenty of leg but sailed well to the left.

"I didn't want to risk being knocked out of field-goal range," said Minnesota coach Glen Mason, who had full confidence in Lloyd.

The senior from Dover, England, kicked two game-winners in the closing seconds last season.

"It hurts," Lloyd said, "but I've just got to get through it."

The Gophers revived their vaunted running game with a superior effort by Barber, Maroney and the offensive line. Barber surpassed 1,000 yards for the second straight season, joining Maroney as the first pair of teammates to accomplish that in NCAA history.

"It's important, but then again it's not," Maroney said. "Because you always want to have your team goals ahead of individual goals."

The Gophers committed only six turnovers in their first 10 games, but they gave the ball away three times in the first half.

Bryan Cupito, who has slumped since starting strong in his first season as a starter, finished 9-for-16 for 73 yards and two interceptions. Barber was picked off on a halfback option, and Maroney lost a fumble.

The defense, which has been a big disappointment down the stretch, let the Hawkeyes convert seven of their 11 third-down attempts with 8 yards or more to go.

"We've got to get off the field," linebacker Kyle McKenzie said.

Black and gold-clad Hawkeyes fans made up about half the sellout crowd of 64,719, as usual, and security was stepped up in response to Iowa's celebration of the victory here in 2002. Energized by the Hawkeyes' first unbeaten Big Ten finish in 80 years, students
stormed the field, tore down a goal post and tried to carry a piece of it out of the Metrodome.

A few mini-footballs were thrown from the north end zone, where Iowa players sprinted to slap hands with their fans after the game was over.

"We were blessed to have so many fans drive up from Iowa City," Solomon said. "We call this North Kinnick."

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