The common thread throughout the year has been overcoming obstacles and finding ways to win. On Saturday, Iowa overcame its worse defensive performance of the year with one of its best offensive performances.
The Hawkeye defense got burned repeatedly on the outside last year. It’s something Iowa’s coaches have talked about over and over. So what did Minnesota do Saturday? Ran it right up the middle. The Gopher play calling was brilliant. They exploited Iowa’s concern about giving up the edge by using the jet sweep motion over and over again, but never actually handing it off. It did the trick though. The linebackers respected the sweep and were a step slow hitting their gaps. Minnesota ran in 3 TDs, when Iowa had only given up 3 rushing TDs all year.
When the Gophers did attack the edge they got Iowa to over pursue and made them pay. The halfback pass off of the toss sweep was executed perfectly and Iowa bit on it so hard. The throwback wheel route where Mitch Leidner was running a bootleg to the right and threw it left to a wide open Brandon Lingen was also a brilliant play.
On the other side of the ball, Iowa did a lot of its damage up the middle, like Minnesota. It was a LeShun Daniels show, racking up yards on inside zones. He did bounce to the outside a few times and showed lateral quickness that we haven’t really seen from him. It is just crazy the success Iowa has had from different running backs this year.
Make Leidner Beat You
Well, that was close. Mitch Leidner went 19/27 for 259 yards with 1 TD through the air. He was especially good on the Gophers’ final drive when he drove his team 75 yards in just 45 seconds and gave them a shot at recovering an onside kick.
He was also a strong runner, keeping the ball on the zone read and getting a good push up the middle. He only finished with 32 yards, but that was enough to be effective. He also tacked on a rushing touchdown.
But Leidner in the end didn’t quite do enough. Minnesota was excellent on 3rd downs for most of the day, but in the fourth quarter, Iowa got two third down stops. In all, Leidner was 4 of 7 on passing third downs and Minnesota converted on 5 of 10 third down chances. That's normally pretty good, but in a game where Iowa scored on 7 of its 10 real possessions (i.e., not counting the kneel-down final possession), not being able to extend drives consistently is what doomed the Gophers.
A Little Something Extra
Hey hey, we saw a trick play. Tevaun Smith threw a pretty looking ball to Matt VandeBerg on the end-around wide receiver pass. It was a great play call and the timing of it was right on. Iowa started the drive at its 20 and immediately went to the air and Beathard found George Kittle for 24 yards. Then the trick play got Iowa all the way down to Minnesota’s 35 yard line. Unfortunately, it led to no points as Marshall Koehn’s field goal attempt hooked inside the uprights an inch too late (or something…it looked pretty good to me).
In a game without any turnovers, Desmond King still found away to big impact. Iowa also got a little boost from another good King kickoff return. After Minnesota pulled within 6 at the end of the 3rd quarter, King took the ensuing kickoff back 58 yards. Just a couple plays later, Beathard was pushing his way in for his second rushing TD of the game.
Feel the Hype
Tracy Claeys, like Kirk Ferentz, likes to take the ball when the Gophers win the coin toss. He's done that in each of the three games he's been their head coach this year. It didn’t work out for him on Saturday as Iowa forced a 3-and-out, then went on a 17-play, 91-yard drive that took 8:38 off the clock. Those were statement drives right out of the gate.
The fast start for Iowa was expected as they were feeding off a spectacular blackout crowd. I was worried about what would happen when Minnesota punched back, though. And they punched back a lot. After both of Iowa’s first two touchdown drives, the Gophers answered immediately. And as the game wore on, Minnesota hung around, but every time they got within a 1-possession game, the Iowa offense answered the call and drove down the field and scored.
Purdue is 2-8. Their rush defense is 112th in the country in yards allowed. Their pass efficient rating is also 112th. They’ve got a lot of problems. And they are all that stands in the way of the Hawkeyes being 11-0 with a B1G West trophy.