The Minnesota Gophers went to Champaign, Ill. two weeks ago with an undefeated Big Ten record, it came out of its game against Illinois with a shocking loss. Naturally, the Gophers proved they couldn’t be Big Ten West contenders.
Season over, pack it in and head to a meaningless bowl game once again.
After a bye week to correct what went wrong, the Gophers proved the critics wrong with its best win of the season on Saturday. Minnesota took apart the rival Iowa Hawkeyes, winning back Floyd of Rosedale in dominating, 51-14, fashion.
With the win the Gophers remain one of three Big Ten West division team with one conference loss, clearly back in the mix for a division title with games against Nebraska and Wisconsin still to come.
Yet, such a dominating win begs the question, is Minnesota that good or Iowa just that bad? For me, the little details of this game showed it was more about how good the Gophers were than how bad the Hawkeyes were.
The biggest tell that it was about the Gophers? Minnesota not only took it to the Hawkeyes on the scoreboard, but it was clear by the middle of the 3rd quarter that Iowa had little fighting spirit left in them. The Gophers made the Hawkeyes want nothing to do with the rest of the game.
“Basically, they shoved it down our throat,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz following the loss. “I’m not sure we quit, but they just shoved it down our throats and we couldn’t respond.”
No crazy run to try to get back in the game by the Hawkeyes — just flat-out domination by the offense, defense and special teams for Minnesota. Winning big is huge, but crushing your opponents spirit says all anyone needs to know.
After Iowa took the ball to open the game, it went on a 12-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that lasted 5:47. It felt like the classic Iowa offense was back, and Minnesota would be in trouble.
Instead, the Gophers ripped of 48 unanswered points to dominant the game. A lot of the credit for that 48-point outburst needs to go to quarterback Mitch Leidner, who looked like the lightbulb went on completely in this game.
He ended the day going 10-of-13 passing for 138 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 77 yards on 11 carries.
“You always do as much as your quarterback can do and today he [Leidner] had an outstanding game,” head coach Jerry Kill said after the game. “He was reading all that stuff. I’ll have to look at film, but I’ll bet he didn’t miss one or two reads. You’re doing all that stuff and throwing the football and taking hits—I can’t say enough about the job that kid did. The whole offense did what we asked them to do and they carried out the game plan.”
The Minnesota defense wasn’t too bad either, forcing two fumbles that it recovered and adding an interception in the mix too. Iowa was held to just 205 total yards and converted on 5 of 12 3rd down attempts.
Oh, and the special teams did their part with a blocked punt and winning the field position battle as well.
Ferentz pulled no punches after the loss, stating his team may have bought in to the hype of what they did in the dominating win over Northwestern last week.
“We didn’t handle last week so well apparently,” said Ferentz. “That’s what life’s about. You’ve got to learn you don’t walk on water when things are going good.”
As the Gophers paraded around TCF Bank Stadium with Floyd of Rosedale for the first time since 2011, they also made a statement to the likes of Nebraska and Wisconsin. Minnesota isn’t going anywhere without a true fight in the Big Ten West race.