For the second consecutive season the Minnesota Golden Gophers have taken down the Iowa Hawkeyes keeping Floyd of Rosedale home. Looking at the stat sheet this was a game that we had absolutely no business winning. Iowa had Marcus Coker rush for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Their star receiver had 100+ yards and a touchdown. Through three quarters Iowa held an 11 point lead and dominated the Gophers gaining 20 first downs to our 5 and running 59 total plays to our 29.
But the fourth quarter was dominated by the Gophers. Contributions from likely and highly unlikely sources helped to seal this W and keep Floyd of Rosedale in Minnesota's borders for another year. As today's game recap, let's look at the sources of significant contribution that led to this win over Iowa (again).
The Team Leaders
MarQueis Gray - one would expect that if we were to win a game in the Big Ten, it would require a big game from MarQueis Gray and he came through. And he did come through by throwing a touchdown pass in the first half and rushing for the game-winner late in the fourth. Gray was 11/17 passing and rushed for 62, this was his most complete game as a Gopher QB. But he also took steps as a leader of the offense today leading the offense on two fourth quarter drives for touchdowns. And 11-play, 80 yard drive for a touchdown and then a 12-play, 59 yard drive for the game-winner. On those final drives he was 4/5 throwing the ball for 53 yards and he rushed for 31 yards and the game-winner. Did I mention he rushed for the game-winning touchdown?
Kim Royston - The 12th-year senior led the team in tackles with an impressive 16 and was the one who secured the on-side kick. After the game Royston did mention that he and Marcus Coker did meet several times today and he was a little sore from hitting the hard-running back. Our secondary have quite a few issues but Royston is reliable and has made some significant plays, particularly in our two wins.
Brandon Kirksey - Although he was unable to score it, Kirksey was the one who snatched the fumble and rumbled to the 50 yard line setting up the Gopher FG.
Duane Bennett - The senior running back got stronger as the game wore on and finished with over 100 yards rushing, a 5.1 yard average and a touchdown. Bennett carried the ball 12 times for 53 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter alone!
Kyle Henderson - A former walk-on getting extensive playing time this year. Henderson sacked Vandenberg for a 12-yard loss forcing a huge fumble in the third quarter.
Devin Crawford-Tufts - the 61-yard catch was on thing, he was wide open. But the 39-yard catch was actually pretty difficult and the true freshman hauled it in. He is getting better and getting more and more playing time. But nobody here expected this true freshman to have a 100-yard game today and be a key contributor on two Gopher scoring drives.
Caleb Bak - Coach Kill was pointing out how during spring practice he was particuzlarly hard on Bak. But Kill admired how he stuck in there when he could have quit and today he was desperately needed filling in at LG for most of the second half when Tommy Olson went out with an injury. Coach Limegrover told coach to put in Caleb because he had confidence that he knew what he was doing. I'm sure he won't grade out perfectly but he filled in quite well for a walk-on freshman getting his first action at the Big Ten level.
Offensive Line - Not one sack allowed and the Gophers managed a 100-yard rusher for the day. The OL is a MASH unit right now and kudos to them for playing as well as they did today.
Jordan Wettstein - Be honest, before today you had no idea that Jordan Wettstein was even on the Gopher roster. The kid didn't kick in high school, not on scholarship, nailed a 28-yard FG, did well on kick-offs and then kicked a perfectly executed on-side giving Minnesota the ball back and a chance to win the game (which they did).
"We'll practice it on Friday and if we don't execute it on Friday then I'm not kicking it on Saturday. I felt our defense had been out on the field too much and we needed to pick up an extra possession."
Defensive Line - So I know that the defense gave up 269 yards rushing but the defensive line racked up 3 sacks! I don't expect to see that again this year, or maybe things are looking up for the Gopher defensive line.
The Band - I was standing next to the band on Iowan's final four-and-out drive. Since the Hawkeyes were backed up near the end zone where the band was, the band was playing a bit louder than usual in between plays making the things harder to hear in the huddle for Iowa. Plays were still called but making things difficult on the offense is always a good thing. Way to go band.
The Fans - coach Kill said the fans were a significant aid in the victory. Typcially this is just coachspeak and trying to keep the fans behind the program but this time he went on to explain exactly how they helped. On Iowa's final four plays the Gopher defense would show one coverage then slide into another pre-snap. The stadium was too loud for Vandenberg to check out of the called play and he was forced to run a play that wasn't ideal in that situation. Way to go fans.
"We had to give the ball back to them they had plenty of time and that quarterback is a good player and they took four shots. They went empty and we were walking in then we walked out of a coverage and switched coverages on him but he couldn't check. reason he couldn't check was because of the stadium, that's our stadium and our fans had as much to do with winning that game at the end as anything."
What a great game, it is too bad that we have to carry this momentum into Michigan State and then Wisconsin. We have been playing better, it would be nice to get Illinois or Northwestern next week. But right now I'm not worried about any other opponents, I'm enjoying this win. We have been through a lot over the last couple years. But as bad as we have been and as much crappy football as we have had to watch, we have a two-game winning streak over Iowa. We have three Big Ten wins in our last 14 and two of those are over a significant rival. It isn't like we are going to the Rose Bowl but it is something.