2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 9 - Iowa at Minnesota
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Oct. 29 at Minnesota 22 … Iowa 21
CFN Analysis: That’s the MarQueis Gray the team was hoping for. The defense couldn’t tackle Marcus Coker, and it took a few chances to pull off the upset, but for a Gopher team in the midst of a miserable season, a second straight win over Iowa is a really big deal. Gray was effective throwing the ball, completing 11-of-17 passes for 193 yards and a score, and he ran for 62 yards and the key score, playing under control and in command. The offensive line played its finest game of the year doing a strong job for the running game and giving Gray time to work. The defense might have stunk, but it kept the deep passes to a minimum and kept the game close so Gray could pull it out. This was Minnesota’s bowl game. Reality will return with Michigan State and Wisconsin up next, but no matter what happens the rest of the way, Jerry Kill has his first big win.
Uhhhh, Iowa. What was that? Just when it seemed like the Hawkeyes were going to make a move in the Legends, with home games against Michigan and Michigan State up next, they came up with this bizarre brain cramp. Marcus Coker was amazing, running 32 times for 252 yards and two scores, and James Vanderberg wasn’t bad, but the offense stalled way too often and the defense was stunningly mediocre against the normally non-existent Gopher ground game. James Morris made 14 tackles, but the run defense was too soft in the fourth quarter. Was this just an aberration or are the Hawkeyes this mediocre? It was probably a little of both, but the season can turn around quickly by beating the Wolverines. To do that, though, the linebackers will have to handle Denard Robinson better than they dealt with MarQueis Gray.
(AP) MINNEAPOLIS -- Marqueis Gray's fourth-down sprint for the pylon from the 2-yard line in the closing minutes lifted Minnesota to a 22-21 victory over Iowa on Saturday, giving the Gophers possession of the Floyd of Rosedale bronze pig trophy for the second straight year.
Gray went 11 for 17 for 193 yards and a touchdown passing and ran 11 times for 62 yards and the go-ahead score for the Gophers (2-6, 1-3), who lost their first three Big Ten games by an average margin of 38 points. Minnesota students stormed the field in celebration and surrounded the players afterward.
Marcus Coker carried the ball 32 times through several huge holes for 252 yards and two touchdowns, but the Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2) missed a chance to move into a four-way tie for first place in the Legends Division with a rough November schedule ahead.
James Vandenberg went 16 for 24 for 177 yards and a touchdown to Marvin McNutt, who caught seven of those passes for 101 yards. Mike Meyer missed two field goals for Iowa in the first half.
Trailing 21-10, Gray sneaked for a first down on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 42 and hit a jumping Da'Jon McKnight for a 21-yard completion before Duane Bennett capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:22 left.
Then the Gophers caught Iowa playing almost 15 yards back on the kickoff, and Kim Royston -- who had a game-high 16 tackles -- recovered the onside attempt. Gray had a pair of sharp passes for first downs to move the ball forward and then, on fourth-and-goal at the 2, ran to his right to scrape the edge of the end zone with 2:48 remaining for Minnesota's first lead of the entire month.
Vandenberg was out of sync when Iowa got the ball back, and after three straight incompletions he escaped a sack but was well short of the first down on his scramble, giving the Gophers consecutive victories over Iowa for the first time since 1999 and 2000.
This was an all-around effort for first-year coach Jerry Kill's young team.
Minnesota was 118th out of 120 teams in the nation in sacks entering the game, but the Gophers took down Vandenberg three times -- giving them eight for the season to match last year's paltry total.
Bennett had 20 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown despite a lost fumble, and Devin Crawford-Tufts caught two passes for 100 yards. Even the crowd played a part, despite Iowa backers filling at least one-third of the stadium. The fans were as into the action as they've been here since, well, last year's Iowa game.
They heartily cheered after a scoreless first quarter, a deserved ovation for a team that had been outscored 48-0 in the first quarter in its first seven games. The cumulative first-half score coming in for Minnesota was 103-3 in favor of the opponents.
The Hawkeyes lost three straight games to finish the regular season last year, ending with a 27-24 defeat here. Coach Kirk Ferentz was still miffed this week by his team's effort on that cold afternoon, when asked what he remembered from the game.
But this was more of the same. The Hawkeyes lost their fifth straight road game, and Vandenberg has yet to win away from Iowa in the regular season.
Meyer, who was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award given to the nation's top kicker, missed from 24 and 43 yards on consecutive possessions, with the latter attempt bouncing off the left upright.
Gray found a wide-open Crawford-Tufts, a speedy freshman from the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, for 61 yards right after Vandenberg's touchdown toss to McNutt, the longest play from scrimmage this season for the Gophers.
Gray has struggled mightily with his accuracy in his first year as a starting quarterback, but this was by far his best game throwing the ball. He hit tight end Colin McGarry on third-and-goal from the 3 to tie it just before the half.
Kyle Henderson leveled Vandenberg on a blind-side cornerback blitz, knocking the ball out on third down at the Minnesota 14 for the first forced turnover by the Gophers in five games. Brandon Kirksey brought the fumble to midfield. Jordan Wettstein, subbing for the injured Chris Hawthorne, finished that drive with a 28-yarder on his first college field goal try.
