By JAMES ALLAN
MINNEAPOLIS — Come on home, Floyd.
University of Iowa junior Akrum Wadley’s 54-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run sent the Hawkeyes to a 14-7 victory at Minnesota on Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.
The win is Iowa’s school-record-tying eighth straight road victory and fifth straight triumph in rivalry trophy games. The traveling trophy Floyd of Rosedale returns to its perch at the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center.
“Points came really tough,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “Our guys rose to the ocassion and set the tone early. I was impressed with our mental fortitude and we played with a lot of toughness. The guys bowed up and competed; I am happy for our guys and the perserverance they displayed.”
Iowa improves to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten Conference.
Trailing 7-6 with 5:36 remaining, Iowa took over at its own 46 following a 30-yard shanked Minnesota punt. Wadley took the handoff and bounced it to the outside for a 54-yard touchdown run. The eight-second run was Iowa’s longest play from scrimmage on the year.
Senior LeShun Daniels, Jr., extended the advantage to 14-7 by bulling his way into the end zone to complete the two-point conversion — Iowa’s first of the season.
Minnesota made things interesting by driving into the red zone on its final series. Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner completed passes for 16 and 21 yards on consecutive plays to midfield and a 23-yard pass to Brian Smith moved Minnesota to the 13.
Iowa’s defense rose to the challenge like it did all day.
The Hawkeyes forced four consecutive incomplete passes — the final coming following an attempt to Smith with Greg Mabin in coverage.
Iowa’s defense stepped up, limiting the Gophers to 268 yards and seven points in the game — 29.3 points below its season average (36.3). The Hawkeyes forced eight three-and-outs and three turnovers. Minnesota had three drives over 50 yards the entire game.
Junior Bo Bower had a team-high seven tackles and a forced fumble, while sophomore Brandon Snyder had five stops, a fumble recovery, and an interception. Freshman Manny Rugamba also had a pick — the first of his career — in the second quarter.
“We pressured the quarterback better and played the run better,” said Ferentz. “We’ve haven’t been doing a great job with that this year. We weren’t 100 percent, but we were a lot better.”
The Hawkeyes finished with 321 yards of total offense behind a 100-yard rushing output from Wadley. The junior finished with 107 yards on 14 carries, while Daniels, Jr., had 66 yards on 17 attempts. It was Wadley’s second 100-yard game this season and the fifth of his career.
Senior C.J. Beathard finished 17-of-31 for 142 yards in the game. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time in nine contests and had two interceptions. Senior Riley McCarron had a team-high six receptions for 62 yards.
After taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room, the Hawkeyes doubled their lead on their first series of the second half with a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive. McCarron caught a 21-yard reception on the first play of the second half to move Iowa to midfield and the team moved into the red zone on consecutive 10-plus yard runs to the 13.
On third-and-7 from the 10, Beathard hooked up with Jerminic Smith for a would-be touchdown, but the pass was ruled incomplete when Smith’s foot coming down out of play. The Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 6-0 on a 28-yard Keith Duncan field goal — his second of the game.
Minnesota carried the momentum from a 32-yard Rodney Smith kick return on the ensuing kickoff to score the game’s first touchdown to take a 7-6 lead. The Gophers needed eight plays to cover 58 yards.
On first-and-10 from the Iowa 42, Leidner found Smith for a 22-yard gain to the Iowa 20. Four plays later, Shannon Brooks scored from 9-yards out to give the Gophers a one-point advantage.
The Hawkeyes had strong starting field position throughout the second half, but they kept shooting themselves in the foot.
Early in the fourth quarter, McCarron coughed up a fumble following a 13-yard gain to end a drive at the Gopher 35. On the next Iowa possession, the Hawkeyes had an 11-play, 41-yard drive, but it halted when Beathard lofted a pass in Derrick Mitchell, Jr.’s, direction on third-and-long, Kamal Martin snagged the interception at the Minnesota 21.
Iowa led 3-0 at halftime after limiting the Gophers to 101 yards over the first 30 minutes with 50 yards coming on Minnesota’s final possession. The Hawkeyes’ defense forced three-and-outs on four of the six possessions and had two first-half turnovers.
The Hawkeyes used a 10-play, 60-yard drive to score the first half’s only points. On third-and-7 from midfield, Beathard connected with Jay Scheel for a 12-yard gain and on the next play, Daniels broke off a 31-yard gain before being tripped up at the 7 on the final play of the first quarter.
Minnesota’s defense held, forcing the Hawkeyes’ to settle on Duncan’s 22-yard field goal with 13:32 left in the second quarter.
Iowa missed a chance at points in the first quarter. After starting their second drive in Gopher territory following a 22-yard Desmond King punt return, the drive stalled and sophomore Miguel Recinos’ 50-yard field goal attempt came up short.
The Hawkeyes’ defense forced the game’s first turnover when Bower forced a Rodney Smith fumble and Snyder recovered, giving Iowa the ball on its own 48. Beathard went for pay dirt off play action on the first play, but Minnesota’s KiAnte Hardin tipped and intercepted the pass on the goal line.
Minnesota’s offense gained traction on its final series of the first half, moving 50 yards from the shadow of its own goal line. Leidner didn’t complete his first pass until the 4:15 mark of the second quarter, but the Gophers’ series ended when Rugamba intercepted Leidner with Minnesota in Iowa territory.
Leidner finished 13-of-33 for 166 yards and two interceptions for the game. Brooks (55 yards) and Rodney Smith (44) yards accounted for 99 yards on 21 carries, while Drew Wolitarsky had five receptions for 58 yards.
Iowa returns to action Oct. 15, traveling to West Lafayette, Indiana, for a Big Ten road game at Purdue. Game time is set for 11 a.m. (CT).