In the first start of his career, Alex Padilla went 11-24 for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns, one a dime to Charlie Jones, who finished with 2 receptions for 106 yards, including his 72 yard reception, and one a tackle-turned touchdown from Keagan Johnson, who had two receptions for 34 yards and some bad, bad drops.
For Iowa, it was an ugly game, particularly from the offensive play-calling perspective. Brian Ferentz continues to baffle in the worst possible way in the worst possible situations, but Floyd stayed home anyway to the tune of 27-22.
Meanwhile, Minnesota dominated in time of possession (40:19 to 19:41!), total yards (409 to 266), rushing yards (189 to 71) and 3rd down conversions (7-19 to 4-12). All day long, the Iowa defense struggled to stop the run, letting the Gophers move down the field with ease — thanks to short yardage on third down — as Tanner Morgan struggled at times through the air, going 14-30 for 183 yards and a touchdown.
And yet, it didn’t matter. The win puts Iowa at 8-2 (5-2 Big Ten) on the year, and Minnesota at 6-4 (4-3 Big Ten) on the season. So is this team still deeply flawed in many ways, particularly in its offensive coaching? Yes. But did PJ Fleck get his first win over Minnesota? No. Did the Gophers win at Kinnick for the first time in this millennium? Also no.
What goes without question, however, is that this tweet is absolute fire:
Seven straight?— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) November 14, 2021
That floats our boat! #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/0ng0pFNnAm
Alex Padilla, in his first start for the Hawkeyes, got things going, once again throwing out of the play action rollout to Arland Bruce IV and looking solid in the short pass game as well, while also feeding the run game early, but couldn’t convert on a 3rd and 7. But Caleb Shudak was able to convert on a 50-yard FG to give Iowa an early 3-0 lead.
On its second drive of the game, in a preview of what was to come, the Minnesota run game got going, to the tune of 10+ runs for over 70 yards right into the Iowa red zone. It looked like Tanner Morgan had a shoe-in touchdown on a roll out, but instead he threw the ball on 2nd down before a short run play got stuffed on 3rd down, leading to the Gophers tying the game at 3.
On Padilla’s second drive, he sought out Sam LaPorta twice for two successful first downs, before the playbook opened up with some reverses and finally a deep pass to Charlie Jones, who caught it with a leap, getting Iowa into the red zone. One play later, it looked like Goodson found the end zone for the lead, but he was short by an inch. Instead, Padilla snuck into the end zone to give the Hawkeyes back the lead.
Both teams traded quick, unsuccessful drives following Iowa taking the lead, until Minnesota went for it on 4th and 2, when Iowa suspected a run. Instead, Morgan hit a 37 yard pass that once again tied the game with 5:27 left in the half, with Matt Hankins punching the ball out. The play was reviewed, but there wasn’t conclusive evidence to overturn it.
The Hawks looked like they were ready to move down the field, with Goodson ripping off a 9 yard run and Petras completing a nice pass on 2nd and short, but on the ensuing first down, Nico Ragaini fumbled for Iowa’s first turnover of the game, with 4:17 remaining in the first half.
Iowa’s inability to stop the Minnesota run when it mattered most — and its struggles getting stops on third down — continued on the ensuing drive, but the Gophers were able to turn the Ragaini fumble into 3 on a 31-yard field goal as time expired, sending the game to a 13-10 Minnesota halftime lead.
Iowa received the ball to start the second half, but went three and out after Kegan Johnson had his second drop of the day. On the next drive, Jack Campbell got flagged for a late hit on Morgan that was reviewed for targeting, but thankfully was not called as such. Morgan a few plays later threw a surefire first down too high over his receiver — a gift, to be sure — and caused Minnesota to punt.
One play later, Padilla found an absolutely wide open Jones streaking down the field off a double move, who walked into the end zone to give Iowa the 17-13 lead off the 72 yard reception — the longest pass play of the season.
In response, Minnesota came out with a strong combination of running and passing, moving easily down the field and knocking on the door as the defense continued its struggles to get the Gopher offense off the field. On third and 7 from the Iowa 16, Morgan couldn’t convert, and PJ Fleck elected once again to kick a 29 yard field goal. 17-16 Iowa.
Iowa once again went 3-and-out, giving the defense no time to breathe. Minnesota continued what it had done all day long: running the ball down Iowa’s throat, but the Hawks got a crucial stop on a screen route on 3rd down around the 40, forcing Minnesota to kick a long field goal that was blocked by Logan Lee.
Padilla started the next drive with a thrown to Johnson again, who was very obviously held, which moved the chains, and a few plays later, on 3rd and 10, Tyler Goodson exploded for his most crucial run of the day on what looked like a draw up the middle to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Padilla found Johnson on a screen that looked like it would go for no gain. Instead, Johnson ducked out of the g rasp of two tacklers, flipped out to the hash marks, and found pay dirt to make it a 24-16 game.
Minnesota had what seemed like a big 4th and 2 conversion on the next drive after Zach Van Vankenburg came alive, but an ill-timed false start on 3rd and 9 and a well-covered pass on 3rd and 14 killed the Gopher’s chance at retaliation. But the Hawks gave the Gophers another chance after a 3-and-out. The defense had multiple chances to stop the Gophers on the ensuing drive, but couldn’t, and Morgan then hit a 62 yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-22, beating Matt Hankins handily. But Minnesota’s 2-point conversion, its first of the season, was tipped and Iowa retained its two point lead.
There was question on the next drive over whether Goodson converted a 3rd and long with his legs that was initially called a first down at the 30. It was called back, but the Hawks went for it on 4th and short, with Padilla sneaking for a hard-fought new set of downs. But it was all for naut, and with 3:20 left in the game, Tory Taylor punted, dropping a 51-yard punt around the 9 yardline.
But when it mattered most, the defense came through. Morgan threw a rough pass on first down, and then Van Valkenburg found Morgan for his first sack of the game to make it 3rd and 17, where Morgan was heavily pressured again by ZVV deep in the end zone and couldn’t couldn’t convert downfield.
And on 4th and 17, the Gophers went for it, and everything came full circle for Hankins, as his coverage sealed the deal after nearly costing Iowa its lead. Iowa got the ball back on the Minnesota 3 yardline. And yet, Brian Ferentz called 2 baffling straight unsuccessful sneaks and a Goodson run that went for nothing, but Shudak gave the Hawks 3 more and the Gophers the ball back with 41 seconds left.
Thankfully, despite the Gophers driving, on 2nd down with 12 seconds left, Morgan was sacked and fumbled to give Iowa the win.
Never in doubt, right?