Minnesota may not be the most intimidating team on the Iowa football schedule this year, but the Golden Gophers forced the Hawkeyes to stay on their toes until the final seconds. In the end, the undefeated Hawkeyes improved to 10-0, the best start in program history.
Neither the defense for Iowa nor Minnesota had an impressive game, but the Golden Gophers just couldn’t keep up with quarterback C.J. Beathard and the Hawkeyes. As calculated by the Star Tribune, the Iowa and Minnesota offenses combined for ten touchdowns, fifteen third-down conversions, 51 first downs and 940 total yards of offense.
On the Hawkeyes side of things, both Beathard and running back LeShaun Daniels had huge games. ESPN’s Mitch Sherman declared Iowa’s Beathard the player of the game. Now 11-0 as a starter for the Hawkeyes, the junior completed 18 of 26 passes for 213 total passing yards. Proving he’s a double-threat, he also had 50 rushing yards on his way to two touchdowns. But, if that wasn’t enough for the non-present Minnesota defense to deal with, Daniels added 195 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The big win over Minnesota marked two noteworthy improvements over last season for Iowa. As previously mentioned, 10-0 is the best start in program history, beating out last year’s 9-0 start. Additionally, they made up for the embarrassment that was their loss to the Golden Gophers last year: 51-14 (the most points Iowa had allowed Minnesota to score since 1949).
Daniels put the first points on the board, giving Iowa a 7-0 lead, and that 91-yard drive set the tone for the game. Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner responded by leading a 75 yard drive that resulted in his first running touchdown of the game, and the first quarter ended with a tie score 7-7. After each team scored another touchdown in the first three minutes of the second quarter, the Hawkeyes would score a touchdown and two field goals to take a thirteen point lead early in the third quarter, and the Golden Gophers couldn’t ever catch up. Minnesota’s Rodrick Williams ran in another touchdown with just over a minute to play in the third to bring Minnesota within six points as the final quarter began.
And then, both teams really turned it up. Beathard ran in another touchdown just thirty seconds into the fourth quarter to put the Hawkeyes up by twelve after a failed two-point conversion. Nine minutes later, Minnesota finally responded, scoring a touchdown to put them within five points. With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Daniels had a 51-yard run that would seal the Gophers’ fate. Minnesota would rush for one more touchdown with less than a minute remaining, but it wasn’t quite enough.
With Ohio State making it look easy against Illinois (28-3), they remain atop the Big 10 East, also at 10-0 overall (6-0 in conference play). Iowa, of course, leads the Big 10 West with an identical record. Assuming Iowa and Ohio State continue their winning ways, one of the two teams will suffer their first loss of the season in the Big 10 Conference Championship. If Iowa wants to be a part of the College Football Playoffs, they’re going to have to find a way to beat the Buckeyes.
Next week, the Golden Gophers welcome the Illioins Fighting Illini to Minnesota, battling to stay out of last place in the Big 10 West.
Next up on the Iowa football schedule is Purdue, one of the worst teams in the Big 10 Conference. They will look to slide past the Boilermakers before facing off against a mediocre Nebraska Cornhuskers the following week.
How will this outcome affect the CFP rankings? Will Iowa’s win be enough to put the Hawkeyes in the coveted Top 4 of the college football playoff rankings for the first time? With last week’s Top 4 — Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame — scoring wins this week, it will be tough.
[Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images]