Big first half carries Iowa to 21-16 victory

Nov. 10, 2007

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Kirk’s weekly media conference (Nov. 6) | Kirk’s postgame press conference (Nov. 10)

IOWA CITY — Floyd of Rosedale is back and so are the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Iowa used a strong first half and survived a defensive, field-position final 30 minutes to defeat Minnesota 21-16 this afternoon at Kinnick Stadium. The victory — the third consecutive for the Hawkeyes — means that the traveling trophy Floyd of Rosedale will return to the Jacobson Athletic Building. It also means that Iowa is bowl eligible with a record of 6-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten Conference. Minnesota dips to 1-10, 0-7.

Iowa running back Albert Young rushed for 92 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns and running mate Damian Sims added 58 yards on seven tries. Quarterback Jake Christensen finished 14 of 25 with 157 yards. The final stats were somewhat deceiving since Minnesota accumulated 163 of its 315 yards in the final 15 minutes by throwing caution to the wind. Iowa gained 68 yards and had four first downs in the second half.

“One of these days maybe we’ll get both (halves) going,” UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Our third touchdown drive was maybe better than any of them because it was at a time when we needed to respond.”

Iowa held leads of 14-0 and 21-7 during the first half.

The Hawkeye defense turned in another strong performance, led by Mike Klinkenborg with a game and season-high 13 tackles (five solos). Cornerback Charles Godfrey had four tackles and four pass break-ups. A.J. Edds was in on 11 stops, followed by Bryan Mattison with eight and Brett Greenwood with seven.

“We’re just thrilled to get the win,” Ferentz said. “Minnesota competed extremely hard, especially in the second half, but we did what we needed to do to win the game. We’re playing better. We’re not playing perfect, but we’re playing better.”

Two consistent culprits put emphatic ends to the first Minnesota drives of the game. On the first possession, Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul stopped Gopher quarterback Adam Weber for no gain on third-and-2 from the Minnesota 28. Godfrey stepped up on the second drive by batting a Weber pass to the turf on third-and-4 from the Minnesota 26.

A 26-yard punt by Minnesota’s Justin Kucek put the Hawkeyes in prime position to be first on the scoreboard. Iowa began a series at its own 48 where Young and the suddenly-seasoned offensive line shoved the ball down Gopher throats. The biggest run — a 22-yarder — was sprung by a nifty downfield block from wide receiver James Cleveland. The 11-play drive culminated in a touchdown pass from Christensen to tight end Brandon Myers, who hauled in the ball after it was tipped by Cleveland with 3-minutes, 51-seconds left in the period. The point-after kick by Daniel Murray gave the Hawkeyes a 7-0 lead. Young rushed for 44 yards on seven carries during the drive. It marked the first time Iowa scored first in game since the Syracuse game Sept. 8 — a span of nine weeks.

The Hawkeye offense — especially the blocking — remained sharp on Iowa’s second scoring drive. Sims carried the ball for 18 and 22 yards on back-to-back runs and Christensen completed a 20-yard pass to Paul Chaney, Jr., that took the ball from the Gopher 21 to the 1. Young kept his legs driving on first-and-goal and plowed his way to the touchdown with 13 seconds left in the period. Murray’s PAT made it 14-0.

Godfrey wasn’t finished disrupting the Gopher plans. On the initial drive of the second quarter Godfrey broke-up another third-down pass, this one intended for Ernie Wheelwright.

The early-game woes for the Hawkeyes seemed like a distant memory as they piled up a 143-15 advantage in total yards after the first 15 minutes and held onto a two-touchdown lead. Iowa also controlled more than 10 minutes of game clock.

Minnesota got on the board with 4:33 left before halftime and its largest gain during the 14-play, 64-yard drive was a roughing the quarterback penalty against the Hawkeyes that took the ball to the Iowa 37. Gopher fullback Justin Valentine cut the lead to 14-7some 10 plays later with a 1-yard scoring dive. Joel Monroe added the PAT kick.

Young was again the workhorse as the Hawkeyes answered and took a 21-7 lead. Young’s 12-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds remaining in the half was his fifth carry on the 10-play, 80-yard drive. Christensen was 3-for-3 passing with completions to Myers (20 yards), Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (13) and Cleveland (11).

The Gophers made the most of the final 50 seconds and converted a 54-yard field goal by Monroe as time expired to close the gap to 21-10 at the break.

Iowa outgained Minnesota 228-100 in yards in the first half. Young rushed the ball 16 times for 79 yards and Christensen completed 9 of 13 for 106 yards.

There were two interceptions, but no scoring in the third period. Hawkeye cornerback Bradley Fletcher intercepted a pass that gave Iowa momentum at the 9:15 mark, but penalties and a sack forced Ryan Donahue into his third punt of the quarter.

The Gophers cost themselves prime field position later in the frame when Christensen was flushed from the pocket on third down and tackled well short of first down. But Minnesota’s Derrick Onwuachi pounced on Christensen after he was down, costing his team 15 yards and giving the Hawkeyes an automatic first down at the Iowa 23. The Hawkeyes didn’t capitalize, however, because Gopher cornerback Desi Steib intercepted a Christensen pass at the Minnesota 14 three plays later.

Minnesota gambled and lost with 8:29 remaining. Faced with fourth-and-8 from the Iowa 37, Weber, who was under pressure by Kenny Iwebema, overthrew a diving Jack Simmons.

One of the more crucial conversions of the game for the Hawkeyes came on third-and-5 from the Iowa 43. Christensen eluded the rush, sprinted to his right and completed a 13-yard pass to Trey Stross at the Gopher 44. That was followed by a beautiful special team’s play by Iowa. Donahue lofted a high, spiraling punt that was downed at the Minnesota 4 with 5:31.

The Gophers made it interesting with 98 seconds remaining when Weber threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker. That capped a 15-pay, 96-yard drive. Greenwood foiled the two-point conversion attempt at the score stood 21-16. Cleveland recovered the on-side kick and the Hawkeyes downed the ball three times as the game clock expired and the players rushed the Minnesota sideline to reclaim Floyd.

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