Guess what? It turns out that winning rivalry game is actually pretty damn fun, you guys. Iowa played its second rivalry game of the 2013 season and for the second time, they came away winners and the proud possessors of some rivalry hardware (although in this case they just retained hardware that they already had). I like when that happens!
This game was reminiscent of the Iowa State game from a few weeks ago: another rivalry game on the road, another game where Iowa struggled to turn a dominant performance in yardage into a truly lopsided scoring margin, another game where things were a little squirm-inducing late. But Iowa also did a few things differently (and better) in this game: they forced a turnover on a late Minnesota drive (which had the added benefit of preventing us from having to see if Iowa could recover an onside kick) and their running game was able to run out the clock. This team does seem to be making progress game by game -- and it's a lot of fun to watch.
There were a lot of uncomfortable echoes of the 2011 game in TCF Bank Stadium today, but I was very relieved (and happy) that this game had a much happier ending. Like that game, Iowa dominated the box score and racked up a slew of yards, but struggled to turn all those yards into more points. Like that game, Minnesota made a surge in the second half. Like that game, Mike Meyer missed a seemingly-easy field goal (in terms of distance, at least) and an Iowa QB (Jake Rudock this game, James Vandenberg in that game) had a costly red zone turnover. But Iowa flipped the script at the end of this game and stopped the Minnesota comeback in its tracks. Thank goodness for that, since it meant that I finally got to leave The Bank happy.
A few more thoughts...
- Jake Rudock continues to impress. The end zone interception was a brutal play (he needed to make that throw at least a second earlier) and his accuracy was off on a few downfield throws, but for the most part, I thought Rudock had another strong game in a hostile environment. Rudock's composure is very impressive and his decision-making is, by and large, excellent. He has great poise in the pocket, he continues to have sneaky-fast mobility on a lot of runs outside the pocket, and he throws a very catchable ball most of the time. He's definitely been a lot of fun to watch so far this season.
- 24 carries, 147 yards. Just another day at the office for Mark Weisman.
- Damond Powell! The bubble screen is BACK. It's been said before, but it's completely true: Iowa hasn't had speed like this at WR since Tim Dwight was wearing black-and-gold. Watching Powell run away from everyone on that bubble screen was breathtaking. He also seemed to be on the field quite a bit more today, even if it was just as a decoy.
- The fullback lives! Adam Cox picked up a key first down late in the game on a dive play and also had a 35-yard catch and run on a play where Minnesota seemed to forget that, yes, fullbacks are still eligible receivers. Iowa football: where getting the ball in the hands of the fullback counts as a trick play.
- The defense got four sacks! In one game! The defensive line got strong pressure for most of the game, the front seven did an impressive job of swallowing up the Gopher run game, and the secondary... well, they were OK. Overall, the defense continues to show nice development week-to-week. There were a lot of question marks about certain aspects of the defense entering the season and for the most part they've been answered positively so far.
- It wasn't all sunshine and roses in this game, though. The red zone offense remains a mess. Iowa had four trips inside the Minnesota red zone and came away with 10 points. They also had a drive end at the Minnesota 21 that ended in a missed field goal. One of those drives came at the end of the game when Iowa was just running out the clock so, like last week, we can probably throw that one away. But Iowa's still not being efficient enough in the red zone. Iowa's failure to get more points in those situations is how games where Iowa dominates the yardage counts end up being uncomfortably close. Five trips inside the Minnesota 25-yard line resulted in 10 points. That's not going to be a winning formula most of the time.
- Do you still have eligibility left? Can you cover kickoffs? If so, please contact Chris White and Kirk Ferentz immediately. Because yeah: kickoff coverage is still a pretty big issue for Iowa. Minnesota's lone touchdown was set up by a 69-yard kick return... and their very next return went for 50 yards (although only 35 yards after the Gophers were assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty because LOL MINNESOTA).
- The stadium experience at The Bank was pretty enjoyable today. Obviously, winning helps (a lot), but I was impressed by their video board (which displays the important information -- score, time remaining, down/distance, team yardage stats, etc. -- much more clearly than the revamped video board in Kinnick) and their sound system was excellent (again, much better than Kinnick). Plus, they played "The Fox." They're alright in my book. But electing a soulless ginger as Homecoming King, Minnesota? That's just asking for trouble.
- Did I mention that Floyd is staying home in Iowa, where he belongs, for another year? Because he is. And that's pretty great.