But Coker passed the 250-yard mark on the next possession and powered past the goal line from the 1 to push Iowa's lead back to 21-10.
Iowa (5-2) at Minnesota (1-6) Oct. 29, 3:30, BTN
Here’s The Deal … Is Iowa really in the Big Ten title chase?
This isn’t a vintage Kirk Ferentz team, with plenty of holes across the board and not nearly enough production on the lines and on defense, but after hitting the two-foot putts against Northwestern and Indiana, and with the free space day with Minnesota this week, the Legends is there for the taking with Michigan and Michigan State both coming to Iowa City before closing out at Purdue and Nebraska. The lone loss was to Penn State in the Leaders; Iowa controls its own Big Ten title destiny. But first, it has to start playing more consistently.
Minnesota has to start playing, period.
Jerry Kill is a terrific head coach, and the program showed that it knows things are on the right track by giving Kill a vote of confidence seven-year contract extension despite the miserable 1-6 start.
The talent just isn’t there.
The Gophers don’t have the athletes on defense, and they don’t have the playmakers on offense, to keep pace with the North Dakota State’s of the world, much less the Nebraskas, Michigan States, and Wisconsins. It’s true rebuilding process, but coming up with a second straight stunning performance against the Hawkeyes would do wonders for a team that’s getting bombed on left and right.
Last year the Gophers tried, Iowa didn’t, and a 2-9 team beat the 7-4 on 27-24. Two years ago, Iowa won one of the ugliest games in the last decade in a 12-0 victory, and that was more entertaining than the 55-0 drubbing in 2008.
Kill wants to establish this game as a true rivalry battle again, while Iowa wants to get the Floyd of Rosedale trophy – it’s a pig – and get out. Strange things have happened in this longtime battle, but anything other than a Hawkeye blowout will be one of the shockers of the Big Ten weekend.
Why Iowa Might Win: You can’t win if you don’t score. Points, even in garbage time, have been next to impossible to come by for a Gopher attack with no passing game, a mediocre ground attack, and no weapons whatsoever for the struggling Hawkeye defense to worry about. Iowa was held to just three points by Penn State, but it’s scored 40 or more points in three of the last four games and five of the last six. Take out the clunker against the Nittany Lions and the Hawkeyes are averaging close to 40 points per game. Minnesota has yet to break the 30-point mark and has been outscored 144 to 31 in Big Ten play.
The Gopher defense hasn’t exactly stepped up to pick up the slack, with poor tackling, no pass rush whatsoever, and not enough takeaways. Iowa doesn’t have to do anything fancy and it doesn’t have to take any chances. As long as it doesn’t turn the ball over a ton and doesn’t make a slew of big mistakes, there won’t be a problem. Hitting 30 points shouldn’t b a problem for the red hot Hawkeye offensive machine.
Why Minnesota Might Win: How did Penn State stop the Iowa offense cold? The defense didn’t do much on third downs, allowing the Hawkeyes to convert 7-of-16 chances. It controlled the ball by slowing things down and getting a big day from the ground attack, holding on to the ball for almost 36 minutes. Minnesota has been awful in time of possession, having the ball for just over 28 minutes per game, but Iowa is worse. The Gophers have to find a way to get more from the running backs, and QB MarQueis Gray needs to keep things moving as the team’s most dangerous rushing threat. The running game has worked at times, and now it has to be dominant against a surprisingly soft Iowa defensive front seven.
Iowa isn’t as good as its 5-2 record and it has plenty of holes in the secondary and on the offensive line. The offense is opportunistic and it feeds off takeaways and not losing the turnover margin. If Minnesota can hold on to the ball – not a given – and if Gray can get time to work, the points should finally start to come. The Hawkeye defense will give up yards, especially through the air.
What To Watch Out For: Iowa senior Marvin McNutt has grown into a special receiver. The 6-4, 215-pound former quarterback is a true No. 1 to work around with good deep speed, smart route-running skills, and the ability to come through in the clutch when needed. Now he’s on a roll with four 100 yards games in the first seven and coming off a dominant six-catch, 184-yard, three score day against Indiana. Last year he was held to three catches for 46 yards and a score in the loss to the Gophers, and he made just one grab for 28 yards two years ago. The Gopher secondary doesn’t have the talent to keep him under wraps.
Minnesota’s 5-11, 195-pound senior Kim Royston has had an interesting career. The former Wisconsin Badger transferred to Minnesota, finished third on the team in 2009 with 86 tackles, and was all set to become one of the Big Ten’s top players, and then he broke his leg. Now that he’s back and healthy, he’s playing like a steady all-star making ten tackles or more in five of the team’s seven games, coming up with ten against Nebraska. He hasn’t come up with a pick yet and needs to do more against the pass, but he’s managing to bail out the run defense time and again.
What Will Happen: Minnesota hasn’t shown anything yet to suggest it can keep up any sort of pace against a team capable of putting 40 points or more on the board. The Gophers almost always seem to play out of its head when it plays its rival, but like last week when Nebraska invaded TCF Bank Stadium, Iowa fans will make it seem like a Hawkeye home game.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 44 … Minnesota 17
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Iowa -16 O/U: 54.5
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