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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The anger didn’t look furious, but it was there. It was in the seemingly 25 football helmets Iowa put on Minnesota ball carriers. It was in the shopping cart ride George Kittle gave a Minnesota defensive end during the game’s most important moment.
"I have never heard that. I’m going to need a definition," the Iowa tight end asked about the term "shopping cart."
You pushed defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere into the Boundary Waters. You blocked him into Canadian citizenship. You guys might’ve tripped over a walrus at the Arctic Circle. That’s "shopping cart."
“He was out of bounds for sure,” Kittle said. “He was gone.”
So was Akrum Wadley. The good kind of gone.
The Iowa running back followed perfect blocks from a reshuffled offensive line, made two Golden Gophers miss and scored on a 54-yard run, Iowa’s longest play of the season, with 5:46 left in the game. Iowa’s defense, Big Ten NyQuil for a coughing Northwestern offense last week, made Wadley’s run stand in Iowa’s 14-7 victory over Minnesota before 49,145 fans Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Hawkeyes (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) walked into the north country with a ton of questions. Could it stop the run? Could it generate any offense? Will quarterback C.J. Beathard live through another wave of sacks and hits and need emergency everything surgery?
For one day, Iowa checked off some questions. If nothing else, the Hawkeyes punched back, including an offensive line that went through an overhaul.
“I know they were more angry,” Wadley said about his O-line. “I like them when they’re angry.”
Iowa’s defensive players swore they weren’t angry, but a recurring theme did emerge. Everyone mentioned getting hats to the football, hats being helmets, of course, and the thought being the more hats the merrier.
“It was 11 hats to the ball, that’s what we focused on,” said free safety Brandon Snyder, who killed two Minnesota drives with a fumble recovery and an interception. “Everyone talked about just getting in the picture.”
In the end, everyone got into the picture with Floyd of Rosedale. After a 14-7 struggle that wasn’t suitable for framing, the Hawkeyes kept the 98.3-pound bronze pig trophy for the second straight season.
It might’ve been the quintessential Kirk Ferentz game.
The Hawkeyes squeezed out just enough offense, putting up 179 rushing yards to help overcome three turnovers. Iowa’s defense pulled 10 three-and-outs from the Gophers (3-2, 0-2). With a touchdown lead (running back LeShun Daniels ran a for a two-point conversion on Wadley’s TD, buffering the pair of field goals the Hawkeyes produced through three-plus quarters), Ferentz didn’t flinch when punting twice in the final two minutes and putting everything on the defense.
Ferentz felt like he could punt twice in the final 2:39, because Iowa’s defense was in the middle of holding Minnesota to a dump truck full of season lows. The Hawkeyes held UM to 102 rushing yards, 126 yards below the Gophers’ season average. This could go on for a while, but let’s get to the biggies — 268 yards of offense, 62 plays, 13 first downs and 29 rush attempts were all seasons lows for the Gophers.
“It’s simple. This game is a pretty simple game,” Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said. “We got whipped up front.”
Still, Minnesota had a chance on its final drive. Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner strung together completions of 16, 21 and 15 yards to get the Gophers going. A 23-yard completion put UM at Iowa’s 13 with 56 seconds left.
Leidner looked cornerback Greg Mabin’s way for a pair of completions during the drive. On fourth down, Mabin knew what was coming. He locked inside position on UM wide receiver Brian Smith. Leidner floated the ball up and it fell incomplete.
“The first bad play, flushed it. The second bad play, flushed it,” Mabin said. “I was able to stand my ground and make a play.”
Let’s allow that last thought to ring out. Iowa did stand its ground, in a visceral manner. And there’s a ton to flush out yet. Beathard took another mile of hits, including one where he broke the knee brace on his left leg. The Hawkeyes went into the game No. 5 in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage. They went 0-for-2 there Saturday.
Iowa stood its ground and will travel to Purdue next week alive in the Big Ten West Division race. The best thing Iowa did Saturday was stand its ground.
Quintessential Ferentz game, so you really kind of need to end on a quintessential Ferentz quote.
“I thought they (the Hawkeyes) competed hard out there and showed a lot of grit and mental fortitude and played with a lot of toughness,” Ferentz said.
Or John Wayne said. Or Clint Eastwood said. Whatever works.