Fourth-quarter Touchdowns Give Gophers 22-21 Win over Iowa
October 29, 2011

Despite 252 yards rushing by Iowa’s Marcus Coker, the Minnesota Gophers scored twice in the final eight-and-a-half minutes of the game to beat the Hawkeyes 22-21, hanging on to the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

Iowa had taken a 21-10 lead following a one-yard touchdown run by Coker early in the fourth quarter. It was the last time Coker touched the ball in the game.

Quarterback MarQueis Gray led the Gophers on an 80-yard touchdown drive, which he kept alive with a fourth-down sneak to the Iowa 43. Then, on the run, Gray found Da’Jon McKnight for a 21-yard gain, and Duane Bennett went up the middle for 14 yards to the Iowa 22. After an 18-yard scramble by Gray, Bennett carried twice to get into the end zone to cut the Hawkeye lead to 21-16. Trying to get within a field goal, the Gophers brought in Max Shortell at quarterback and had Gray in motion as a receiver for a two-point conversion attempt. McKnight got open in the end zone, but Broderick Binns tipped Shortell’s pass, and Iowa hung on to a 5-point lead.

The Gophers then surprised the Hawkeyes as Jordan Wettstein, kicking for the injured Chris Hawthorne, popped the kickoff into an open area on the right side. Kim Royston corralled the ball on the 41, and Minnesota had the ball again. Passing and running, Gray moved the Gophers inside the Iowa 10. The Gophers faced a fourth-and-goal at the 3 when Gray kept and took off for the right corner of the end zone, beating the Iowa defenders and scoring for a 22-21 lead with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter.

Iowa could counter only with three incomplete passes and, following a false-start penalty, a scramble by quarterback James Vandenberg that was well short of a first down, turning the ball back to the Gophers, who ran the clock out to give coach Jerry Kill his first Big Ten win.

”Obviously it was a tough loss for our football team and credit goes to Minnesota,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “They outplayed us and deserved to win.” On the on-side kick, Ferentz said it was not “totally surprising. I didn’t think it was a situation where we throw our hands team out there, but it was a great call on their part, and the execution was outstanding.”

The Hawkeyes missed opportunities early in the game as Coker rushed for 102 yards in the first quarter. The Hawkeyes gave up the ball on downs at the Minnesota 31 on their first possession. Later in the quarter, Coker broke through the Minnesota line for a 50-yard run and was finally chased down by Kyle Henderson at the 14. The Gophers held, and Iowa’s Mike Meyer was then wide left with a 24-yard field-goal attempt.

Meyer missed again in the second quarter after a drive that included a 41-yard run by Coker. This time his try, from 43 yards, hit the left upright, leaving the game scoreless. “It’s really frustrating,” said Vandenberg. “We know we have to execute down there in the red zone. We didn’t get that done today.”

The Hawkeyes got the ball back at their 47 after a fumble by Bennett, and Coker went to work, carrying Iowa into Minnesota territory. On a third-and-three at the Gophers’ 12, Vandenberg lofted a pass into the end zone for Marvin McNutt, who had a step on Henderson and took in the floater for a touchdown.

At this point the Hawkeyes led the Gophers in yards from scrimmage 254 to 84 but had only a 7-point lead, which disappeared quickly. From the Minnesota 23 on the second play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Gray found a wide-open Devin Crawford-Tufts, who took the pass at the Iowa 43 and ran another 27 yards before being run out of bounds at the 16. On a third-and-goal at the 3, Gray connected with tight-end Collin McGarry for a game-tying touchdown.

Iowa got the touchdown back on its first possession in the third quarter as Coker capped a 64-yard drive with a 1-yard run for a 14-7 lead.

The Hawkeyes were driving again when Henderson sacked Vandenberg on the Minnesota 26, causing a fumble, which was recovered by Brandon Kirksey, who returned it to just short of midfield. Gray and Crawford-Tufts hooked up again, this time for 39 yards, as Crawford-Tufts fought off Micah Hyde and caught the pass while falling at the 12. Iowa challenged the ruling and was charged with a timeout as the call of a catch was confirmed. Minnesota came out of the drive with a 28-yard field goal by Wettstein to cut the lead to 14-10 with 2:03 left in the third quarter.

Following Coker’s second touchdown of the game, in the fourth quarter, Minnesota kept the ball out of Iowa hands with until late in the game. By this time, the Gophers held a 22-21 lead and Iowa had burned another time out, leaving the Hawkeyes in a position that they had to go for a first down, rather than punt, on a 4th-and-15 play, turning over the ball for the last time.

The Gophers ran off the field with the bronzed pig, the traveling trophy between the teams, and in the tunnel on the way to their locker room chanted, “Who hates Iowa? We hate Iowa!”

In addition to his recovery of the on-sides kick, Royston had 16 tackles in the game, 8 of them unassisted. Gray ran for 62 yards and had a good day passing, completing 11 of 17 for 193 yards. Vandenberg was 16 of 24 for 177 yards for the Hawkeyes. Bennett was Minnesota’s leading rusher, running for 103 yards on 20 carries. McNutt was the leading receiver in the game, catching 7 passes for 101 yards.

Gopher Holes: The game was the 105th meeting between the teams; Minnesota leads the series 61-42-2. The only team Minnesota has played more times is Wisconsin (120 games).

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