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By JAMES ALLAN
MINNEAPOLIS — Ten touchdowns and 79 points later, the greatest trophy in college football — Floyd of Rosedale — is coming home.
Junior Nate Stanley threw for 318 yards — his third-career 300-yard game — and four touchdowns, leading the University of Iowa football team to a 48-31 shootout victory over Minnesota on Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Hawkeyes, who have won four straight over Minnesota, improve to 4-1 overall, 1-1 in Big Ten Conference play. The 48 points are the most by the Hawkeyes in the series since a 55-0 win in 2008.
Iowa finished the game with 420 yards — 314 coming through the air and 106 on the ground. Stanley completed 23-of-39 attempts to six different receivers and four different Hawkeyes caught touchdown passes.
Senior Nick Easley had a team-best six catches for 52 yards, while sophomore Ihmir Smith-Marsette led the team with 78 receiving yards. Sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin paced Iowa’s rushing attack with 47 yards on 20 attempts, while sophomore Mekhi Sargent added 33 yards on nine carries and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Iowa finished with a more than six-minute advantage in time of possession (33:17-26:43) and it converted 10-of-19 third-down conversions.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes limited Minnesota to 320 yards, including just 86 on the ground, and forced four turnovers. Iowa had five sacks — three by Anthony Nelson — and seven tackles for loss in the game. Junior Amani Jones had a team-high nine tackles (two tackles for loss and one sack) before being ejected for targeting late in the fourth quarter.
Iowa’s season-high four interceptions came from three underclassmen. Freshman Riley Moss had two interceptions, freshman Julius Brents had one, and sophomore Geno Stone capped the win with an interception on Minnesota’s final drive of the game.
The Hawkeyes never trailed, jumping out to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions. Iowa led 28-17 at the half and 38-24 through three quarters.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
The Hawkeyes had a 38-24 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Iowa’s defense stepped up, forcing its third turnover. After Amani Jones sacked Zach Annexstad on first down, freshman Riley Moss intercepted the Gopher quarterback on the next play and returned it 36 yards to the Gopher 9.
Iowa couldn’t punch it into the end zone, but senior Miguel Recinos connected on a 20-yard field goal on the drive, extending the lead to three scores at 41-24.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“We all anticipated it was going to be tough and hard fought and that is exactly what it was. We made it a little tougher than we needed to, but it’s a good point there. The guys played through those bumps to persevere.
“They made it tough for us to run the football, crowding the box and their safeties were aggressive. It was clear we were going to have to throw the football. We made some good plays. There were two critical errors that made this game tougher than it needed to be, but the good news is we played through those things.
“I am not saying we gave them 14 points, but we set the ball up on the tee for them for two touchdowns. We can’t do that, we can’t keep doing that. We’re not going to win on the road or in conference doing that. That’s going to be a lesson point tomorrow like the last game. It’s hard to be a winning team if you turn the ball over and you’re reckless with it.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Iowa stormed out to a 14-0 lead, scoring two touchdowns and out-gaining the Gophers, 115-(-5) on its first two possessions. The Hawkeyes went 53 yards on 10 plays on the game’s first possession with Stanley completing passes to five different players, culminating with a 3-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson. It was Iowa’s first points and first touchdown on an opening drive this season.
- The Hawkeyes used a quick-strike for their second touchdown, needing just three plays to cover 60 yards. Sophomore Mekhi Sargent chipped a blitzing linebacker to free Stanley, who scrambled and connected with sophomore Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a career-long 60-yard touchdown reception. It was Iowa’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
- The Gophers got on the scoreboard with a 10-play, 75-yard drive. Minnesota picked on freshman Riley Moss on the series with completions of 34 yards to the 7 and a 3-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Batemon, making the score 14-7 with 58 seconds left in the opening quarter.
- Iowa drove 74 yards over 14 plays for its third touchdown, converting two third downs and a fourth down. The latter came on a fake field goal where the Hawkeyes shifted to the right before long snapper Jackson Subbert used a side-winding 8-yard direct snap to Hockenson, who rushed in from 4-yards out. Defensive lineman Sam Brincks had the key seal block on the touchdown, which gave Iowa a 21-7 lead.
