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The Morning After: Minnesota, aka Row, Row, Row Your Boat Back to Minnesota

Stanley, Goodson, Tracy Jr., Epenesa, Welch lead the way as Hawkeyes beat undefeated Gophers.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
Floyd of Rosedale stays in Iowa City another year.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning all. Hopefully you all had an enjoyable afternoon and evening yesterday as Iowa knocked Minnesota from the ranks of the unbeaten by winning at Kinnick 23-19.

It’s games like yesterday that really makes you understand the angst fans feel each year when Iowa finds a way to lose three, four, or even five games. There is talent on the team and it’s up to the coaches to utilize it in a way to maximize Iowa’s chance for victory each week. Yesterday, in the first half especially, the coaches showed that they were up to the task. There are times when I think the coaches are too stuck in “The Iowa Way” but I’ll admit that I don’t want to trade Kirk for anyone. You can definitely see how his players feel about him and most of the time, that’s half the battle.

Iowa won the coin toss and chose to receive (no surprise) but the surprise was that true freshman Tyler Goodson was in the backfield right from the beginning of the game. Iowa wasted no time driving down the field and scoring a touchdown on their opening drive. In fact, Iowa scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and threatened to blow the Gophers out of the water.

However, as we all know, it would never be that simple. Iowa’s offense stalled in the second half and Minnesota steadily crept back into the game. Luckily, due to a strong defensive showing on the final drive, we know how this show ends so let’s talk about a few miscellaneous topics.

I kept some notes during the game so let’s go through them.

On Iowa’s first drive I noted a flip to Goodson on a third and short that went for 26 yards, a wrinkle that hasn’t been seen yet this season as far as I can remember. After that there were two missed deep balls from Stanley, one underthrown and one overthrown. There could have been pass interference or holding on each of the plays but both went uncalled. Then on 4th and 1, Nate Stanley connected for 11 yards to Nate Weiting and that was quickly followed by a 21 yard touchdown strike to Nico Ragaini. The extra point snap was botched and Iowa led 6-0 right out of the gate.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
Tyler Goodson runs for some of his 97 yards.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After Minnesota missed a 50 yard field goal attempt, Iowa was right back at it on offense, this time with Goodson carrying the majority of the load. He scored on a ten yard touchdown and had 45 yards rushing on the drive. Iowa with a 13-0 lead and things were feeling good.

Minnesota got on the board with a 24 yard field goal to cut the lead to 13-3 but Iowa scored another touchdown on their third possession to extend the lead to 20-3. Ihmir Smith-Marsette ended up with the touchdown on a five yard pass but Tyrone Tracy Jr. was the star of the drive with three catches for 51 yards.

Minnesota got a field goal to end the first half and then got the ball at the start of the second half and drive right down the field to make the game a much more interesting 20-13. Changes in the Minnesota defense and an injury to Goodson changed the Iowa offensive flow in the second half and fans were starting to worry if this was going to be another one score loss.

Fortunately, Iowa got a field goal from Keith Duncan to offset another Minnesota touchdown and then had a stop on the last possession from the Gophers to hang on to a 23-19 win.

Stanley looked good throughout the game and went 14-23 for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His counterpart, Tanner Morgan, was 25-36 for 368 yards with one touchdown. Morgan was knocked out of the last two plays of the game after an A.J. Epenesa sack.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
Nate Stanley alludes a sack in the first quarter.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa certainly displayed a bend and don’t break defense as they allowed 431 yards to the Gophers. Many chunks of them were on deep throws to Tyler Johnson who had 170 yards receiving. At times, Iowa defensive backs Riley Moss, Jack Koerner, and Dane Belton looked overmatched by upperclassmen receivers. Moss missed a gimme interception early in the second half that could have changed the entire complection of the game.

The Hawkeyes had six sacks on the day led by Epenesa who had 2.5 sacks. Freshman Joe Evans contributed another 1.5 sacks from the other side of the line. Senior Kristian Welch played after missing the past three games and made his presence felt with 11 tackles.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
A.J. Epenesa will knock you down but then he’ll help you up.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line looked better yesterday. They only gave up two sacks and they allowed Iowa runners to gain over 150 yards on the ground. The bigger plays went to the outsides which takes advantage of Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson, so that was pretty smart.

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after running on the field after Belton was called for a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty AFTER a 4th and 4 attempt failed for Minnesota. There was a lot of confusion on the play and a lot of comments that Fleck cost the Gophers a chance for a first down but that was ultimately false. Once the pass was incomplete, the play was over and Iowa got the ball. The penalty on Belton moved the ball halfway back to the goal line and then the penalty on Fleck moved it forward 15 yards to the 22. It was explained that they didn’t offset because there was a clear order of the penalties. It might be said that the penalty on Belton was due to a nice embellishment from the Gopher receiver.

Minnesota v Iowa
“Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Wide receiver Brandon Smith was dressed for the game but only got in for one play when Tracy was injured. Smith should be back making an impact against Illinois next week.

A final big play in the game was when Minnesota was flagged for a fair kick interference penalty when they got in the way of Hawkeye punt returner Max Cooper. Cooper made the catch but with the 15 yard penalty, Iowa started with the ball at the Minnesota 39. Ultimately Duncan made a 27 yard field goal to increase the lead to 23-13.

Due to having to burn a couple timeouts early in the second half thanks to poor clock management, Minnesota was forced to attempt an onside kick after scoring their last touchdown with about three and a half minutes left to go. It was unsuccessful.

After Iowa couldn’t run out the clock, Iowa punted the ball into the endzone setting up Minnesota having to go 80 yards in 1:52 with no timeouts. First play was a sack by Evans, second play was a sack by Epenesa, knocking out Morgan. The backup Minnesota quarterback, Cole Kramer, threw an incomplete pass on 3rd and 21 and then Moss picked off a 4th down heave to ice the game.

The ‘Morning After’ is always more fun to write after a win. Knocking off an undefeated Minnesota team is just icing on the cake. Iowa still has two regular season games to go and while they’ll be favored in each, they’ll need to stay focused in order to get the wins.

Other things to note:

  • Iowa State defeated #19 Texas 23-21 on a field goal as time expired. A nice win over a ranked team makes Iowa’s victory over ISU look a little better.
  • Tua Tagovailoa was injured with a hip dislocation late in the first in a blowout victory over Mississippi State. He will be out for the rest of the season and this is an injury similar to the one that led to Bo Jackson retiring from the NFL. This injury will definitely increase the discussion on whether athletes should be paid while in college.
  • Baylor also lost their first game of the season, 34-31 to Oklahoma. This leaves just three undefeated teams: LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson.
  • I still predict Redbox Bowl for Iowa due to bowl restrictions. I think the Holiday Bowl goes with a more “name” team like Michigan.
  • My updated future line estimates: Illinois -8, Nebraska -6. Agree? That would put them at 9-3 but I could see anything from 9-3 to 8-4. Illinois is surprisingly not bad and the Nebraska game will be their bowl game.