The Aughts in Review: Gopher Broke

Continuing our look back at the decade that was in Iowa football, celebrating the highs and the lows -- and, hopefully, distracting us from the ongoing disaster that is Iowa basketball.  This series looks back at Iowa's results across the entire decade against every Big Ten foe, as well as Iowa State.  According to the alphabet, next up are our rodent-loving friends from up north.

The best moment of Iowa-Minnesota rivalry in the Aughts?  Undoubtedly.


MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
Iowa vs. Minnesota in the 00s: 8-2

WINS
2001: Iowa 42, Minnesota 24
2002: Iowa 45, Minnesota 21
2003: Iowa 40, Minnesota 22
2004: Iowa 29, Minnesota 27
2005: Iowa 52, Minnesota 28
2007: Iowa 21, Minnesota 16
2008: Iowa 55, Minnesota 0
2009: Iowa 12, Minnesota 0

LOSSES
2000: Minnesota 27, Iowa 24
2006: Minnesota 34, Iowa 24

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So kind of Shonn to offer this young Gopher a ride to the end zone.  (H/T to fossilhawk)

BEST WIN: Iowa 55, Minnesota 0 (2008)
The grief Kirk Ferentz gets for his middling (or downright bad, if you're not feeling especially charitable) record against Iowa State is well-reported; what isn't so well-reported is his incredible success against Minnesota, particularly in the Aughts.  After all, they are a rather significant rival -- we've played them every single year dating back to 1931, played them more times than any other opponent (103, to be precise), and play for the best goddamn rivalry trophy in the sport.  And does any other opposing fanbase chant "WHO HATES IOWA?  WE HATE IOWA" -- even at games that don't involve Iowa?  Sure, they have that special beef with their fellow small mammal-loving northern neighbors and they purport to have issues with Michigan and Penn State (although the reality is that Minnesotans are just hopeless hoarders, obsessed with trophies)... but they have a special place in their heart for hating Iowa.  And, I'm proud to say, I have a small special place in my heart for hating them -- and living in the Twin Cities has only made that hatred stronger. 

Which makes the fact that Iowa absolutely fucking OWNED them in the Aughts so goddamn satisfying.  Granted, in terms of winning percentage, Iowa's most successful whipping boy in conference play was Penn State (don't fret, BSDers, we'll be regaling you with pictures of Daniel Murray soon enough), but the eight wins Iowa lodged against Minnesota was the most they recorded against any BXI opponent this decade (and, unsurprisingly, also the most they recorded against any opponent in the Aughts).  But it wasn't just winning against Minnesota -- it was winning with style.  Iowa scored 40 or more points against FBS opponents 22 times in the Aughts -- but did so five times against the Gophers.  They notched 50 or more points against FBS opponents 8 times in the Aughts -- twice against Minnesota.  In the eight Iowa wins over Minnesota in the Aughts, the average score was Iowa 37, Minnesota 17; against regular opponents (i.e., BXI foes or Iowa State), Iowa only equaled or bettered that margin of victory against two teams they beat at least three times -- Indiana (avg. score: 38-18) and just Northwestern (avg. score: 44-15, which is entirely a product of woodshed beatings in '01 and '02).  Even factoring in the two losses, the average score for an Iowa-Minnesota game in the Aughts was Iowa 34, Minnesota 20; so on average, Iowa was two touchdowns better than Minnesota.  And it isn't even just the Iowa offense (which, aside from the '02 incarnation, has not exactly been widely renowned for its potency in the 00s) that's gone apeshit against Minnesota; lately the defense has been getting in on the act, too.  Iowa recorded six shutouts in the Aughts, but only three against BCS competition -- and two of those were Minnesota (in '08 and '09, of course).

