Gophers Unable to Capture Pig
October 8, 2016

The annual football game between the universities of Iowa and Minnesota was once a bitterly contested rivalry between two schools fighting for possession of a pig.

Last Saturday, at TCF Bank Stadium, the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale was strangely lacking in emotion despite the presence of both teams’ marching bands. This game is usually a sellout, but Hawkeye fanatics from south of the border stayed home in record numbers, and season-ticket holders from Minnesota were conspicuously absent from the best seats in the house. Gopher stadium personnel announced a paid crowd of 49,145, but empty seats were visible everywhere.

The early start (11:00) certainly played a role, particularly in the student section. Sagging football fortunes in Minnesota have resulted in the Big 10 Conference deeming the Gophers unworthy of anything but undercard status in its Saturday television lineup. Four 11:00 games in a row indicate the Gophers are not ready for Big 10 prime time.

The Minnesota football team did little to spice up the match, slogging through the first quarter without a first down and engaging Iowa in a battle for field possession, one the team eventually lost, and Iowa won, resulting in a 3-0 Hawkeye lead.

While the Gopher defense was solid, its offense was stagnant. Quarterback Mitch Leidner performed like a drunk on roller skates instead of providing senior leadership. Those who considered him for high NFL draft status need only consult the game film and conclude that the Iowa quarterback (C.J. Beathard) is the one most likely to be drafted.

Leidner wasn’t the only culprit. “We got whipped up front,” said Gopher coach Tracy Claeys after the game. “We didn’t have our timing down. It was a tough day on offense. We were sloppy, and I think we got frustrated. We never blocked much up front. Our protection wasn’t any good. Mitch could never set his feet.”

Meanwhile, “our defensive line played awfully well.” Well enough to hold Iowa to only a 6-0 lead into the second half. That’s when Minnesota went on an eight-play, 58-yard touchdown drive capped by a nine-yard Shannon Brooks run. The extra point made it 7-6, a shaky lead that nearly everyone in the stands knew could not hold up.

Turnovers, penalties, and poor field position plagued the Gophers throughout the game, but in the end, it was a 30-yard punt by Ryan Santoso that eventually did the Gophers in. Iowa took possession on their 46-yard line. From there, Akrum Wadley dashed 54 yards for a touchdown. Iowa went for two, and the stunned Gopher line let it happen.

A seven-point lead was all that was necessary. Sensing this, Minnesota fans slowly began to file toward the exit aisles. The chance to capture a winnable game was lost. Minnesota’s season is slipping away.

“We just have to go out and steal a couple of games on the road,” muttered Claeys, starting next week at Maryland. Only it won’t be at 11:00 a.m. In the East, Big 10 early games start at noon.

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