Nov. 10, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A trophy of a bronze hog is at stake when No. 8 University of Iowa entertains Minnesota on Nov. 14 inside Kinnick Stadium.
So is a school-record football winning streak.
Oh, and last season the Golden Gophers scored 51 straight points and stunned the Hawkeyes, 51-14, in Minneapolis.
Add in a night game and the unveiling of alternative uniforms and game week has its share of commotion. But you wouldn’t know it inside the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. A consistent weekly focus is one reason Iowa is 9-0 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten Conference.
“Each game is just as big as the other,” UI junior quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “We know the crowd is going to be loud, there will be a lot of people, we’re wearing different jerseys and that’s cool, but it doesn’t change anything. We’re going into it with the same mindset. It’s our next game and we want to stay undefeated, so it’s the biggest game for us.”
Minnesota, a preseason favorite to win the Big Ten Conference West Division, is 4-5, 1-4. The Gophers have shown improvement the past two weeks, losing at home to No. 15 Michigan, 29-26, and on the road at No. 1 Ohio State, 28-14.
The game in 2014 is still fresh on the minds of the Hawkeyes. For Minnesota, it was the most points scored in the series in 65 years…and the first time they earned Floyd of Rosedale since 2011.
“As a competitor, any time you lose like that it’s embarrassing and you have a bitter taste in your mouth,” said UI senior center Austin Blythe. “This week we understand who the opponent is and what’s at stake. Preparing like we have the last nine weeks is big for us and it will help us go out and play well Saturday.”
“This is a special team and we have a special thing going right now. We just have to continue to play well and win.”
UI junior quarterback
The Hawkeyes have enjoyed nine “team wins” this season; Blythe called last year’s debacle in Minnesota a “team loss.”
“We have done a better job handling all the things that a football game can throw at you and understand that we have to play as an entire unit to be successful,” Blythe said. “It is understanding that it is another opportunity to go out and win a game against a good opponent. This game means something, but we’re going to prepare like every other week and try to get that W.”
UI sophomore offensive lineman Sean Welsh was not proud of Iowa’s performance last season against the Gophers. He is motivated by the 2014 result, but that hasn’t disrupted preparation.
“We try to stick to the same routine and mindset,” Welsh said. “We’re 9-0 and we’re in a good spot, so why would we want to change anything we do?”
Hawkeye junior running back LeShun Daniels, Jr., did not play against the Gophers last season in a game where Iowa rushed for 84 yards (68 coming on nine carries from Akrum Wadley) and gave up 291 yards on the ground. Daniels said he thinks about that performance, but his concentration is on Saturday.
“We’re full steam ahead, we’re two different teams,” Daniels said. “We’re focused on this year’s team and we’ll be prepared. We don’t have any pressure. We go into each week the same, knowing we have to prepare and do the little things right on Saturday and everything should take care of itself.”
Iowa’s unswerving approach to every game has produced positive results; positive results have produced national headlines.
“This is a special team and we have a special thing going right now,” Beathard said. “We just have to continue to play well and win.”