Following a 68-yard touchdown to Chris Autman-Bell, the crowd inside Kinnick Stadium was hushed. The Gophers suddenly had momentum late in the fourth quarter, and the Iowa lead was cut to two. On Minnesota’s two-point attempt, Seth Benson got pressure on the back side while Dane Belton rushed the far-side edge of the line. On the roll out, Belton got his arm up, deflecting the pass and keeping the two-point lead. The pressure from the Hawkeye front was lacking all day, as Minnesota was able to move the ball effectively. However, on this two-point attempt, Iowa formulated pressure and batted the ball away. Big plays in big moments were key to the Hawkeye victory on Saturday. Iowa retained the Floyd of Rosedale for the seventh year in a row with a 27-22 win in Iowa City.
Big Plays In Big Situations
The box score tells a very different story than the scoreboard in this one. The difference was that Iowa made key plays in key situations. Two of the bigger plays of the game were on passes to Charlie Jones, both resulting in touchdowns. In the second quarter on third and short, Jones got a step on the defender and came down with a spectacular diving catch. The play set up an Alex Padilla quarterback sneak touchdown to take the lead. Then, in the third quarter, Jones caught a 72-yard pass for a touchdown. The score gave the Hawkeyes the lead and some second-half momentum. His two receptions on the day went for 106 yards and a score.
The other important sequence occurred at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Logan Lee blocked a potential go-ahead Minnesota field goal. Following the block, Iowa took the ball over near midfield up by one. This was where two of the biggest plays of the game took place. On a third and long, Iowa handed the ball to Tyler Goodson and he got through the defense for a huge 12-yard gain. After the first down, the Hawkeyes started to feel some momentum.
On the ensuing play, Padilla threw a screen route to Keagan Johnson who made the catch and appeared to be stopped behind the line. However, the freshman miraculously shook off two defenders from a would-be tackle for loss and got to the outside. He ran 27 yards down the sideline and scored, giving the Hawkeyes an eight-point lead early in the fourth. Johnson had two drops earlier in the game before Padilla pulled him aside on the sideline saying, “next play.” Padilla trusted his receiver and continued to feed him the ball. Johnson ended up scoring a key touchdown in a big situation when Iowa needed it.
The late fourth-quarter touchdown by Autman-Bell brought the Gophers within two and gave them the momentum as well. The long touchdown pass was Autman-Bell’s fifth reception on a day where he averaged 22 yards per catch. Despite Minnesota’s run-heavy performance, Morgan went to Autman-Bell 12 times. The seven incompletions were mostly uncatchable passes, but when he did come down with the ball, he made use of it. Autman-Bell’s 109 yard performance against Iowa made for the fourth year in a row that a Minnesota receiver recorded over 100 reception yards and a touchdown against the Hawkeyes.
Autman-Bell did have a chance to come up with a huge catch late in the game. After taking a sack inside their own five-yard line, Morgan was able to get the ball into a small window on the near sideline for what would have been a first down. Autman-Bell was the intended target, and although the ball was thrown high, it went through his hands with tight coverage from Riley Moss. The veteran receiver had a chance to get the Gophers’ drive moving, but he couldn’t come up with it. It wouldn’t go in the stat book as a drop, but he might like to have that one back.
Gophers on the Ground
Minnesota continued its success on the ground in this game against the nation’s eighth-ranked rushing defense. The Hawkeyes give up less than 100 rush yards per game, but today, they allowed a sack-adjusted 210 yards on the ground. Minnesota’s freshman running back Ky Thomas carried the ball 29 times for 126 yards, while his counterpart Mar’Keise Irving added another 80 yards on 17 carries. The Gophers ran the ball 50 times compared to just 33 pass attempts, and they were largely successful all day. They were forced to put the ball in the air late in the game, but their running backs averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
The numbers on the ground were great, but they were missing one key statistic. Minnesota did not score a touchdown running the ball all day. They were able to chip away at the Hawkeye defense, but Iowa forced them to have to score in other ways. The Gophers did find other ways to score, which made the game close. Morgan came up with a few big-time throws to help keep Minnesota in the game, but it was ultimately not enough.
Floyd Stays In Iowa City
As a whole, Iowa’s play-calling was better than in recent weeks, and they were able to find success with Padilla under center. His ability to scramble out of the pocket was critical in keeping drives alive. Padilla finished with 206 yards and two touchdown passes and one rush touchdown. There were questionable play calls, however, including the back-to-back quarterback sneaks inside the five-yard line at the end of the game. Iowa failed to score there in what would have sealed it. But the defense made a stand and Iowa came away with the victory.
The Hawkeyes had the ball for only 19 minutes in this game and were out-gained by 132 yards against the Gophers. They played a physical game and struggled to light up the box score. Minnesota ran 34 more plays than Iowa on Saturday, but Iowa made big plays when they needed it most. None were bigger than the critical touchdown pass to Johnson and the two-point conversion stop in the fourth quarter. With the seventh victory in a row against the Gophers, Floyd stays in Iowa City.