Approximately 20 reporters huddled outside the Iowa locker room waiting for Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry. But it was clear they weren’t going to ask him about the game.
In fact, there wasn’t much to ask about Iowa’s on-field performance. The Gophers, playing before their largest crowd of the season, simply annihilated the Hawkeyes. The real question was whether the 69-year-old Fry would return next season with a cloud of shame hanging over his program.
Linebacker Ryan Loftin, who finished the game with two sacks, searched for answers on how his team could be blown out so thoroughly, but was more concerned with his coach’s future.
“I don’t know if I can expect an announcement anytime soon,” he said, occasionally shifting his glance to the empty coach’s podium. “I’m very curious.”
Moments later, Fry, looking as if he had aged another ten years, stepped onto the podium to begin his press conference.
“I will make a decision either (today) or Tuesday of this week, or after Thanksgiving break,” he said. “I’d hate to say anything without talking to my players.”
As Fry talked of delaying his retirement announcement, Hawkeyes’ senior defensive tackle Jared DeVries stood alone in the hallway, pondering what would happen to his team after he graduated.
“I don’t know,” the 6-foot-4, 285-pound DeVries said. “I just hope coach Fry does what he feels is right by him and the team.”
But DeVries refused to speculate on Fry’s future, saying he wanted his coach to speak for himself on the matter.
“All I can say is, if you’ve been through the season we’ve been through, you become a stronger person,” he said. “I know we didn’t leave anything in the locker room.”
Still, Iowa was over-matched by the Gophers, who came out with something to prove after last week’s 20-19 loss to Indiana.
Gophers’ running back Thomas Hamner blasted through monstrous holes created by his offensive line and used his 4.4 speed to outrun Iowa’s defense. Hamner’s 56-yard touchdown sprint in the second quarter broke open Minnesota’s lead, and essentially, Iowa’s backs.
“That run by (Hamner) was what got us,” Iowa cornerback Eric Thigpen said. “We thought if we could keep it close, our offense could stay in the game. But that run killed us.”
But the Gophers weren’t content with stuffing the football deep down Iowa’s throat; their defense gleefully hammered the inept Hawkeyes’ offensive unit into quick submission. Iowa quarterback Kyle McCann spent most of the afternoon watching a sea of maroon-and-gold defenders swarming toward him, ready to slam him into the hard turf.
The Gophers blitzed McCann and backup Randy Reiners mercilessly, sacking them eight times and forcing four interceptions. What little confidence Fry’s team had entering the game was likely lost by the third quarter.
The Gophers, on the other hand, gained confidence in building for next season. Coach Glen Mason was full of praise for Fry, who has the second-longest tenure among Big Ten coaches. He joked that Fry’s departure, while unfortunate, would make his job easier.
“Personally, I hope he goes,” Mason said. “They’re not going to bring in anybody as good as him.”
That sentiment was shared by the despondent Hawkeyes as the team boarded the long bus ride back home — and toward uncertainty.