Gophers Thump Iowa 51-14
November 8, 2014

Perhaps the University of Minnesota football team needs to have a third bye week incorporated into their schedule. The Gophers certainly have taken advantage of the rest periods to reassemble and rejuvenate play on both sides of the ball. The result was wins over Northwestern October 11 and, more improbably, Iowa, at TCF Bank Stadium November 8.

Not only was the Iowa win a bit of a surprise in view of Minnesota’s previous defeat at the hands of an inferior Illinois team, the score (51-14) set heads turning from New York to California. After taking a 7-0 lead, the Hawkeyes were outscored 51-0 by the Gophers. Recollections of a 55-0 route raced through the minds of the 49,680 in attendance. Only that Minnesota/Iowa game was at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 22, 2008, and the Hawkeyes won that one by humbling the Gophers.

One-sided games in this annual rivalry game are hard to stomach depending on which team is taking the beating. More often than not it has been Iowa losing (52-0 in 1936, 46-0 in 1944, 55-7 in 1949, 43-7 in 1989, and 49-7 in 1998), but when the Hawkeyes win, they do so with extra relish as was the case in 1983 when Iowa whipped Minnesota 61-10. That loss was the last game ever coached by the Gophers’ Joe Salem.

The 2014 game for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy saw the Hawkeyes take the opening kickoff and march down the field with laser-like precision in 12 plays capped by a Mark Wiseman one-yard touchdown plunge, and Iowa led by the score of 7 to 0. From there, Iowa turned to jelly. Minnesota answered with seven touchdowns, the first on a nine-yard run by K.J. Maye. For the record, Maye is listed as a wide receiver. Nevertheless, he would carry the ball 10 times during the course of the day, running wide for 66 net yards, thus befuddling Hawkeye defenders and the Iowa coaching staff.

“We felt we had to get the ball outside,” said Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill after the game. Jet sweeps were common. “We played offense fast, but with discipline, and overall, we came ready to play today.”

In addition to running the ball wide, the Gophers protected quarterback Mitch Leidner, who threw four touchdown passes, one to Donovahn Jones and three to tight end Maxx Williams. Williams emerged as the star of the game with circus catches at critical times, including a sideline grab on a third-and-seven situation where it looked for all the world as if Leidner had overthrown him. Maxx somehow reached up and snagged the ball, all the while dragging his left foot in bounds. Referees initially signaled no catch, but telltale skidmarks on the artificial TCF Bank Stadium turf showed he was in-bounds. “I thought I bobbled it,” Williams said later. The officiating crew disagreed, and the Gopher drive continued, eventually resulting in a 14-7 lead.

“I’m glad he’s on our team,” said Kill of Williams. “We need to take good care of him and keep him healthy. Looking back, we should have thrown to him a lot more,” laughed Kill. In Minnesota’s first seven games, Williams caught 17 passes for 280 yards. “I guess they ought to fire me for not throwing to him eight or nine times.”

Kill acknowledged that for the “first time” his Gopher team resembled his top teams at Northern Illinois University where he previously coached. It’s quite a statement when one realizes that he is comparing his teams in the non-power MAC to one that is a charter member of the Big Ten. No further proof is required than the 37-23 beating Kill’s team administered to the Gophers in 2010.

The euphoria of knowing this must have inspired Kill to dance, and dance he did in the Minnesota locker room. Kill danced like St. Vitus before ESPN cameras, much to the horror of his players who suspected the coach was in the throes of a seizure. “I can’t dance,” he admitted afterward

Leidner is emerging as a quality signal-caller. “This was Mitch’s best game,” said his coach. The quarterback was afforded plenty of time to throw, and the Lakeville South product completed 10 of 13 passes. “He spends a lot of time in our film room studying tendencies.”

Kill lauded the Gopher defense for stopping the Hawk running game. Weisman, previously a thorn in the side, was held to 21 net yards in 14 carries. Iowa quarterback Jake Ruddock was rushed all day and completed 10 of 19 passes for 89 yards. “The defense did a great job,” Kill said. “Our guys played discliplined football and stayed in their lanes. They did their job.”

At the final gun, the Gophers rushed the Iowa sidelines for the trophy Floyd of Rosedale trophy and brought it home in for safekeeping. The pig had not called Minnesota home since a 27-24 upset win in 2010, the season before Kill’s first at Minneapolis. Floyd will join the Little Brown Jug and the Governor’s Victory Bell in the Gopher trophy case to await the arrival of Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Penn State won’t have a shot at the bell until 2016. The Gophers won it in 2013 by the score of 24 to 10.

Now all the coach has to worry about is games against Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes, playing their best football, are up first at TCF Bank Stadium. Then it’s the Cornhuskers and Badgers on the road. The outcome of those games will decide which bowl invitation will arrive at the University of Minnesota offices.

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