Nov. 8, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota forced three Hawkeye turnovers and blocked a punt en route to 35 unanswered first half points, propelling the Gophers to a 51-14 victory over the University of Iowa football team Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.
“We didn’t compete at kickoff and made way too many errors,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “We got out-coached and out-played in every phase. They were the aggressors, we were the acceptors.”
The Hawkeyes drove 76 yards for a touchdown on the first series of the game and 81 yards for a touchdown on their final drive. In between, Iowa mustered only 48 yards of total offense.
“(The opening series) was a good drive, but after that there was nothing to write home about,” said Ferentz. “That was offense, defense, and special teams, it was a group effort.”
Minnesota finished with 429-205 advantage for the game, which included churning out 291 yards on the ground. The Gophers’ passing attack, which entered the game as worst in the Big Ten, completed 10-of-14 attempts for 138 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to tight end Maxx Williams, who caught a team-high five balls for 46 yards.
The Hawkeyes’ rushing attack finished with 84 yards on 30 carries with 68 coming from redshirt freshman Akrum Wadley on nine attempts. Iowa’s passing game completed 13-of-26 attempts for 121 yards; junior Jake Rudock was 10-of-19 for 89 yards, while sophomore C.J. Beathard was 3-of-7 for 32 yards with a touchdown.
Defensively, Iowa had three tackles for loss and didn’t record a sack against the Gophers. Senior John Lowdermilk had a team and career-high 13 tackles, while redshirt freshman Josey Jewell finished with a career-best nine stops.
Iowa started the game on the right foot, taking the opening kickoff and driving 76 yards over seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Hawkeyes went 3-for-3 on third down on the series — converting an 11-yard screen to Damon Bullockon third-and 11, a 15-yard completion to Tevaun Smith on third-and-5 from midfield, and a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Mark Weisman on third-and-goal. Smith also had a 20-yard reception into the red zone and drew a pass interference penalty on third-and-11 from the 14.
The Gophers had an immediate answer, tying the game at seven with an eight-play, 64-yard drive. Minnesota opened the series with a 12-yard gain on a jet sweep from KJ Maye on its first play, and got a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Quinton Alston to move to the Iowa 37. Seven rushes later, Maye scored on a second jet sweep from 9 yards out.
After battling to a 7-7 tie in the first quarter, Minnesota used an opportunistic second quarter to score 28 points to take a 35-7 lead into the half. The Gophers scored 14 points off a blocked punt and a Hawkeye fumble in Minnesota territory.
Minnesota forced the game’s first turnover on Iowa’s second possession when Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted Rudock on a pass thrown behind Kevonte Martin-Manley, giving the Gophers possession at their own 45, but it didn’t cost the Hawkeyes points as the defense held.
After Iowa’s offense was forced to punt on its next series, Minnesota’s Eric Murray blocked Connor Kornbrath’s punt, giving the Gophers the ball at the Iowa 44. On the first play of the series, Leidner connected with Donovahn Jones for a 44-yard touchdown pass off play action, giving Minnesota a 14-7 lead with 12:59 left in the second quarter.
The score began a stretch of four-straight touchdown drives that sent Minnesota in the half with a 35-7 lead.
The Gophers used a 10-play, 69-yard drive to stretch the lead to 21-7. Minnesota got a diving, one-handed grab from tight end Maxx Williams on third-and-7 — a play that was originally ruled out-of-bounds, but was overturned by instant replay — to keep the series alive, and Williams closed out the drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception with 6:49 left in the half.
On Iowa’s first offensive play of the ensuing series, defensive lineman Steven Richardson sacked Rudock for a 3-yard loss and forced a fumble in the process. Linebacker Jack Lynn recovered, giving Minnesota a first down at the Iowa 22. The Gophers converted a key fourth-and-1 on a Leidner quarterback sneak, and on the sixth play, Cobb scored from 6 yards out, pushing Minnesota’s lead to 28-7 with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter.
The Gophers pushed their lead to 35-7 with a seven-play, 53-yard scoring drive just before half. Leidner scrambled for a 17-yard gain on third-and-7 from midfield and following gains of 13, 10, and 6 yards from Maye on jet sweeps, Leidner connected with Williams for his second touchdown catch, pushing the advantage to 28 points.
Minnesota had a chance to add even more before the break when redshirt freshman Akrum Wadley fumbled on the first play of Iowa’s final drive of the first half. The Gophers attempted a 45-yard field goal as time expired, but Ryan Santoso’s attempt missed wide left.
Minnesota started the second half where it left off the first, moving 75 yards over 11 plays to build a five-touchdown advantage. Leidner closed out the series with his third touchdown pass of the game — a 3-yard strike to Williams with 9:13 left in the third quarter.
The Gophers capped off a 10-play, 68-yard scoring drive early in the fourth quarter to score its seventh touchdown. Rodrick Williams, Jr., got the ball four straight times to close out the series, which ended in a 1-yard score with 11:34 left in the game. Minnesota missed the PAT, but extended its lead to 48-7.
The Gophers’ final points came via a Santoso 35-yard field goal with 6:28 remaining.
With Beathard under center, the Hawkeyes drove 81 yards over nine plays on their final possession of the game. Wadley rushed for 48 yards on four carries, including a 21-yard burst to the Minnesota 24. After a touchdown pass to Riley McCarron was broken up in the end zone, Beathard connected with Andrew Stone on a crossing route in the end zone on the next play. It was Stone’s first career catch and touchdown.
Iowa (6-3, 3-2) returns to action Saturday, traveling to Champaign, Illinois, for its final road game of the regular season. Television and kickoff information for the game against the Fighting Illini has yet to be announced.