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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - So many Iowa blocks were wobbly that it was a three-hour Jenga do-over for the Hawkeyes.
Offense crumbled. Defense crashed. Let's check in on special teams. OK, that's in the back of an ambulance, too, but it didn't give the Hawkeyes a chance in Saturday's 51-14 demolition at Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes entered the game leading the Big Ten in kick returns, averaging 26.5 yards a return. On six returns against the Gophers, Iowa averaged 13.8 yards. That led to an average starting field position of its own 19-yard line, including five starts inside its 15. That eventually led to Gophers points.
Freshman running back Jonathan Parker got away with a fumble on a 54-yard return against Northwestern last week. Saturday, he fumbled a kick and returned it just 5 yards. He entered Saturday with a 32.4 average on kick returns. He averaged 13.4 yards on five returns against the Gophers.
'They were bad today,” Ferentz said, interrupting a question about special teams. 'They just ... maybe we did ... They were bad. We just weren't any good, field position, not fielding kickoffs, etc. We thought we were gaining ground there, and we were. We hit a wall today.”
Iowa's starting field position was its 18 in the first half, when the Hawkeyes feel behind 35-7.
'It's not an excuse,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. 'You get the ball at the 1, you want to go 99 yards. Field position isn't an excuse, it's us executing.”
Iowa also had a punt tipped, leading to a Gophers' TD early in the second quarter.
Iowa has two scholarship punters, this is a fact that is derisively noted when national media notices. Iowa went into Saturday's game ranked No. 111 in the country with 38.38 yards per punt. The best thing you can say about that number is that it's uniform.
Iowa, however, made it through eight games without a major disaster on punt team. The Hawkeyes will have to start all over again with that number next week after junior Connor Kornbrath had a punt tipped by Minnesota cornerback Eric Murray.
The punt traveled 14 yards and gave the Gophers a first down at Iowa's 44. Next play, quarterback Mitch Leidner hit wide receiver Donovahn Jones for a TD and a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Last week, junior Dillon Kidd lost the job after bobbling a snap that led to Northwestern's only TD. This week, it was Kornbrath, who didn't get any help from his blockers.
'Through my peripheral, I saw a little pressure on the right,” said Kornbrath, who averaged 38.7 yards on six punts. 'I tried to speed up my steps and get it off, but he still got a hand on it.”
It's week 9 and Iowa doesn't seem set on a punter. It traveled two on Saturday. This is not a good thing.
'You can't listen to the noise, you have to do the best you can each day,” Kornbrath said.
They thought they were gaining ground and then they hit the wall again and again Saturday.
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