To quote the legendary Hannibal -- that is, John "Hannibal" Smith from The A-Team, not the Carthaginian general or the famous cannibal -- "I love it when a plan comes together."
The gameplan for Iowa against Minnesota tonight couldn't have been more simple:
RUN. THE. DAMN. BALL.
Minnesota entered the dead last in the conference in rushing defense, having allowed 718 yards on just 98 carries in three games. That works out to a staggering 7.3 yards per carry for opposing runners. Opponents had run for 239.3 yards per game and an average of three touchdowns a game on the Gophers so far this season. Those numbers won't be getting any better after this game; Iowa ran for 236 yards and pounded in four touchdowns on their way to a 35-7 rout.
The plan of attack for this game was simple and Iowa followed it from the opening kickoff. Four of their first five plays were runs and while they ended up punting on that opening drive, they got into the end zone on their next drive (set up by a short field thanks to some more punting magic from Tory Taylor), thanks in part to a pair of big runs by Tyler Goodson (16 yards) and Mekhi Sargent (12 yards).
Minnesota's offense remained stuck in neutral throughout the first half, but Iowa's first attempt to extend their lead ended with a ghastly interception by Spencer Petras. (Again: RUN. THE. DANG. BALL.) Fortunately, the harm of that turnover was mitigated by the fact that Minnesota picked up 30 yards of penalties immediately after the pick thanks to an illegal blind side block and an unsportsmanlike conduct on PJ Fleck. Instead of having the ball right outside the red zone, Minnesota started the drive on their own side of the field. They got a first down but ended up punting the ball back to Iowa.
Iowa's second scoring drive went 12 plays for 85 yards; 10 of those plays were runs and all 85 yards came on the ground, polished off by an easy touchdown by Tyler Goodson out of the
wildcat wild hawk formation.
TYLER GOODSON WILDCAT STROLL pic.twitter.com/irabNs3gru— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) November 14, 2020
Iowa failed to extend their lead before halftime, despite a Jack Koerner interception late in the half that set Iowa up on the Minnesota 26-yard line. A (frankly) bogus holding penalty negated a big Goodson run and Keith Duncan (gasp) missed a 50-yard field goal. No, I don't want to talk about it. Iowa entered the half up 14-0, though the game felt more one-sided than that. Given the leads Iowa had blown earlier this season, that two-score lead didn't feel entirely comfortable, even if Minnesota's offense looked utterly hapless.
Sure enough, Minnesota's offense finally put together a lengthy drive after the two teams traded punts out of halftime. Minnesota's best drive of the game (against Iowa's starting defense) took up nearly the entire third quarter; it lasted 17 plays (!) and sucked up 10 minutes and 56 seconds of game action, as well as 74 yards. It did not, however, end with points being scored. After a failed run play on third down, Minnesota attempted a 39-yard field goal to cut Iowa's two-score lead to... two scores. Alas, that field goal try was promptly blocked by Jack Koerner and the score remained 14-0 Iowa.
It didn't take Iowa long to change that scoreline, though. On the very first play after the missed field goal, Tyler Goodson exploded through the line for 45-yard run.
Tyler Goodson getting loose pic.twitter.com/4WqS1Oj76i— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) November 14, 2020
Four plays later, Iowa was in the end zone courtesy of an 8-yard touchdown reception by Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Things, ah, snowballed rapidly from there. Minnesota drove into the Iowa red zone... only for Tanner Morgan to get intercepted by Riley Moss, who jetted down the sideline for a 57-yard return. That was Moss' fourth career interception against the Gophers and his third career interception in TCF Bank Stadium. Suffice to say he enjoys this series quite a bit. Three plays later Iowa made it 28-0 with Goodson powering in for his second score of the game.
Iowa brought in the backups, but Minnesota's defense wasn't interested in tackling them, either. After a Minnesota punt gave Iowa the ball at their own 49-yard line, Mekhi Sargent zoomed 51 yards down the field on three carries to give Iowa a 35-0 lead. The hole he ran through for his touchdown was comically huge:
That said, while Iowa's offensive line wasn't quite opening up holes that big all game, they were consistently doing work on Minnesota's overmatched defensive line. Iowa's big uglies shoved them around all night long and opened up gaping holes for Goodson and Sargent to run through. Iowa's receivers also did an impressive job of blocking down field, which helped turn good runs into great runs on several occasions. This was the Iowa running game we've longed to see for several years, and it was glorious.
While the outcome of the game was long since decided, there was still some drama at the end of the game. Drama and a whole lot of pettiness, that is. While Iowa brought in their back-ups on defense to play out the last few series, Minnesota left their starters in, doggedly pursuing points to try and avoid (another) shutout loss to Iowa. They cobbled together a final drive that got them to the Iowa 4 with 19 seconds remaining. That's when PJ Fleck -- down 35-0 -- called a timeout. And that's when the petty dial got turned to 11.
Because Kirk Ferentz did not just call one timeout. He did not just call two timeouts. He called ALL THREE TIMEOUTS HE HAD, BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK. My God, the salt. Asked after the game why he called those timeouts, Ferentz responded:
Kirk on the 3 timeouts.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) November 14, 2020
"Figured we'd take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here."
There's other stuff to talk about from this one -- the defense was magnificent, Tory Taylor was (again!) an absolute punting assassin, and Tyler Goodson's brilliance (20 carries, 142 yards, 2 TD) deserves a more thorough unpacking -- but I think that salt from Ferentz is a good place to stop things tonight.
For the sixth straight season -- the first time Iowa has ever won that many games in a row against the Gophers -- Floyd of Rosedale is staying in Iowa City. He's practically a permanent Iowa resident at this point.
GO FLOYD AWESOME