By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The University of Iowa’s November magic at Kinnick Stadium lived Saturday.
The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes handed No. 7 Minnesota its first loss of the season, 23-19, and kept Floyd of Rosedale in Iowa City for another year. Some of the Blackout crowd of 67,518 stormed the field and surrounded the team as they carried Floyd to the locker room after a fifth straight victory in the 113-game series.
“Our guys fought the full 60 (minutes), and that’s what it took,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa is now 5-1 in November home games at Kinnick Stadium against top 10 teams since 1999. This was the first one since a 55-24 victory against No. 3 Ohio State in 2017.
The Hawkeyes, 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten, had lost to rated foes Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin this season by a collective 14 points. But it was Iowa’s turn Saturday.
“It’s a great feeling,” defensive end A.J. Epenesa said. “We’ve lost some close games in the past and there were things we could have done better, but we came out ready to go. We started strong and finished strong.”
Senior quarterback Nate Stanley led Iowa to touchdowns on its first three of possessions of the game. He now has 66 passing touchdowns, starting the scoring with a 21-yard strike to Nico Ragaini and adding a 5-yard connection to Ihmir Smith-Marsette to give Iowa a 20-3 lead in the second quarter.
In between, freshman Tyler Goodson made his first collegiate start and recorded his first rushing touchdown with a 10-yard scamper around right end. Goodson had 94 yards rushing in 13 carries.
“I was speechless when (running backs coach Derrick Foster) first told me (I was starting),” Goodson said. “For me, I didn’t focus on the fact that I was starting, but focused on the next play and tried to make an impact that would help our team win the game.”
The defense was on center stage at the end. Iowa was clinging to a 23-19 lead with 1:52 remaining when the Gophers took over at their own 20.
But Joe Evans sacked quarterback Tanner Morgan on first down, with an assist from A.J. Epenesa, for a 3-yard loss. Then Epenesa darted up the middle and sacked Morgan for an 8-yard loss. Morgan was injured on the play.
His backup, Cole Kramer, had his third-down pass to Rashod Bateman knocked down by Djimon Colbert. Then Riley Moss picked off Kramer’s pass intended for Chris Autmn-Bell and Iowa ended the game in victory formation.
Iowa finished with a season-high six sacks, the most by an Iowa defense since 2013 against Northwestern. Epenesa was credited with 2.5 sacks Saturday.
Minnesota finished with 431 yards of total offense, but the 19 points were a season low. The Gophers had scored at least 31 points in eight straight games.
“The bottom line, I’m just happy and proud of our guys,” Ferentz said. “It was a challenging week. This is what makes it fun.”
And Floyd of Rosedale sticks around for another season.
“I sure like looking at him,” Ferentz said.
“In the first half we did a great job of controlling pretty much in all areas. Our offense did a good job with three of the four possessions, good balance, good productivity, getting down and finishing the drives with touchdowns. That was important.
“The goal we wanted was to be leading at halftime, something nobody had done against them this year, no opponent. We thought that would be a key.
“The second half was a tremendous fight. We have tremendous respect for Minnesota. Coming in, they’ve been explosive, showed that on the first drive of the second half when they took it down and closed the lead. From, there I think it was just a matter of back-and-forth fight.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Iowa marched 75 yards in eight plays on its opening drive of the game, with Stanley connecting with Ragaini for a 21-yard touchdown. The scoring drive was kept alive when Stanley found Nate Wieting for an 11-yard gain on fourth-and-1 on the play before the score. A mishandled snap led to an unsuccessful point-after try.
- Goodson’s 10-yard touchdown run on the Hawkeyes’ second possession and Keith Duncan’s PAT made it 13-0. Goodson broke four tackles on the run. The nine-play, 68-yard drive started with runs of 9 and 21 yards by Goodson.
- Minnesota got on the scoreboard on Brock Walker’s 24-yard field goal with 9:47 remaining in the first half. The Gopher drive started at their own 7, but Morgan hooked up with Bateman for a 47-yard gain on the first play. Minnesota marched 87 yards on the drive, but had to settle for the field goal.
- Iowa made it three touchdowns in three possessions by going 69 yards in six plays, capped by Stanley’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Smith-Marsette on a crossing pattern at the 6:20 mark of the second quarter. Tyrone Tracy, Jr., had catches of 15, 27, and 9 yards on the drive, and also gained 11 yards on a run. That made it 20-3.
- Minnesota closed to within 20-6 on the final play of the first half, when Walker’s 20-yard field goal hit the right upright but got a friendly bounce.
- The Gophers took the second-half kickoff and covered 66 yards in just six plays for their first touchdown of the game, a 28-yard connection between Morgan and Tyler Johnson. That made it a 20-13 game with 11:35 to go in the third quarter.
- Iowa made it a two-possession lead when Duncan’s 23rd field goal of the season, from 27 yards, gave Iowa a 23-13 lead with 7:13 remaining in the game. The field goal ended a 10-play, 29-yard drive.
- Minnesota countered with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with Rodney Smith’s 1-yard run. But Walker’s point-after was wide left, making it a 23-19 Iowa lead with 3:27 to go.
- Goodson was the fourth true freshman to start this season and the 28th under Ferentz at Iowa. He is the fifth true freshman to start at running back under Ferentz, and the first since Greg Garmon in 2012.
- Redshirt freshman Tyrone Tracy, Jr., had a career-high six catches for 77 yards. He now has 16 catches for 323 yards the last four games.
- Linebacker Kristian Welch returned to action for the first time since Week 6 and led the Hawkeyes with 11 tackles, matching his career high.
- Duncan’s 23rd field goal established a single-season record at Iowa. He is 23 for 26 this season.
- Ferentz now has 95 Big Ten victories, tying Joe Paterno for No. 5 all-time in league history. Hayden Fry, the man Ferentz replaced, is fourth on the list with 96 victories.
- Iowa is now 2-1 in trophy games this season. The Hawkeyes won at Iowa State (18-17) in the Cy-Hawk game and lost at Wisconsin (24-22) for the Heartland Trophy. Iowa is 15-4 in its last 19 rivalry games.
The Hawkeyes close the home season against Illinois on Nov. 23. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. (CT) and the game will be televised on BTN.