Just as a reminder, I write all of this in real time and I don’t edit before posting. So, be nice!
First off, I would be remiss to start off this recap without saying that Minnesota’s helmet and burgundy uniform’s are... really freaking cool. I know they were getting trashed online, but I kind of loved them.
Now, that will be the last positive thing I say, I promise.
In those beautiful jerseys (whoops), the Gophers took the field first and quickly learned who Anthony Nelson was on a third and long passing play that was doomed from the moment the ball was snapped. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times... Iowa can go very, very fair this season behind that deep defensive line.
Starting their drive at the Hawkeyes 47, Brian Ferentz opened up the game with a passing play to Nick Easley on a quick gainer. After stalling out short of the sticks, Kirk elected to go for it on fourth-and-two rather than sending Miguel Racinos out on the field for a long attempt. With five wide, Stanley rolled out right and found an open Ihmir Smith-Marsette for the first down.
I repeat. I fourth-and-two, Iowa not only went for it, but went for it through the air and completed it. Take a big deep breath in. Now, exhale. We’re all good.
Fantastic playcall on 4th down. Maryland burned Minnesota a bunch with motion two weeks ago, got the Gophers defense guessing often. Iowa goes with same concept here. Simple comeback route and it’s executed beautifully. #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/Xb4RzQH2ir— Cody Hills (@ByCodyHills) October 6, 2018
A few plays later, Stanley found his most reliable target in TJ Hockenson in the endzone for six.
If that first drive showed anything, it’s that Brian isn’t here to mess around today. Not when PJ Fleck is on the other sideline.
Goofer Gopher three and out, Brian Ferentz got SUPER conservative, putting Iowa in a long third and eight. With immediate pressure right up the gut, Stanley rolled up into the pocket and ripped a laser right into the hands of a wide-open (and former Gopher commit) ISM for a 60-yard score:
What a job by Stanley to keep the play alive. Excellent work by Smith-Marsette to make himself available. Just all around superb effort coming from the #Hawkeyes through two rather easy TD drives. pic.twitter.com/rq1sBobTwr— Cody Hills (@ByCodyHills) October 6, 2018
Things wouldn’t be all Iowa though. On their third drive, Minnesota was once again sputtering until the Hawkeyes were flagged for illegal substitution; giving the Gophers their best offensive play up until that point in the game. Unfortunately for Iowa, it created a spark. A few run plays and a circus catch down the left sideline by Chris Autman-Bell over Riley Moss (a true freshman starting his first career game for some reason) the Gophers were in business. On third and goal, the Gophers went back to the well and picked on Moss again, this time Rashod Bateman beats the youngster on a fade route.
To be fair to the kid, Moss was in position both times he got “beat”, he just didn’t turn his head to make a play on the ball. Both correctable things. This is fine...
Three and out for Iowa... THIS IS FINE!
With some momentum rolling Minnesota’s way, Anthony Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds, took it upon himself to put a stop to that with his second and third sack of the game. This is when I remind you all that Iowa’s school record for sacks in a game is five. With a hobbled and taped up Zack Annexstad, he could break that bad boy tonight.
Alright. Here’s the thing about the next series. I got caught up on the flip. It happens to the best of us. But I turned it back right in time to see PJ Fleck call a timeout on a play that would’ve surely ended up in six-points. After an incomplete pass on third and goal and everyone including their mothers thinking Iowa would just take their 3-points and move along, Kirk F. Ferentz (the F is for finisher) allowed THIS to happen:
After a Minnesota field goal and a failed fourth down trick play where the Gophers punter over shot a wide out down the left sideline (I guess PJ didn’t want to let Kirk have all the fun), Iowa marched down the field and eventually found Nick Easley open up the seem for another Hawkeye touchdown.
28-10, thanks for the easy one PJ!
But, because Iowa is a fair and noble neighbor, they decided it would be nice to gift a possession back to Minnesota after a Riley Moss interception in the end zone to see what the Gophers would do with it before half. Of course, they scored.
Should Iowa have sat on it with a little over a minute left in the game? Yes. Should Nate Stanley have chucked it into the stands? Yes. Is this one of the weirdest games I remember. Yes.
28-17, oh what the hell it’s halftime and at least we’re winning. Clean up the secondary, pump up Moss for whole half worth of deep balls and give the defensive line one of those Bill Yoast “We Will Blitz All Night” type speeches and let’s go home with our pig.
Iowa started the second half with the ball and all you need to know from that drive is that Brandon Smith is starting to become a go-to, possession, big catch receiver right before our eyes:
Oh and they kicked a field goal.
31-17, and all is back to being right in the world.
On Iowa’s second drive of the half and deep in their own territory, Alaric Jackson got blown up by a speed rush that hit home with a strip sack on Stanley. The Gophers took the ball over on the Hawkeyes three yard line and Seth Green punched it in for the touchdown. Two turnovers for Iowa and two touchdowns for Minnesota.
31-24, Iowa still on top. Can it just be the fourth quarter already?
PHEWWWW. This game is busy. After an exceptional return by ISM where he walked the line to leave Iowa starting off with the ball on their own 49-yard line, Iowa was cooking. Facing third down again and the goal to go, Nate Stanley found an open Noah Fant for his fourth touchdown of the day. That also puts Fant tied for fourth all time in Iowa touchdowns. Only 11 more to tie Marvin McNutt.
38-24 Iowa with four minutes left in the third quarter. Now, can the defense get a stop?
The answer was a resounding yes. After yet another quick Minnesota drive down the field, Iowa was able to force the Gophers into a 4th and four situation. After a timeout to talk things over, Amani Hooker played the pass perfectly and broke up the attempt. Time to chew up the clock as we head into the fourth quarter.
This is how the rest of the quarter went: Iowa had a few three and outs where they didn’t kill much clock, Brents and Moss each picked off another pass to kill any sort of momentum from Minnesota, Iowa kicked a field goal to go up 41-24, Minnesota scored another touchdown to close the gap 41-31, Minnesota tried an onside kick and failed, after Fleck burned some timeouts, Stanley and Hockenson connected yet again on a beautiful third down roll out to move the chains and then some and Mekhi Sargent put the nail in the coffin, Amani Jones got tossed for targeting (our LB depth is skeptical next week as it is) and Geno Stone picked off Minnesota again.
48-31, good guys.
This was a marathon of a game. I need a beer. We kept the pig for the fourth year in a row.