Kinnick Stadium is once again where opponents' dreams go to die.
Iowa jumped out to a 20-3 lead in the first half, then stymied Minnesota's big-play offense just enough to bring home a 23-19 victory, handing media darling P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers their first loss of the season. Nate Stanley threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns on an efficient 14-for-23 performance, and true freshman Tyler Goodson shined as Iowa's primary ball-carrier in his three quarters of action before leaving the game with what appeared to be a minor injury.
This was a classic Kirk Ferentz bounce-back game, with a ranked opponent seeing their wildest dreams wither and die at Kinnick Stadium—but only after watching Iowa's own dreams do the same the week prior. After a same-old, same-old dud at Wisconsin last week, Iowa's offense came out firing in the first half, with Nate Stanley working downfield early and often, and Tyler Goodson breathing life into a heretofore dreadful Hawkeye ground game. Three drives into the game, and Iowa had opened up a 20-3 lead on the visiting Gophers—easily their largest deficit of the season.
Goodson, in particular, took a major step forward in this game. He speeds through seams that most of Iowa's tailbacks can't even find, his burst makes it easy to shed arm tackles, and this week he added a new element to his game: this absolutely nasty finish to his second career touchdown:
It's hard to contextualize someone like Goodson because we've frankly never seen a tailback like him at Iowa under Kirk Ferentz. Certain backs have been good-to-great at certain things, but this is like watching Sedrick Shaw with Tavian Banks' top-end speed. He's already the best back Iowa has on the roster—easily—and his future is as bright as any Hawkeye in a long, long time.
Iowa also can thank its defensive line for the win. AJ Epenesa is your headliner with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble, but Chauncey Golston was a nightmare on the other edge, knocking away a pair of passes and registering half of a sack to go along with outstanding run support. Joe Evans—Joe Evans!—also came through with 1.5 sacks, adding another weapon off the edge in passing situations.
The vaunted Minnesota running game managed just 61 yards on 30 rushes, and every Gopher handoff seemed like a gift to the Iowa defense. Among the running backs, the numbers temper somewhat—84 yards on 23 carries—but we're still talking about under four yards a pop for an integral part of the Minnesota offense.
OK, now let's talk about the passing half of Minnesota's offense: the Gopher receivers ate Iowa alive.
Tanner Morgan had a remarkable day throwing the ball, with 368 yards and a touchdown on 25-for-36 passing. He was completing slants, deep balls, fades and posts at will, and it's starting to look like a discussion needs to be had about Jack Koerner sooner rather than later.
Last week, Koerner was physically outmatched trying to slow down Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin rushing attack, and here he was a liability in pass coverage on Saturday as well. Koerner was routinely targeted by Morgan on long throws, including the touchdown shown above, and he dropped Morgan's only poor throw of the day: an arm punt that went several yards past the receiver, only to glance harmlessly off Koerner's hands with nobody near him.
That's an extremely talented receiving corps, to be sure, and Tanner Morgan is the right kind of quarterback for them. But Iowa does have to face Illinois and Nebraska to finish off the season, and say what you will: both teams have throwers and catchers that can keep them in the game against just about anyone in the Big Ten.
One last note: Minnesota's kicker Brock Walker missed a 50-yard field goal in the first half, which was admittedly difficult, then as Iowa tried to hang onto the lead in the closing minutes, Walker pushed an extra point wide left to keep the deficit at four points.
The difference between three and four points is huge in any fourth quarter—the miss took a potential tying field goal off the table for Minnesota, although the Gophers' final "drive" made that distinction moot. It's also notable because Iowa had been favored by, depending on who you ask, 3 or 3.5 points at kickoff. Salut, degenerates.
Good teams win, great teams cover, and the best teams deliver the pig. Party all night, Hawkeye fans. Let's play that song.
GO. IOWA. AWESOME.