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

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The Gophers dropped their sixth straight to the Hawkeyes

Iowa v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

You know what I hate more than Iowa? Losing to Iowa.

The Elite

Mohamed Ibrahim. The Gophers’ most reliable contributor on offense did what he could against the best run defense in the Big Ten, rushing for 144 yards on 33 carries. But Ibrahim is currently averaging 32.5 carries per game. Not sure how sustainable that is. Is the drop-off from Ibrahim to Trey Potts and Cam Wiley that significant? Even if that is the case, all the more reason not to run Ibrahim into the ground. He can’t carry the offense all season long.

Rashod Bateman. The future NFL wide receiver recorded his third game of the season with 100+ receiving yards, recording eight receptions for 111 receiving yards and one touchdown.

James Gordon’s interception. The redshirt freshman linebacker made his first career start and recorded the first interception of his college career.

The Meh

Special teams. In the field position battle between two Aussie punters, Minnesota was outgunned. Iowa’s Tory Taylor averaged 44.3 yards per punt and dropped all three of his punts inside the Minnesota 20. Minnesota punter Mark Crawford averaged 36.8 yards per punt and only dropped two of his six punts inside the Iowa 20. The Gophers also missed a 39-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, and it is unclear why walk-on kicker Brock Walker was on the field for that attempt when regular starting kicker Michael Lantz returned last week.

The Ugly

Tanner Morgan and co. The Gophers’ All-Big Ten quarterback from a season ago hit rock bottom against Iowa. Morgan was 16-of-33 for 167 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. And both interceptions were simply terrible throws. His accuracy has become an issue, and it is apparent he has far more trust in Rashod Bateman than any other receiver on the roster, which is a problem when defenses already know to key in on Bateman. Morgan has regressed significantly, and that does not reflect well on quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford Jr.

P.J. Fleck’s play-call on 3rd & 6 at the Iowa 20. Coming out of a timeout, needing a first down, Sanford dialed up an outside zone play(?!) to the short side of the field, leading to Ibrahim getting dropped for a loss. The Gophers were forced to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt as a result, and walk-on kicker Brock Walker’s attempt was DOA. Minnesota drove 74 yards on 17 plays, chewing up 10 minutes of game clock, and had nothing to show for it. Fleck said after the game that he made the call to run the ball, as they were in fourth down territory. But when they lost a yard on third down, he changed his mind and opted to try for the field goal.

The Gophers’ run defense. Since 2015, the Hawkeyes are 47-5 in games in which they rush for more than 100 yards as a team. As expected, Iowa cleared that hurdle in a hurry against Minnesota’s woeful run defense. After taking a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter, the Hawkeyes had already amassed 116 yards on the ground. Iowa finished the game with 236 rushing yards as a team, and Hawkeye running backs Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent averaged 7.1 and 9.6 yards per carry, respectively. It would seem abundantly clear at this point that fixing the run defense this season is not within the realm of possibilities.

Penalties. Minnesota came into the game ranked 5th nationally in fewest penalties per game (3.3). Yet somehow the Gophers drew seven penalties in the first half alone, including a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties — one against P.J. Fleck himself — that cost them a short field after James Gordon’s interception at the Iowa 22-yard line.

The losing streak continues. The Gophers have now lost six straight to the Hawkeyes, and P.J. Fleck drops to 0-4 against Iowa. The Floyd of Rosedale returns to captivity in Iowa City. Minnesota’s lack of competitiveness in rivalry games is the elephant in the room at this point. Since 2000, the Gophers are 5-16 against the Hawkeyes, 3-17 against the Badgers, and 2-13 against the Wolverines. For as much as people hate the Governor’s Victory Bell, that “rivalry” has been far more competitive by comparison, with Minnesota and Penn State deadlocked at 5-5 this century. If Fleck wants to elevate this program to be anything more than an also-ran, he has to start beating Iowa and Wisconsin. It’s that simple. Fill that trophy case.