Iowa Hawkeyes @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Recap
Minnesota 22, Iowa 21
Lightning struck twice on the last weekend of October, but more than that, trees tap-danced and elephants flew gracefully through the sky. At least, that’s what life felt like in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after one of the most brain-busting, logic-defying developments of the Big Ten season.
It was hard enough to comprehend the fact that the Minnesota Golden Gophers, plummeting into irrelevance under a lame-duck coach, defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes last season on home turf. The 2010 Minnesota team was the latest manifestation of a program immersed in a downward spiral, a pronounced trend that picked up steam when former coach Glen Mason was fired. The notion that Minnesota – in even worse shape in 2011 – could beat Iowa again was preposterous. It defied all bounds of reason and common sense. Surely, if Iowa and coach Kirk Ferentz bore the sting of one huge upset loss to Minnesota, they would gear up for the reunion and set things right. Surely, Iowa wouldn’t be victimized two years running in one of the Big Ten’s many trophy games.
Minnesota won its first Big Ten game of the season with a shocking victory over Iowa on Saturday evening at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers had been outscored 144-31 in their first three conference games before pulling off one of the bigger upsets in college football this season. Minnesota (2-6) came back from a 21-10 fourth quarter deficit by scoring twice in the final 8:22 on touchdown runs by Duane Bennett and MarQueis Gray. The out-of-nowhere display of prowess enabled the Golden Gophers to keep Floyd of Rosedale – the prize of this particular rivalry – in Minneapolis. The Gophers captured the pig-shaped rivalry trophy with an upset victory last season; pulling off a double-Floyd feat represents a thunderclap which could keep the Iowa program in a state of shock for some time.
Gray scored the winning touchdown for Minnesota on a three-yard run on third-and-goal with 2:48 to play. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. Helped by Bennett, who carried 20 times for 101 yards, Gray gave the Gophers the power and versatility they needed on offense to keep Iowa’s defense at arm’s length. Iowa might have gained an 11-point lead, but Minnesota won all the crunch-time battles and parlayed that late surge into an exhilarating win that washed away the bad taste of a trying season under first-year coach Jerry Kill. As is well known throughout the college football community, Kill suffered a seizure during a September game against New Mexico State. His health has been a constant topic of discussion, and it has understandably affected the performance of his team. Grabbing this win over Iowa not only shows that Kill can coach; it shows that he can build back a program and make up for lost time.
Special teams issues plagued the Hawkeyes. Iowa missed two field goals and allowed the Gophers to recover a surprise onside kick for the second straight year. Running back Marcus Coker had a career night for Iowa, carrying 32 times for 252 yards and two touchdowns. It was Coker’s third consecutive 100-plus-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Wide receiver Marvin McNutt had another big game for Iowa, catching seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. McNutt has posted five 100-yard games this season. Only one other Iowa receiver had more than one catch: Kevonte Martin-Manley caught five passes for 35 yards.