Minnesota squandered multiple red zone trips to lose to Iowa 17-10. The Gophers are now 1-3 in Big Ten play and 0-1 in rivalry games.
Minnesota’s defense was still in the locker room during Iowa’s first drive. At least, that’s the only explanation for such a lackadaisical effort. Following the first drive where they gave up 80 yards and a touchdown, the Gophers’ defense played at a near elite level. They forced two turnovers, and gave up only 78 yards on the next seven drives. That latter number would have been even less if the Gophers had gotten home to Nate Staley. Kamal Martin missed multiple sack attempts and Carter Coughlin let Staley scramble out of a sack.
Minnesota’s offense found an ability to run early. Minnesota had 97 yards of rushing in the first half (101 if you do not include a sack) and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks both broke off big runs, and the Gophers were able to attack the edge of the Iowa defense.
Surprisingly, I found myself wondering why Minnesota was choosing not to run the ball. For reasons that I do not understand, the Gophers elected to attempt to pass 18 times in the first half. Demry Croft completed five of those throws for just 46 yards, and had an interception in the red zone to boot. Croft was let down a bit by his receivers who had three drops, and by Nate Wozniak who stopped running for a ball leading to an overthrow in the endzone. The interception and the overthrow meant that Minnesota came away with zero points in the first half despite being in the redzone twice.
After a mostly forgettable third quarter, the Gophers turned to their ground game and some timely play action passes for their first touchdown of the game. Kobe McCrary was heavily featured after coming on once again due to a Shannon Brooks injury. The Gophers later turned a long catch and run by Tyler Johnson into three more points. Unfortunately, despite getting the ball back with 1:30 to go, the Gophers could do nothing besides turn the ball over on downs.