Nov. 13, 2004
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MINNEAPOLIS — Saturday’s decisive 29-27 victory over Minnesota started early for No. 19 Iowa and ended close, but the Hawkeyes have eight wins and “they can’t take any of them away.”
Or so says the head coach, Kirk Ferentz, whose team has – for the fourth straight time – won Floyd of Rosedale, the picturesque bronze pig that is the 69-year-old symbol of the interstate rivalry.
Unlike Floyd, however, Saturday’s win inside a sold-out Metrodome was not picturesque. But this team isn’t about looks – only points.
“I told the team afterwards: This is one of those years where we’re not interested in statistics,” Ferentz said. “This isn’t a statistic football team. The only things that mean a lot to us are the points allowed, points scored, turnovers, and penalties – I think those are the areas we’ve improved in since the start of Big Ten play, and it certainly helped us not to have had a turnover today.”
While Iowa (8-2, 6-1) didn’t give a ball up, Minnesota had four turnovers, starting with a 9-yard interception by senior safety Sean Considine on just the fifth play of the game.
Cornerback Jovon Johnson and linebacker Chad Greenway added two more snags, and Marcus Paschal had a forced fumble for the Iowa defense.
Iowa started its first possession on the Gophers’ 44 yard line drove to within 19, but settled with a 36-yard field goal for an early lead.
“It was big, and it helped give us a spark and build some momentum,” said Ferentz. “The way the first half turned out, and in the second half we did the same thing, we’d get down there with some good field position, and in the first half we had excellent field position, but we always had to settle for field goals.
“So you worry about that coming back to bite you, but we found a way to hang in there and get the thing done.”
The reason Iowa hung on this time was sophomore kicker Kyle Schlicher, who set a school-record with five field goals, including a 49-yard game winner in the fourth quarter.
Schlicher is 17-of-22 in field goals and 23-of-26 on extra points for a team-high 74 points this season.
“I think we’ve seen him grow up each and every day,” Ferentz said of Schlicher, “and he came up big there for us.”
“You grow with each field goal, or anytime you’re on the field with a kickoff, an extra point, or a field goal,” Schlicher said. “But I think being comfortable with every situation is a must. I don’ think of this as my first season – I’ve had two seasons already. To everybody else it’s my freshman year, but to me in my head, it’s not.
“I’ve had my time to prepare and now it’s my time to shine.”
And shine Schlicher did. All but 12 of Iowa’s 29 points were by the sophomore from Ankeny, Iowa.
“With each and every one, it’s just getting more comfortable and more fluid,” the kicker said of his footwork. “I just feel more comfortable.”
Not content with his counterpart on the opposing team getting all the attention, Minnesota kicker Rhys Lloyd matched Schlicher’s performance until the fourth quarter.
A native of Dover, England, Lloyd had two field goals and three points after touchdown before missing a 51-yarder wide left with 28 seconds left to win the game on fourth-and-11.
“When you’re in the Big Ten, it’s hard to win games – period. So if you can get four turnovers in a game that gives you great field position. It’s not something we talk about, but we try to run to the ball and make people fumble and run the passing routes to see if we can make some interceptions, and it turned out to be big for us today.”
Linebacker Chad Greenway
“It hurts,” Lloyd told The Associated Press, “but I’ve just got to get through it.”
The kick missed so greatly due a rush Greenway, the junior linebacker, was able put on the kicker after breaking through the line.
Greenway had eight tackles, one for a loss, a fumble recovery and an interception on the day.
But the native of South Dakota, who had a personal crowd of about 50 at the game, said Minnesota’s offensive line and rushing attack just about put away the Hawkeyes.
Iowa’s fourth-ranked rushing defense gave up 337 yards on the ground compared to the 68 yards it had averaged to date.
“They killed us all day on the run,” he said. “When you’re in the Big Ten, it’s hard to win games – period. So if you can get four turnovers in a game that gives you great field position. It’s not something we talk about, but we try to run to the ball and make people fumble and run the passing routes to see if we can make some interceptions, and it turned out to be big for us today.”
Running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney had 167 and 156 yards respectively for Minnesota (6-5, 3-5).
“Minnesota’s run the ball pretty well against everybody, so long as they’re in the football game,” Ferentz said. “They didn’t give up on it today, and we didn’t expect them to. Their line did a fantastic job, and they had a great scheme. And needless to say, those two running backs are excellent football players.”
For Iowa’s offense, sophomore quarterback Drew Tate went 24-of-39 for 333 yards and two touchdowns, with a 41-yarder to Clinton Solomon and a 60-yarder to James Townsend.
“With everything we’ve had to fight through, we’ve done a great job of keeping winning,” Tate told The AP.
And it only gets better for the Hawkeyes.
On Saturday, Michigan State brought down Wisconsin 49-14, and Michigan defeated Northwestern 42-20 inside the Big House at Ann Arbor.
If Iowa defeats the Badgers next week inside Kinnick, and Michigan loses at Ohio State, the Hawkeyes will hold a share of the Big Ten Championship for the second time in two years. The Hawkeyes play Wisconsin at 3:35 p.m. CST.
“What a tribute to our players to win six straight after losing two straight,” Ferentz said. “It’s a great situation for us. Now it’s our job to be just as prepared as we know our fans will be.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com