And there's no game that better exemplifies Iowa's complete fucking dominance against Minnesota than the 2008 game.  "55-0" tells the story pretty damn well by itself, but there are so many other ways to revel in its greatness.  Iowa outgained the Gophers by over 350 yards, held the Gophers to three first downs for the entire game, and scored touchdowns on six straight possessions (and tacked on a pick-six in the midst of that run of offensive brilliance).  In fact, they only stopped scoring because Ferentz decided to show mercy with nine minutes and change remaining in the fourth quarter.  Stanzi shook off a sluggish start to go for 255 yards and three touchdowns, DJK had the best game of his career (181 yards and a touchdown on seven catches), and Shonn Greene finished up the best regular season ever by an Iowa running back by going for a cool 144 yards and two touchdowns (despite sitting most of the fourth quarter).  After a slow start, the Iowa offense hit a rhythm that we've rarely seen and the defense pitched in by forcing repeated three-and-outs (and chipping in with three turnovers, too).  It was complete and utter domination on both sides of the ball; shit, even the special teams were dominated by Iowa, as evidenced by Jordan Bernstine's canny move of shoving a Gopher blocker into the Gopher punt returner, causing him to fumble.  Oh, LOLphers.  (Troy Stoudemire did have 283 kick return yards, but that's going to happen when you get to return nine kicks.)

That this brilliant game was also the final Gopher game ever played at the Metrodome Kinnick North made it even more satisfying.  As usual, Iowa fans turned out en masse, taking over the upper level of the dome.  By the third quarter, it was officially an Iowa home game -- if, you know, no Iowa fan had decided to sit in the close to the field.  Still: there sure as hell weren't any Gopher fans there.  There were more dramatic wins in the Aughts ('04, for instance) and possibly even more meaningful wins ('02, perhaps), but there were certainly no wins more intensely satisfying than this win, the biggest beatdown of the Gophers in the long, long history of this series.  And, hell, it inspired one of the best FanPosts ever last year.

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Illegal chop block on #99, right?  Yep, that's why we lost.  No other reason.  Nope.

 

WORST LOSS: Minnesota 34, Iowa 24 (2006)
When you go 8-2 against a team in the decade, there isn't much to chose from in the "worst loss" category.  It was either this loss or the '00 loss.  That one hurt, since it was a buzzkill way to end the season (particularly after the tremendous upset win over jNWU in the home finale the week before) but that team was ravaged by injuries and inexperience and little was expected of it.  The '06 loss was the cherry on top of the shit sundae that was the back-half of the 2006 season.   This game is also known as "The One Where Drew Tate Snapped," as he slapped Herb Grigsby and was caught screaming at more than a few players on camera that day.  We don't normally condone that sort of behavior, but where Grigsby was involved... well, to paraphrase Chris Rock talking about O.J., "We understand." (um, NSFW) It's hard to imagine a more frustrating player to watch than 2006 Herb Grigsby.  But we digress.

And it's hard not to feel a little sympathy for Tate, who had watched his senior season swirl down the drain between injuries (his own) and inexperience (his receivers) and had the fanbase turn on him (yes, people really did want JC6 over Drew Tate; in hindsight, this is so fucking insane it almost defies imagination).  Slightly lost in the shuffle when that game gets talked about is the fact that while Tate didn't play all that well (he had some costly turnovers), the defense was fucking awful. They got blitzed for 34 points and over 450 yards, including almost two hundred yards and three touchdowns on the ground.  The Iowa defense is predicated around stopping the run first and then forcing teams to make mistakes in the passing game; if they can't stuff the running game, it all falls apart.  Which is exactly what happened in 2006.  Still, the next time they went up to the Hump Dump, 55-0 happened, which more than made up for the '06 disappointment.

MINNESOTA IN THE AUGHTS

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Just look at those pearly whites!  Those are the teeth of a WINNER, baby.  (Or not.)


