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Minnesota Football vs Iowa: The Elite, The Bad, and The Ugly

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The Floyd of Rosedale remains imprisoned in Iowa City for another year. It doesn’t get much uglier than that.

Minnesota v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have now lost four of their last five games after a 17-10 defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday. The loss means that the prized bronze pig, Floyd of Rosedale, will remain in Iowa City for another year. It was a low-scoring struggle between two bad offenses and two good defenses, and ultimately the Hawkeyes’ offense proved to be less terrible than the Gophers’ offense. That was the difference in the game.

The Elite

The Gopher defense. I’ve read the comments over the last couple weeks regarding defensive coordinator Robb Smith, and for those of you calling for his firing at season’s end, I would encourage you to pump the brakes. Smith’s Gopher defense is 21st in the country in scoring defense (18.8 points allowed per game), 36th in rushing defense (132.8 rushing yards allowed per game), 23rd in passing defense (184 passing yards allowed per game), and tied for 14th in turnovers. That is remarkable considering the injuries in the secondary and the lack of depth on the defensive line. Outside of the Hawkeyes’ opening drive, I was very impressed with the defense. They even bottled up Iowa running back Akrum Wadley for the most part, which kept them in the game. This is a very tough unit. Try to appreciate that.

Jacob Huff. That interception, his third of the season, was spectacular.

The Kinnick Wave. As expected, P.J. Fleck and the entire Gopher football team participated in waving to the children on the top floor of the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital at the end of the first quarter. It was a classy move by the visiting team, and a number of Hawkeye fans made a point to tell me how touching it was to see that gesture from Fleck and the team.

The Bad

Third down conversions. The Gopher offense was 4-for-16 on third down. Three of those four conversions came on their second possession of the game. They converted one third down the rest of the game. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

True freshman cornerbacks. Poor Justus Harris. The true freshman cornerback should not be on the field this year, but injuries have forced the staff to burn his redshirt. And that was Harris who got dusted by 6’5’’, 220-lb. tight end Noah Fant on a 45-yard touchdown pass on the Hawkeyes’ opening drive of the second half. That won’t build a lot of confidence.

Celebrating a touchdown. Needs some work. Watch Rodney Smith at the end.

The Ugly

The passing game. It was a group effort on Saturday. Demry Croft overthrew 6’10’’ tight end Nate Wozniak, who was wide open in the end zone, on 4th and 1 at the Hawkeyes’ 7-yard line. Tyler Johnson had a handful of drops, including what would have been a long touchdown down pass the sideline on a play where he had the defensive back beat. And the offensive line allowed four sacks, which is sort of an astonishing feat considering the Hawkeyes’ struggles against mobile quarterbacks this season. To be honest, I didn’t think the passing game could get much worse than what we saw at times with Mitch Leidner last year. Boy was I wrong.

Another humiliating losing streak continues. The Gophers can never have enough losing streaks against their conference rivals. Saturday’s loss to the Hawkeyes marked the program’s eighth consecutive loss in Iowa City, stranding the Floyd of Rosedale for a third straight year. In the last 20 years, the Gophers are 7-13 against Iowa, 2-18 against Wisconsin, 2-12 against Michigan, and 5-6 against Penn State. At this point, I’m not sure why Gopher fans are worked up about an empty trophy case. You’d think we’d be accustomed to it by now.

Brian Ferentz. Gopher fans first became acquainted with the poster child for nepotism this offseason when he called into question P.J. Fleck’s recruiting tactics at Minnesota. But it seems the Hawkeyes’ rookie offensive coordinator needs to spend less time worrying about Phillip John Fleck and more time watching Dr. Phil, because he apparently threw a tantrum in the press box at halftime. It seemed his tirade was directed at the replay booth following the ruling that Iowa running back James Butler had fumbled and Minnesota recovered. Papa Ferentz was asked about it after the game and had this to say about his son’s behavior:

“I just learned a little while ago about some inappropriate behavior up in the press box by one of our coaches, and I don’t know all the details at this given point but of what I heard, it’s just not acceptable,” Kirk Ferentz said. “There’s a certain level of professionalism that you have to operate with, and we plan on doing that in the future. In the mean time, we’ll sit down and address this, find out the details are – I’m a little sketchy in terms of what all took place – but the bottom line is there’s no room for that. That will be addressed, and we’ll move on.”

Sounds like no TV or video games for a week. Change your best, Brian.

In unrelated news, Iowa is tied for 88th in the country in scoring offense.