Gophers Close Regular Season and Metrodome with Brutal Loss to Iowa
Saturday, November 22, 2008

A brutal month for the Minnesota Gophers closed with a brutal loss, 55-0 to the Iowa Hawkeyes in what was also the last Gophers game to be played in the Metrodome. Minnesota was 7-1 going into November, looking at four winnable games and a top-rated bowl game. After losses to Northwestern, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the Gophers still had a lot at stake against Iowa. However, they played a game that left coach Tim Brewster saying, “Words cannot express my disappointment. I apologize.”

The Hawkeyes—coming off wins against Penn State, then ranked second and the nation, and Purdue—are led by junior running back Shonn Green. Green had left Iowa because of academic problems and spent the previous year as a student at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City. Back with the Hawkeyes in 2008, Green became the nation’s leading rusher, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and running for more than 100 yards in each of the team’s first 11 games, a streak he would extend against the Gophers.

The high point for the Gophers came when they held Green to nine yards on four rushes and forced a punt on the Hawkeyes’ first possession, Marcus Sherels making a fair catch on the Minnesota 9. The low points then began, starting with quarterback Adam Weber dropping the snap and having to fall on the ball at the 2. Forced to punt two plays later, the Gophers gave the ball back to Iowa with a short field as Andy Brodell returned Justin Kucek’s punt 18 yards to the Minnesota 40.

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi appeared to be having trouble with the noise in the Metrodome, even though a significant number of fans were from Iowa. Nevertheless, Minnesota fans were loud enough on Iowa’s first possession that Stanzi needed to call a time out rather than be penalized for delay of game. On the Hawkeyes’ second possession, Stanzi had to burn two more time outs as the play clock wound down. Barely halfway through the first quarter, the Hawkeyes were left with no more time outs for the half. As it turns out, they didn’t need them. A pair of runs by Greene and a completion to tight-end Brandon Myers got Iowa to the 17, and Daniel Murray kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Later in the period, Iowa began a longer drive that extended into the second quarter and culminated in a 29-yard Murray field goal and a 6-0 Hawkeyes lead.

The Gophers wasted a fine kickoff return from Troy Stoudermire, who evaded tacklers up the left sideline and got to the Minnesota 39. However, thre plays later, the Gophers had to punt, and Andy Brodell called for a fair catch. Minnesota’s Johnny Johnson (remember that name) crashed into Brodell, bringing a 15-yard penalty that allowed the Hawkeyes to start on their 27. A couple of big plays followed. Greene darted up the middle for 16 yards, and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos badly beat Gophers cornerback Marcus Sherels, taking Stanzi’s pass at the Minnesota 24 and making his way to the 9 before Sherels could tackle him. Greene then bolted through the left side and into the end zone. The three-play drive put the Iowa lead at 13-0.

Stoudermire made an even more spectacular runback on the next kickoff, weaving 58 yards through traffic to the Iowa 41. Once again, Minnesota squandered the excellent field position. A block in the back on the first play from scrimmage, followed by a false start, left Minnesota with a 1st and 21, a hole it could not dig out of.

Following another Kucek punt, Iowa covered 91 yards in 12 plays on its next drive, capped by a play-action pass from three yards out to a wide-open Myers in the end zone with 1:13 to play in the half.

Turnovers then led to two more Iowa touchdowns. The first came when Weber missed Ben Kuznia and had his pass picked off by cornerback Amari Spivey at the Iowa 43. Following a block by linebacker A. J. Edds on Eric Decker, Spievey had a clear patch to the end zone to give Iowa a 27-0 lead with 27 seconds left in the half.

In the third quarter, the Hawkeyes forced a punt but then stalled. Ryan Donahue punted to Sherels, who signaled for a fair catch. However, he was run into by one of his own players, Johnny Johnson. The ball hit Johnson, bounced back, and was recovered by Iowa’s Brett Morse at the Iowa 29. Johnson thus had the distinction of interfering with a punt receiver from each team. An incomplete and no gain by Greene left Iowa with a third and 10. However, Johnson-Koulianos beats Traye Simmons and took a Stanzi pass in the end zone for the touchdown.

Later in the quarter, Greene scored another touchdown, spinning away from linebacker Deon Hightower and romping into the end zone for a 41-0 lead.

Greene had one more run in the game, for 37 yards on the first play of Iowa’s next drive, giving him 146 yards on 22 carries. Freshman Jewel Hampton carried the running load from there, setting up a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as Stanzi hit Tony Moeaki for a 13-yard score.

Southpaw Jake Christensen came in for Stanzi on the next drive and had a short field to work with as Weber was picked off by safety Tyler Sash, who returned the interception 58 yards to the Minnesota 24. It took only three plays for Iowa to score, Hampton using Trey Stross’s block on Sherels to reach the end zone on a third-down play, giving the Hawkeyes a 55-0 lead with 11:13 to play. Hampton’s run gave Iowa 12 of 16 first-down conversions to that point.

Both teams emptied their benches over the final 10 minutes, Minnesota senior quarterbacks Mike Maciejowski and Tony Mortensen both taking snaps but handing off the ball rather more than passing. Tim Brewster’s objective appeared to be to keep the carnage from getting worse rather than getting his team on the scoreboard as the Gophers punted three more times, including one on a fourth-and-six situation at the Iowa 42.

Maciejowski’s two runs, for a total of 13 yards, made him the Gophers’ leading rusher in the game and helped pulled the team out of the hole. Minnesota had a negative 12 yards in net rushing through three quarters but finished on the positive side with seven yards.

Stoudermire was the Gophers’ second leading rusher, with seven yards, although most of his work was done on kickoff returns. Murray refused to steer any of his 10 kickoffs away from Stoudermire and toward Jay Thomas. Stoudermire took one of the kickoffs for a touchback and returned the other nine for a total of 283 yards.

For Iowa, Johnson-Koulianos caught seven passes for 181 yards.

Notes: The game was the 169th in the Metrodome for the Gophers, who left Memorial Stadium after the 1981 season and will move into a new stadium, across the street from the site of Memorial Stadium, in 2009.

Many fans, particularly the Minnesota ones, departed before the game was over, although at least a couple of Iowa fans also gave up on the game. A report by Paul Walsh in the November 26 Minneapolis Star Tribune revealed that Ross M. Walsh, 26, of Linden, Iowa, and Lois K. Feldman, 38, of Carroll, Iowa, were “having relations” in a handicapped stall in one of the Metrodome restrooms. A crowd cheered them on before a security guard discovered the proceedings and called for police, who separated the pair. “[Ross] Walsh was released to his girlfriend and Feldman to her husband,” Paul Walsh reported, adding that, “Both were intoxicated.”

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