Minnesota is no match for Iowa’s offense in homecoming game

Minnesota couldn’t overcome Iowa’s hot start, as the Hawkeyes were up 14-0 within the first 10 minutes.

Wide receiver Tyler Johnson is tackled after a long run on Saturday, Oct. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 48-31.

Tony Saunders

Wide receiver Tyler Johnson is tackled after a long run on Saturday, Oct. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 48-31.

Paul Hodowanic

The Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-1) defeated the Minnesota Gophers (3-2, 0-2) 48-31 on Saturday, which secured Iowa’s fourth consecutive win against Minnesota and another year with the coveted Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

Iowa started the game with authority, scoring on their first two drives and holding Minnesota to -10 yards on six plays as they jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley had 108 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter to fuel the blistering start. 

The Gophers rebounded after their sleepy start with a touchdown drive of their own, highlighted by an athletic 34-yard catch by freshman Chris Autman-Bell that set the Gophers up. A few plays later, fellow freshman wide receiver Rashod Bateman hauled in a 3-yard jump ball for a touchdown, cutting the Iowa lead to 14-7. 

However, that was the closest Minnesota would get, as they were never able to cut the Iowa lead below seven. Iowa quickly answered back to make the score 21-7 in what would become the theme of the game. 

The Gophers made several key momentum plays that seemingly had them on the edge of a comeback, but Iowa stayed resilient and fended them off.

With 8:52 remaining in the third quarter and Minnesota down 31-17, Carter Coughlin blasted off the edge and strip sacked Stanley. As a result, the Gophers started with the ball at Iowa’s 3-yard line. Seth Green punched it in a few plays later, again putting the Gophers within seven. 

“They were having trouble with my speed rush throughout the game, so I figured I’d hit them with that,” Coughlin said.

The play gave the team a jolt of momentum, but Iowa responded. 

On the ensuing kickoff, Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette returned the ball 49 yards to set up the Hawkeyes with strong field position. Iowa took advantage of the short field and scored on a 5-yard touchdown reception to TE Noah Fant just nine plays later, making it a 14-point deficit once again. 

With 5:35 left in the game, Gophers quarterback Zack Annexstad found Bateman for a 7-yard score, which made it 41-31. Iowa scored again on the next possession, this time on a 2-yard run by Mekhi Sargent, which effectively ended the game.

Iowa rode the arm of Stanley, who attacked a Gophers’ defense that has struggled to adjust to life without safety Antoine Winfield Jr. He finished with a season high of 314 passing yards and four touchdowns. 

When asked what went wrong in the passing defense, head coach P.J. Fleck said, “A lot.” He attributed some of it to blown coverage, which led to a 60-yard touchdown pass that Iowa converted in the first quarter to extend their lead to 14-0. 

Annexstad had a better day than his stats may indicate. Although he threw three interceptions, two came when he was trying to make a huge comeback in the game’s final minutes. 

When asked if Annexstad threw too many deep balls, Fleck said he didn’t throw enough.

“No, we didn’t go deep too many times. That was a direct order,” Fleck said. “When we got down, it would’ve been too hard to meticulously march down the field 12 plays at a time and be perfect. … We had to generate big plays.” 

The Gophers stayed within striking distance due to some timely turnovers. Both of Iowa’s turnovers occurred deep within their own zone and gave the Gophers a great field position — Minnesota was able to score a touchdown on both occasions. 

“We need some more of those,” Fleck said. “We have to find ways to generate takeaways synthetically and authentically.” 

The Gophers will look to rebound next week as they travel to Ohio State (6-0) to take on the undefeated Buckeyes.