The one word that best describes today's battle for Floyd of Rosedale was domination. Iowa dominated time of possession, dominated total yards and most importantly they dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. In a crucial game for both teams needing to scrape together a few Big Ten wins to gain bowl eligibility, Iowa came out more physical and did a much better job executing their game plan en route to a dominating 23-7 win.
This game was won by Iowa in the box. The Gopher offensive line was unable to open holes for the running game against the talented and more experienced Hawkeye front-seven. Conversely the Iowa offensive line opened huge holes for their running backs against our front-seven. Throughout the 2nd half, Iowa was able to effortlessly move the ball on the ground with time consuming and will-breaking drives. Mark Weisman closed out this game amassing 147 rushing yards for the game. He racked up a lot of yards but he was running through massive holes, credited to the Hawkeye offensive line.
The Gophers made things a little interesting late in the 3rd quarter with a Marcus Jones 66-yard kickoff return that lead to a 23-yard Philip Nelson to Derrick Engel touchdown pass. Brock Vereen intercepted Jake Rudock in the endzone on Iowa's ensuing possession giving the ball back to Minnesota with the majority of the 4th quarter remaining. But that was the shiney, flash of gold in the water before you realize it was just an illusion.
You may recall that I listed three keys to today's game.
1 - Win on 3rd down. Iowa was 8/14 (5/7 in the 2nd half) while the Gopher offense was 4/13. Nuff said but here is Jerry Kill confirming how disappointing it was.
"Its deflating for everybody we talk about how critical 3rd down is, they executed on 3rd down and we didn't. To be honest with you, they controlled the football game by running the football. Offensively we sputtered and they got the ball back."
2 - Find a passing game. Philip Nelson really struggled. His 135 yards on 12/24 passing and 2 picks were only part of the story. Nelson missed a lot of open receivers with passes that were not poorly thrown, they were flat out uncatchable. In addition to not giving his receivers a chance Nelson was indecisive, held the ball too long and took a few critical sacks by not throwing the ball away. It was a bad day for Philip Nelson and the question is why didn't they insert Mitch Leidner?
"They got in a rhythm and we didn't. They were able to make some plays in critical situations and we didn't."
"We threw the ball around a little bit, had some guys open; hit them sometimes, sometimes we didn't."
3 - Still be able to run the ball. 30 yards rushing for the game on 27 attempts is embarrassing. I realize that Iowa's linebackers and defensive line are big, strong and experienced but that is an unacceptable number. This is a team that prides itself on being physical and running the ball. Iowa's front-seven is good but we weren't facing the 85 Bears. Just embarrassing and unacceptable.
"Up front, you expect to do well and run the ball and do what you do. They won the line of scrimmage today without a doubt. Going into the game did we think we could do well? You bet. They won the line of scrimmage."
The list of keys turns into a list of things we failed to do to win the game. Add to the list more penalties than usual, lack of any offensive line push and some breakdowns in the secondary. It was a total domination (did I mention that?).
"We'll go back and look at film but it will all come down to executing. Somebody missed a block, somebody missed a tackle. They out-execute us."
The stats are depressing but it doesn't compare to the let-down after a week of hype for Floyd. A week of believing that this Gopher team was "better" and more prepared to play with a physical Iowa front was quickly dismissed when the Gophers rushing attack was held to 6 yards on 6 carries in the first half. They opened the game with back-to-back 3 and outs while Iowa averaged 6.3 yards per carry running through the Gopher defense.
This game was one that you absolutely had to have. Not from the perspective of trying to get to six wins and a bowl. But if you want to start showing progress with your program in year three you absolutely have to win a game at home against a team expected to finish in the bottom third of your own division. Hats off to Iowa for beating the Gophers and grinding out a good win.
Heading into week 5 of the season, this team seems to have more questions than it did before week 1.