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Published June 21, 2024

The return of the pig

Minnesota blew out Iowa in a 51-14 victory on Saturday, taking back the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy.
Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams, right, and defensive lineman Ben Perry, left, holds the pig after Minnesota beat Iowa 51-14 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Image by Amanda Snyder
Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams, right, and defensive lineman Ben Perry, left, holds the pig after Minnesota beat Iowa 51-14 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Gophers sprinted across the field to reclaim Floyd of Rosedale.

Fans swarmed the new guest of honor, storming the field.

While there was no clear winner in the race to the rivalry trophy, there was a clear winner on the field. The Gophers coasted to a 51-14 victory over Iowa on Saturday, jumping into a tie atop the Big Ten West.

After Minnesota extended its lead to 35 points early in the third quarter, there was little doubt as to which team was going to take home Floyd this year.

“Once we sort of knew that we had the game, everyone lined up stretching, just having fun with it, getting ready to run across the field as fast as we could,” redshirt sophomore Maxx Williams said.

While the victory may not have been surprising, the margin of victory was as surprising as head coach Jerry Kill’s dance moves in the locker room after the game.

“I thought it was going to be a back-and-forth battle all day, so it was cool to see that scoreboard at the end of the game,” redshirt sophomore Mitch Leidner said.

Leidner put together one of his best collegiate games on Saturday, throwing for 138 yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in a 28-point second quarter.

“Our quarterback did a great job because when they took [the pass] away, he ran the ball,” Kill said. “I don’t know if the kid missed a read.”

Leidner seemed to miss a wide-open Williams in the second quarter when the Gophers’ lead was only seven points.

But instead, Williams stretched out and was able to get the tip of his toe in bounds to complete the catch. Four plays later, Leidner found Williams again for a 9-yard touchdown, this time with a smaller degree of difficulty.

“To be honest with you, I thought [Williams’ catch] was out of bounds,” Kill said. “He is unreal. I’ve coached this game for 31 years and coached a lot of great players, but I’ve never seen anyone catch the ball like that kid. I’m glad he is on our team.”

Williams finished the day with five catches for 46 yards and three touchdowns, breaking Minnesota’s single-season record for most touchdowns by a tight end in the process.

“Those [sideline catches are] plays you just kind of have to feel,” Williams said. “I had to make a play, and it just kind of happened so quick. You just try to get your feet down and go with it.”

While the offense was putting up points in a hurry, the Gophers’ defense was having no trouble stopping Iowa’s prolific running attack.

Iowa racked up 246 yards on the ground against Minnesota last year.

This year, the Gophers held Iowa to 84 rushing yards.

“You go to the last three years, and [Iowa] has run it up out tail end,” Kill said. “We did a great job defending the run [today]. Guys played in their gap, did their job; the linebackers filled when needed. We played very disciplined defense.”

Iowa scored on its opening drive of the game, putting the Gophers down early, which has been a recurring theme in recent weeks.

However, the defense didn’t panic, instead turning the small deficit into a sizeable lead.

“We’ve heard about [the slow starts]. I’ve been asked about it,” Kill said. “I think you just emphasize it and just keep plugging along.”

At the beginning of the game, Minnesota plugged along without star linebacker senior Damien Wilson.

Kill said Wilson sat out the first two series because of “minor” disciplinary issues before coming in near the end of the first quarter.

“Maybe a little leadership was lacking [without Wilson in the huddle],” redshirt junior Briean Boddy-Calhoun said. “Damien, when he is missing, you can tell.”

Boddy-Calhoun provided the game-changing play when he intercepted Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock’s pass in the first quarter to halt a threatening Hawkeyes drive.

The Gophers forced three turnovers in the game, including freshman Steven Richardson’s second-quarter forced fumble.

Minnesota took advantage of the Iowa mistake, as senior running back David Cobb scored on a 6-yard touchdown run.

However, Minnesota’s biggest threat on the ground Saturday might have been wide receiver KJ Maye. He ran 10 times for 66 yards and one touchdown.

“All week we’ve been working on getting the ball on the perimeter and making those guys run side-to-side,” Maye said. “I knew coming into the game that I was going to get those carries.”

But Saturday belonged to Leidner and the passing game. The quarterback doubled his previous career high for passing touchdowns in a game.

“No doubt this is Mitch’s best game,” Kill said. “He is getting confident. He is throwing the deep ball on target. That kid works hard.”

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