Iowa Escapes With Floyd, Controls Destiny in West

Floyd of Rosedale will reside in Iowa City for another year after one of the most incredible sequences to finish out a game. The victory coupled with Illinois’ loss to Michigan earlier in the day puts the Hawkeyes in clear command for the last week of the season. Iowa escapes Minneapolis with Floyd and now controls its own destiny in the Big Ten West with a 13-10 victory against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

The Sequence

The Fumble

On a 16-play, 88-yard drive that lasted nearly nine minutes going late into the fourth quarter, Minnesota carved its way into the Iowa red zone. The Hawkeyes had no answers for Mohamed Ibrahim, who carried it 14 times on that drive. His performance on the day was nothing short of exceptional. Ibrahim finished with 263 yards on 39 carries and a touchdown. He was getting nearly seven yards per touch, and Iowa’s defense was struggling to keep him contained. Ibrahim’s dominance all day was a huge reason for Minnesota’s 399 total yards. 

However, Iowa finally made a play that changed the game. On his 14th carry of the drive, Jack Cambell forced an Ibrahim fumble at the Hawkeyes’ nine-yard line. The huge momentum shift negated a drive that felt as though a touchdown was inevitable. Up until that fumble, Minnesota had commanded the time of possession. Their previous two drives at that point amassed 12:30, while Iowa’s previous two totaled just 1:30. The Hawkeye defense was on the field for over 11 minutes in the fourth quarter.

Following the fumble, Iowa proceeded to go three and out and punt it back. But the momentum shift was taking place. Minnesota retained possession on their own 45-yard line with four minutes left in regulation. The 10-10 tie at the time made this possession feel like it could be the final drive of the game. 

The Interception

Again, the Gophers went back to Ibrahim. A 19-yard chunk play got things going in the right direction for them. Then three plays later, Athan Kaliakmanis forced a pass that was tipped up into the air and intercepted by Campbell. The middle linebacker returned the ball 75 yards for what looked to be a pick-six. Officials ruled Campbell out at the Minnesota 45-yard line, negating the score. The call was very questionable, as the replay showed a clear green strip of turf between his foot and the sideline. Regardless, Iowa took over with two minutes to play.

Immediately, Spencer Petras connected with Luke Lachey on a 33-yard pass to set the Hawkeyes up in the red zone. Iowa ran the clock down with run plays and set up for a field goal to win. Despite the unintentional icing of kicker Drew Stevens, Kirk Ferentz’s timeout didn’t matter and Stevens made the second attempt. Iowa took a 13-10 lead and played 30 seconds of defense to secure the win. 

Early Start

The first two drives of the game ended in scores, giving the Hawkeyes an early 10-0 lead. The drives consisted of 59 and 66 yards, and Sam LaPorta was the workhorse. On Iowa’s first play from scrimmage, Petras connected with LaPorta for 58 yards. The passing success was there all day for Petras, who finished with 221 yards, completing 15 of 24. He had no touchdowns or interceptions but did score one on the ground to cap off the team’s 66-yard, the second drive of the game. 

LaPorta exited the game late in the first quarter with an injury and did not return. His first-quarter stats were four receptions for 95 yards. Lachey filled in his absence effectively. He caught five for 77 yards, including the big pass play at the end of the game. Petras was able to find seven receivers on the day, and his performance was one of the better of the season.

Little Mistakes

Following the two opening scores, Iowa’s next six possessions ended in five punts and the end of the second quarter. The drives totaled 114 yards, and the offense was not in a consistent rhythm. Minnesota tied the game at 10 midway through the third quarter, and Iowa needed some momentum. Their ensuing drive included three plays of 10 or more yards in a row. An 11-yard pass was followed up with two rushes of 17 and 21 yards. It took the Hawkeyes to the Gopher 26-yard line. The next snap went over Petras’ head, resulting in a loss of 10 yards. It ended up forcing a punt from the Minnesota 36-yard line. 

This wasn’t the only trouble with the exchange on the day. Two plays after Iowa’s opening 58-yard pass on their first possession, a snap got by Petras taking them out of the red zone. Iowa recovered the loose ball and proceeded to end the drive with three points. It wasn’t a critical error, but those kinds of things are what can change the outcome of low-scoring battles late in the season. 

Iowa didn’t have a penalty all afternoon or give up a single sack. It was a much-improved game from the offensive line in general. Iowa only rushed for 50 yards, but they were able to find success through the air when it mattered. More importantly, the Hawkeyes were able to force the turnover in two critical situations. 

Iowa Escapes With Floyd, Controls Destiny in West

Just four weeks ago, Iowa had been written off. The 3-4 start with three straight losses blurred the remainder of the season. Many were hoping for change within the coaching staff. Ferentz stuck by his staff and his team, continuing on in the 12-game season. Now, the dramatic finish in Minneapolis makes it eight straight victories in this long-standing rivalry. More importantly, it opens the door wide for the Hawkeyes to repeat in the Big Ten West. A win next week at home against Nebraska clinches the division. The Iowa Hawkeyes are in control of their own destiny in the Big Ten West, and it has come on the heels of another successful November. 

This historically dominant defense ranks within the top five in many statistical categories. The special teams unit has been more than effective on the punt team, both offensively and defensively. Tory Taylor is among the best in the country, and his gunners continue to assist in pinning the ball deep. Offensively, there have been struggles. However, Petras is making plays when they are needed and the 280-yard performance against Minnesota came almost entirely on his arm. With one week left in the regular season, Iowa is one win away from a third Big Ten West title, and second in a row.