Cobb has eyes, mind on Floyd of Rosedale

David Cobb and the Gophers last won the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy in 2011.

Minnesota running back David Cobb runs in for a touchdown in the second half against Western Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 14, at TCF Bank Stadium.

Amanda Snyder

Minnesota running back David Cobb runs in for a touchdown in the second half against Western Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 14, at TCF Bank Stadium.

Jack Satzinger

When David Cobb was a freshman, he didn’t care about pigs. The Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze hog rivalry trophy, didn’t mean much to him.

He didn’t hate Iowa. He just wanted to win.

That’s what Minnesota did in the star running back’s first season at Minnesota, pulling off an unlikely 22-21 victory against a bitter rival.

When Iowa blasted the Gophers for 182 rushing yards en route to a 31-13 victory the next season, Cobb began to understand the rivalry.

The Hawkeyes ran across the field after the game, seized the trophy and held it up to an announced crowd of 70,585 fans at Kinnick Stadium.

“There’s no worse feeling than seeing Iowa come across the sideline and take your pig,” Cobb said before this season.

The Killeen, Texas, native didn’t do much to stop Iowa from taking the hardware, rushing just once for 8 yards in the game.

But in his junior season, after overtaking Donnell Kirkwood for the starting spot, Cobb was determined to put his mark on the rivalry contest.

The student section at TCF Bank Stadium was packed more than an hour before kickoff, with chants of “Who hates Iowa? We hate Iowa!” echoing onto the field.

With an undefeated record coming into the hyped-up contest in front of an especially enthusiastic crowd, the Gophers got overexcited and were outworked.

Cobb only rushed for 20 yards on eight attempts as Minnesota lost 23-7.

After he saw Hawkeyes celebrating with Floyd of Rosedale for a second consecutive season, Cobb developed strong feelings toward the rival.

“I tell these freshmen as a senior, ‘You’re going to learn to hate Iowa and you’re not even going to know why,’” Cobb said. “I hate them.”

For the first half of the season, it looked like Minnesota would be a solid favorite in a game against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes’ excellent senior linebackers from a season ago — Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris — have gone to the NFL.

But Iowa’s new starting linebackers have steadily improved as the season has progressed. Quinton Alston, now a senior, leads the defense with 60 tackles this year.

Iowa’s defense, and the team as a whole, has vastly improved after a loss to Iowa State and near-losses to Northern Iowa and Ball State earlier this season.

“They always are a football team that gets better [as the season goes on],” head coach Jerry Kill said. “I think that’s the nature of who they are and the job [head coach Kirk Ferentz] does.”

Iowa always seems to have a strong defensive front, which makes it harder for Cobb to run.

Redshirt senior Zac Epping said Minnesota’s offensive line is working on shoring up its technique to try to give Cobb more space than last year.

“Every year I play against them, it’s a bloodbath,” Epping said. “The more physical team is going to win.”

Cobb wanted to defeat Iowa from the beginning. But heading into his senior year, it’s about more than just a victory.

He wants that pig.

“That pig, he has a name. His name is Floyd, and I want Floyd,” Cobb said.