Minnesota settled into a nice little rut under Glen Mason in the Aughts -- lots of 6-7 win seasons and trips to the Insight/Sun/Music City Bowls.  The gameplan under Mason was pretty simple: fatten up on delicious non-conference cupcakes (Minny went 21-3 against non-conference foes under Mason, and only two of those games were against BCS schools), win 3-4 Big Ten games, head on down to Nashville/Phoenix/El Paso, rinse/repeat.  They won more than 7 games only twice in the 00s -- an 8-5 mark in '02 and a 10-3 mark in '03.  Under Smilin' Glen, they also developed a few more bad tendencies: choking away big games (most infamously against Michigan in 2003, but also in the 2006 Insight Bowl, which wound up costing Mason his job), collapsing late in the season, and a crippling inability to beat their main rivals.  Beyond going 2-5 against Iowa, he also went 2-5 against Wisconsin.  Among their other trophy rivals, he went 3-2 against Penn State (a respectable result, although it was during PSU's wilderness period) and 1-5 against Michigan; that's a grand total of 8-17 against their trophy rivals, which is pretty godamn terrible.  So the Minnesota braintrust, feeling that surely they could do better than that, cut bait with Smilin' Glen and went in search of a fresh new face to restore the luster to Gopher football. 

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TRY FIGHT WIN QUIT SURRENDER LOSE


From the "be careful what you wish for" department, enter: Tim Brewster, master of TRY FIGHT WIN motivational Tourette's, recruiter extraordinaire... and a filthy liar and godawful game coach.  Remember Mason's lousy record against trophy rivals?  Brewster can only WISH DREAM PRAY for that much success against their trophy rivals -- so far he's 0-9 in trophy games.  Upon arrival, Brewster took the Gophers down to the nadir of the Big Ten, going 1-11, which included both an 0-8 mark in BXI play and a loss to I-AA North Dakota State (fight on, mighty Bison).  The only thing keeping it from being the worst season by a BXI team in the Aughts is that they were actually rather competitive; six of their losses came by a touchdown or less. 

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There was a lot of this for Gopher football in the Aughts.

Optimism about Gopher football and Brewster's ability reached a fever pitch on 11/1/2008, when 7-1 Minnesota entertained just Northwestern in the palatial confines of the World's Largest Hefty Bag.  Minnesota had ascended to #17 in the rankings, despite beating no one of consequence (the only two bowl-bound teams they beat in that run were Florida Atlantic and Northern Illinois).  And then this happened and suddenly it was just like Glen Mason had never left.  Minnesota lost the remaining four games in their season (which included both the 55-0 massacre and a loss to the worst Michigan team in generations) and the Gophers were back to being, well, the Gophers.  They scraped together a 6-6 regular season in '09, and despite looking even more overmatched against top teams (they played three ranked teams and lost by a combined margin of 70-7 and the 7 was a pity touchdown by Ohio State), despite again failing to win a bowl game, despite not having a consistent offensive identity (Brewster will have his fourth different offensive coordinator next fall)... Tim Brewster got an extension.  Just when you think there's no hope for this world, something wonderful and unexpected happens to brighten your day.

You can also watch the original Scothawk creation if you prefer.

PLAYER OF THE RIVALRY:  Bob Sanders (Iowa SS, 2000-2003)
You really couldn't go wrong singling out any number of guys in this category, from Ed Hinkel to Drew Tate to Chad Greenway -- there have been plenty of heroes for Iowa in this rivalry in the Aughts.  But Bob got the nod for a few reasons.  One, he's Bob fucking Sanders and his play in the Aughts can really never be praised enough.  He set the tone for not just Iowa's defense but the entire Iowa program while he was here -- and even after he was gone.  In some ways, Bob is the quintessential Iowa player under Ferentz: talented kid who fell through the recruiting cracks for one reason or another (in Bob's case, his midget-like size) but who emerged as a superior performer (in Bob's case, good enough to not only be All-Big Ten but also NFL Defensive Player of the Year... yeah, he is/was pretty damn good) upon being given a chance and some good coaching.  He went from being a 2* nobody headed to a MAC school to a defensive juggernaut for a Big Ten contender.  He had plenty of fantastic games during his Iowa career... but he might have saved his very best for Senior Day 2003, when he personally demolished the Gopher offense to an extent Iowa fans wouldn't see again until Adrian Clayborn butchered his way through the Georgia Tech triple option.  His stats for that game?  16 tackles (2 TFL), 1 QB sack, 1 QB hurry, and THREE forced fumbles, including one breathtaking forced fumble at the goalline to deny Laurence Maroney a touchdown.  Bob was a beast at Iowa and I consider myself privileged to have been able to watch him play.

RANDOM REMINISCES

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