Gameday: Minnesota vs. Iowa Blog

by Austin Cumblad

Update: If there’s a play that sums up the day Minnesota is having, it’s probably this one. As Marcus Sherels awaited a punt from Iowa’s Ryan Donahue, Johnny Johnson was shoved into the junior cornerback. The ball appeared to knock off Sherels’ leg and into the waiting arms of Hawkeyes fullback Brett Morse. That gave Iowa the ball at the Gophers’ 29-yard line, and Ricky Stanzi hooked up with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos three plays later for a score. 34-0 Hawkeyes now, 7:52 left in the third. Halftime: What to say? Nothing good, that’s for sure. It’s 27-0 Iowa at the break. If I discuss everything that’s gone wrong for the Gophers, we’ll be here all night. So I’ll just look at the three keys I laid out before the game. -Decker: Nowhere to be found. Weber has thrown to him once, the pass sailed too high. Decker had little chance to catch it. -Greene: Barring a serious injury, Minnesota will not be the first team to hold Shonn Greene to under 100 yards this season. He started slow, but with all the time the Gophers’ defense was spending on the field, you knew he would break loose eventually. The junior running back has 84 yards on 15 carries so far, including a 9-yard TD scamper. -Penalties: Four penalties for 35 yards at this point. You do the math. That includes an inexplicable punt catch interference on true freshman Johnny Johnson. Suppose it’s not surprising that something like that would happen in a game that’s going this badly for the Gophers. Update: This is turning ugly quickly. Here’s a quick rundown of the scoring drive Iowa just put together. 16-yard rush by Shonn Greene, 48-yard pass from Ricky Stanzi to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 9-yard TD run by Shonn Greene. Just like that, it’s 13-0 Hawkeyes with 9:57 remaining in the half. The defense has been on the field far too much and the offense seems to have lost any confidence it might have gained from its streaky performance at Wisconsin a week ago. Early second quarter thoughts: -Minnesota has Ricky Stanzi on the run nearly every time he drops back to pass but can’t seem to get a sack. In fact, on consecutive third downs, the Gophers nearly got to him, but each time he made a play to move the sticks. Though Minnesota continues to contain Greene well, if the Hawkeyes keep moving the ball without him, he’s bound to break out eventually. -That said, the defense kept Iowa out of the end zone again, holding the Hawkeyes to another field goal. -The Gophers offense has done absolutely nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. Weber attempted his first pass to Decker too plays ago but left it too high. Third punt of the game coming up for Minnesota. It’s 6-0 Iowa with 11:00 left in the half. A few notes of interest in the early goings: -Iowa is first on the board with 7:10 left in the first quarter. A 35-yard field goal puts the score at 3-0 Hawkeyes. -Minnesota’s first drive was doomed from the start. It started at the nine before Weber fumbled the first snap, leaving the Gophers with 2nd and 17 from their own 2-yard line. -Iowa has already burned all three of its timeouts. I don’t know if Minnesota’s defense is befuddling them or if quarterback Ricky Stanzi is just horrible at managing the clock, but the Hawkeyes are definitely not clicking fully. -The Gophers have managed to contain Shonn Greene relatively well thus far. He’s had only one rush for more than 10 yards. -Marcus Fuller of the PiPress and I had a discussion just before the game and agreed that if there’s one thing we will miss about the Metrodome, it’s the location of the press box. It provides great sight-lines, the best of any stadium I’ve been in, and it’s open, meaning everyone in the box gets the full effect of the crowd. -Speaking of the crowd, the house is packed and it is LOUD in here. There’s quite a contingency of Iowa fans in the house, too. Pre-game:

Well, here we are for the final time in the always sunny, always 70 degree Metrodome.  For those individuals who are cold averse, this may be a sad day.  But for most, it’s a long overdue send-off.  The next Gophers game in Minneapolis will be played in the brand spankin’ new TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 12, 2009.  A few keys to the game quickly before we get underway:

Decker: He’s back, and Brewster said Wednesday he was looking solid in practice.  Even with his number one receiver back, Adam Weber still needs to spread the ball around but having Decker as a threat will be a huge boost for Minnesota’s offense.

Greene: Iowa running back Shonn Greene has burst from nowhere into the Heisman picture, thanks to rushing for 100-plus yards in every game this season.  Considering the defenses he’s done that against, the Gophers can hardly expect to hold him to under 100 yards, but they absolutely must prevent the explosive runs he’s capable of to keep this game from getting out of hand.

Penalties: Minnesota has been playing with passion all season, there’s no denying that.  Unfortunately, this passion has led to a number of foolish personal foul penalties that have proved costly in close games.  Tensions will undoubtedly be running high as the Gophers fight for Floyd of Rosedale, but playing passionate can’t turn into playing stupid.

Quick update on linebacker Lee Campbell and safety Kyle Theret, both of whom left the game at Wisconsin with apparent leg injuries.  Both men were warming up pre-game, and Theret said Wednesday he thought he’d be able to go.  Campbell was more questionable, but my money is on both at least trying to play.  Campbell leads the team in tackles with 71, while Theret is third with 63.

Alright, we’re just over 10 minutes from kickoff.  Stop back for my thoughts, which I’ll post throughout the game.  Cheers, enjoy the final game in the bubble.