Football live blog: Minnesota at No. 13 Iowa

Austin Cumblad

Iowa wins the toss and receives. Look for the Hawkeyes to establish the run early with redshirt freshman running back Adam Robinson. They’re big up front and probably feel they can move the ball on the ground successfully. On the first drive, that’s certainly been the case. Robinson racked up 51 yards, but inside the red zone, the Gophers closed the gaps, forcing Iowa into a third-and-6 situation. Redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg attempted a quick slant but it went through his receiver’s hands and the Hawkeyes settled for a field goal. 3-0 Iowa with a little over 9 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Minnesota would likewise like to establish the run but is unable to do so on its first drive. Adam Weber completed a pair of passes and gained a first down but the Gophers’ rushing attempts went nowhere and Minnesota punted. Iowa kindly went three-and-out and the Gophers will begin their next drive from their own 39-yard line. On the ensuing possession, Minnesota goes for it on fourth-and-2 feet from its own 49; freshman backup quarterback MarQueis Gray sneaks for two yards and a first down. Any momentum gained quickly disappears, however, as the Gophers punt three plays later. Weber looked deep for Da’Jon McKnight on the ensuing first down and threw a well-placed pass, but McKnight couldn’t stretch enough to haul it in. In my opinion, he needed to dive for the ball; he seemed close enough to have a good chance at it. Minnesota’s defense is stepping up after allowing the Hawkeyes to march most of the field on their first drive. The last two drives have ended with run stops on third-and-short. If Iowa is unable to gain first downs on the ground and must pass in those situations, Minnesota can gain an advantage. Adam Weber never shies from contact. He scrambled on third-and-8, had plenty of open field, gained the first down and still drove his shoulder into the defender to gain a couple extra yards. His legs have been mostly taken away this season, my guess is that he dislikes that and any time he gets past the line of scrimmage, he’s looking for some contact. A coach’s nightmare? Maybe. Exactly what fans like to see? You bet. The drive ends in exactly the wrong way, though, as Weber fumbles the snap on second-and-11 from the 13 and Iowa recovers. One of the few aggressive third down calls I’ve seen from Kevin Cosgrove this year. On an Iowa third-and-10, he brings cornerback Marcus Sherels at the Hawkeyes’ young quarterback, who attempted to scramble away but was eventually sacked for a big loss. Bryant Allen returned the punt 31 yards, but unfortunately, Minnesota’s offense came on the field after that. The Gophers proceeded to run for no gain, incur an intentional grounding penalty and fumble on a Weber scramble to give the Hawkeyes the ball back on their own 46. Well, neither team apparently wants to take control of this game. Iowa capitalized on the turnover by…throwing an interception to Marcus Sherels in the end zone. Mistake No. 5,430 in this game: Blake Haudan boots a punt from his own 24 off the side of his foot. It wobbles out of bounds at Minnesota’s 40, setting up Iowa with great field position. The Gophers continue to bring pressure, especially on third down, and it’s working well. I don’t know that Minnesota has blitzed this much all season combined. This time, linebacker Gary Tinsley gets to Vandenberg and knocks the Hawkeyes out of field goal range. That’s right, we’re punting again. This is turning into charity day at Kinnick Stadium. Minnesota promptly gave Iowa the ball back on a Gray interception. He was in motion from the left, took a hand-off from Weber and put it directly into Hawkeyes linebacker Troy Johnson’s chest on a pass intended for Troy Stoudermire. Wrong Troy… Stat to note: Iowa gained six rushing yards the rest of the half after its first drive. The defense has been playing heroically. Unfortunately, the offense has given the Hawkeyes too many chances and they finally capitalized with a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the half. But linebacker Lee Campbell blocked the extra point and Minnesota enters halftime down 9-0. Textbook three-and-out for the Gophers to start the second half. I believe they need to score the first points of the second half to have a chance to erase this deficit. That means the defense will have to be sturdy again on Iowa’s first drive of the half. The drives this half (MN-IA-MN-IA)…Punt-punt-punt-punt. This is riveting. Frightening collision between McKnight and Stoudermire on a third-and-6 pass. Stoudermire was the intended receiver but the routes crossed as the ball arrived and they bounced off each other as the pass fell incomplete. Stoudermire was shaken up for a few minutes before walking off the field under his own power. Routes should never end up that close together so something was off on that play. Regardless, it’s another punt for Minnesota and this time, a 28-yard pass play to Marvin McNutt set Iowa up for a 45-yard field goal to extend the lead to 12-0. Good news is, Stoudermire was out there to return the kickoff so he must be alright. I won’t pontificate at all, I’ll just tell you the sequence of plays and you can draw your own conclusions. Late in the third quarter, third-and-1 on the Iowa 34, handoff to fullback Jon Hoese for no gain. MarQueis Gray comes in at quarterback to go for it on fourth-and-1. Minnesota doesn’t get a play off, calls a timeout. After the timeout, handoff to Hoese for no gain, turnover on downs. I’m running out of things to write about…unless you hear otherwise, just assume that the teams are punting back and forth to each other. We’re up to eight three-and-outs between the teams this half. Of course, immediately when I say that, Vandenberg fumbles the snap at the 30-yard line and Jewhan Edwards recovers at the 29. Minnesota drives to the two, and I think this is another time to provide a play sequence. QB draw by Gray, no gain. Handoff to Bennett, no gain. Weber incomplete to Stoudermire. Weber sacked, turnover on downs. To use a Tim Brewster phrase, the defense is fighting its guts out to give Minnesota’s offense a chance, and the offense is consistently squandering said chances. Another drive stalled, this one just outside the red zone. 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Minnesota and Iowa have identical passing yards and are 1 yard different in rushing. They both have 12 first downs. Yet the score is 12-0 Iowa. Can you say finish? An incompletion on fourth-and-8 with just under a minute remaining seals Minnesota’s fate. 12-0 from Kinnick Stadium and Iowa retains Floyd of Rosedale.