- Minnesota cut its deficit to 21-10 on its next possession, taking advantage of a pass interference penalty and back-to-back completions of 11 and 17 yards to move into Iowa territory. Emmit Carpenter connected on a field goal from 49 yards out to cap the scoring drive.
- Iowa took advantage of a failed Minnesota fake punt to punch in its fourth touchdown. After taking over at the Minnesota 49, the Hawkeyes needed five plays to find the end zone. On third-and-7, Stanley connected with Ivory Kelly-Martin on a screen for 25 yards and he hit Nick Easley on a 21-yard touchdown on the next play, giving Iowa a 28-10 lead.
- Iowa forced the game’s first turnover on the next possession when Moss intercepted Zack Annexstad in the end zone for a touchback. On the next play, Stanley rolled out and made an inadvertent pass into heavy coverage. The ball was intercepted by Jacob Huff and returned to the Iowa 6. Minnesota scored two plays later on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson, making the score 28-17.
- The Hawkeyes took the opening possession of the second half 53 yards, which resulted in a 40-yard field goal from Miguel Recinos. Brandon Smith had the big play — a 26-yard completion even after a pass interference penalty was declined.
- Minnesota closed the gap to a one score game early in the third quarter when Gopher defensive end Carter Coughlin strip-sacked Stanley and Thomas Barber recovered and returned it to the 6. Two players later, Seth Green scored from 1-yard out, cutting the deficit to 31-24.
- Smith-Marsette gave Iowa a jolt on the ensuing kickoff with a 49-yard kickoff return. Iowa needed nine plays to cover the final 51 yards with the final five yards coming via a touchdown pass to junior tight end Noah Fant to give the Hawkeyes a 38-24 lead.
- Minnesota’s final touchdown came with 5:35 left when the Gophers covered 75 yards over 3:45. Annexstad connected with Bateman for a 7-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 41-31.
- After recovering the Gophers’ onside kick, the Hawkeyes put an exclamation point on the win. On third-and-9, the flow was to the left before Stanley hit Hockenson wide open on a misdirection for 30-yard gain to the 1. Sargent scored on the next play, giving Iowa a 48-31 lead.
- Iowa has won four of its first five games for the ninth time in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons (2018, 4-1; 2015, 5-0; 2014, 4-1; 2013, 4-1; 2010, 4-1; 2009, 5-0; 2006, 4-1; 2003, 4-1; 2002, 4-1).
- Freshmen cornerbacks Julius Brents and Riley Moss made their first career starts.
- Iowa started two true freshmen in the secondary for the first time since 2000, when cornerback Benny Sapp and strong safety Bob Sanders started the final four games of the season.
- Since 1979 (when record books began tracking participation), Iowa has not started two freshmen cornerbacks in the same game. Since 1999, Kirk Ferentz’s first year at Iowa, 24 true freshman have started for the Hawkeyes.
- Seven true freshmen have started in the secondary in the Ferentz era (Sapp, Sanders, Desmond King, Manny Rugamba, Matt Hankins, Brents, Moss). Rugamba also had an interception in his debut (vs. Michigan).
- Strong safety Geno Stone made his first career start, and recorded his second career interception.
- Amani Hooker made his first career start at linebacker. Hooker is the sixth Hawkeye to start at the linebacker position this season. The others include first-time starters Djimon Colbert, Jack Hockaday, Amani Jones, Nick Niemann, and Kristian Welch.
- Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Smith set career highs in receptions (5) and receiving yards (68). He entered the game with five catches for 78 yards this season.
- Junior tight end T.J. Hockenson’s 4-yard touchdown rush was his first career rush. Hockenson also had a 3-yard touchdown reception. It was his second career multi-touchdown game (Ohio State, 2017).
- Junior Noah Fant had one touchdown reception (5). He has 17 career touchdown receptions, tying Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for fourth all-time in program history. The 17 receiving touchdowns by a tight end tie for fourth all-time in Big Ten history (Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin). Sixteen of Fant’s 17 touchdowns have come from Stanley over the last 18 games
- Quarterback Nate Stanley threw four touchdowns today. It was his third straight and 10th career multi-touchdown game.
- Stanley has 35 career passing touchdowns, tied for eighth all-time in program history (James Vandenberg).
ON THE HORIZON
Iowa returns to action Oct. 13, traveling to Bloomington to face Indiana. Game time is set for 11 a.m. (CT) from Memorial Stadium.