It wasn't aesthetically pleasing. It wasn't pretty, or efficient, or even an improvement on the last four weeks. But Iowa rode a pair of field goals, an Akrum Wadley touchdown run, and a vintage defensive performance to a 14-7 win over rival Minnesota Saturday. The win moves the Hawkeyes to 2-1 in the Big Ten and 4-2 overall on the 2016 season.
For the first time in a month, Iowa was clearly the better team throughout a game. Iowa outgained the Gophers, and it wasn't due to the offense. Phil Parker's defense held Minnesota to 268 yards overall and just 102 yards on the ground, and played as if they had a mole in the Gopher huddle all day long. Mitch Leidner completed just 13 of his 33 pass attempts, managing just 107 yards through the air before completing three passes for 59 yards in the game's final drive. To be frank, Ill Mitch would have been better under center.
With the defense locked in and Minnesota bogged down, Iowa's already-struggling offense went even more conservative than usual. Kirk Ferentz and staff reshuffled the offensive line, moving left tackle Cole Croston to the right side (reportedly due to an ankle injury), moved right tackle Ike Boettger inside to guard, and kicked former starting left tackle Boone Myers back to his original position. Results were mixed. Despite improved pass protections from the Iowa line, C.J. Beathard managed just 17 completions for 142 yards, throwing two interceptions. Beathard was undone in large part by Iowa's receiving corps, which dropped enough catchable passes for an entire season Saturday; never has Beathard and the offense missed Matt VandeBerg more. Nevertheless, Beathard out-dueled Leidner in a game that showcased two quarterbacks high on some NFL Draft boards, but the final score showed how far both are from playing on Sundays.
And Iowa's running game, even more reliant on the outside zone than usual, struggled to find its footing before Wadley broke an interior run 54 yards for a touchdown with less than six minutes left.
Wadley led the Hawkeyes with 107 yards on the ground, but without his touchdown run, he and starting halfback LeShun Daniels were only able to post 4.0 yards per carry on thirty handoffs.
With both offenses largely inept, the game took on the tone of many of those late November Iowa-Minnesota games of past years, a fast-moving, punt-heavy slog toward the finish. It just so happened that Iowa got the breakthrough score, and Minnesota got the game-killing interception and false start penalty with the game on the line.
And Iowa's win Saturday didn't solve many of the problems. The rejiggered line didn't look much better than it had in recent weeks. The receivers still struggled to get separation or catch the ball. The offense still sputtered. And while the defense bailed the team out, Iowa hasn't put a solid performance from both units together in the same game in four weeks. Iowa might be mathematically alive for a division title, but this was nowhere near good enough to hang with the monsters waiting in Iowa's forest this November.
But Floyd is staying home for another year, and those hotdish-chomping hosers can take their hate home with them and survive on it during another cold, Floydless winter, while we tie him to the roof and visit all ten thousand of their crappy lakes.
We'll deal with the problems tomorrow. Tonight we eat bacon. To hell with Minnesota. Go Hawks.