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Hawkeye air attack too much for Gophers as Iowa retains Floyd of Rosedale with a 48-31 win

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Big plays through the air are what Iowa is known for, right?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa Hawekeye football is not typically known for explosive offensive plays and racking up points. But against the Gopher defense today it was big plays and 314 yards of passing as Iowa cruised to a 48-31 win, retaining Floyd of Rosedale.

In their prior game, the Gopher defense was susceptible to big plays to Maryland while giving up 42 points. Today was much of the same. The Iowa Hawkeys accumulated 422 total yards, scored 48 points in large part due to converting 10 of 19 on third down and those conversions going for an average of 19 yards.

“You can play the play or you can play the situation. Whats happening is sometimes our guys are playing the play. But they don’t know always the situation. That was the majority of it.”

The Hawkeyes scored on their first drive with a methodical, Iowa-like, 10-play drive. On their next drive it was a 60-yard touchdown pass to Ivory Smith-Marsette on 3rd and 8. Iowa very quickly goes up 14-0 while the Gopher offense starts the game with back-to-back three-and-outs, accumulating -10 yards.

Eventually the Gopher offense got going but was very inconsistent. An impressive, 75-yard drive for their first touchdown was followed by a short drive ended early due to back-to-back sacks. Big plays get them into Iowa territory before an under-thrown ball leads to an interception. Two short fields were given to the offense by defensive turnovers, both of those were converted into touchdowns and the Gophers scored a 31 points on an Iowa defense that has allowed 13 points per game this season.

But it was the defense that really struggled to make stops, especially through the air. Iowa has averaged 225 yards passing per game this year. Nate Stanley had 216 at halftime and finished with 314 passing with 4 touchdowns through the air.

The poor defensive execution and offensive mistakes were a combination of the Gopher’s inexperience along with what was a poorly called game by both Minnesota coordinators. Robb Smith’s defensive scheme is, and should be, coming under heavy scrutiny. I have less of a problem with the offensive side of things, particularly when you have an offensive line that struggles to protect your true-freshman quarterback.

The mistakes made by your true-freshman quarterback are going to happen. He continues to struggle throwing the deep ball and in the second half the offense was one-dimensional; leading to a couple interceptions. But overall, Zack Annexstad finished with a stat line of 3 touchdowns, 218 yards and 51.5 completion percentage.

Interestingly, Coach Fleck was asked about the high number of deep passes thrown by Annexstad.

“He didn’t go deep too many times. That was a direct order. We had to generate big plays.”

In the second half, Daniel Faalele was inserted at right tackle where this true freshman mountain played very well. I’m far less concerned about the offense than I am the defense.

Any positives from today? Other than the play of Faalele to dramatically improve the right side of the offensive line, not really. The defensive front-seven held Iowa to a 2.7 yard per carry average as the Hawkeye ground game never really got going.

A frustrating game where the Gophers were outmatched on the field and on the sidelines. Iowa is not a complete team, but they were more than enough to handle the Gophers today.

“I told our team I’m disappointed. Very disappointed. However I saw a lot of growth in a lot of areas. We’re getting spotted growth in a lot of areas.”

The spotted growth is evident and Coach Fleck believes his team is close. But today there were too many mistakes today for his team against a more mature Iowa team.

Up next, it doesn’t get any easier as the Gophers head to Ohio State next Saturday.