116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — For the seventh straight season, Iowa brought home the bacon in its annual battle for a bronze pig.
The No. 20 Hawkeyes pulled off a nail-biting 27-22 win over unranked Minnesota to keep their Big Ten West hopes alive and ensure the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy spends another year in Iowa City.
It was an even closer game than the score might suggest, though.
The game included six ties or lead changes.
“These games are physical. They’re tough,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s what you would expect in this conference. You expect it in November.”
Minnesota almost made that seven in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan, in an otherwise-mediocre performance, had a pump fake on a throw. Iowa’s Matt Hankins fell for it, and Minnesota receiver Chris Autman-Bell broke away for a 68-yard touchdown.
That cut Iowa’s lead to 24-22. But Iowa’s Dane Belton tipped Morgan’s pass on the two-point conversion attempt to preserve the lead.
On the other side of the ball, a five-play, 58-yard drive earlier in the fourth quarter gave the Hawkeyes the cushion necessary to withstand Morgan’s 68-yard blow.
Quarterback Alex Padilla hit wide receiver Keagan Johnson on a screen pass. Two Minnesota defenders sandwiched Johnson, but he somehow broke through and flew down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
“When I caught the ball, I see two people in my face, and in my head I was thinking, ‘Stay up,’” Johnson said. “When I did stay up, I just saw green grass and ran as fast as I could.”
That cushion didn’t seem very comfortable for the Hawkeyes in the final minutes of the game, though.
Padilla barely converted on a fourth-and-inches with about four minutes left. If he didn’t convert, Minnesota would’ve had the ball in Iowa territory while trailing by just two points.
That same drive later stalled, so Minnesota had another chance to break the score. A Zach VanValkenburg sack and three Morgan incompletions resulted in a four-and-out, though.
After Iowa had to settle for a Caleb Shudak field goal — Ferentz said he “wanted to burn a little clock” rather than score right away — Minnesota got yet another chance for a game-winning drive with 39 seconds left. The Gophers penetrated Iowa territory before eventually running out of time.
In his first career start, Padilla completed 11 of 24 passes for 206 yards.
That included two key throws to wide receiver Charlie Jones.
Early in the second quarter, Padilla connected with Jones, who made a diving catch, for a 34-yard completion that put the Hawkeyes in the red zone for the first time.
“He put it in a good spot and put it out there for me to go get it,” Jones said.
Two plays later, Iowa found the end zone on a 1-yard Padilla quarterback sneak.
Then in the third quarter, Padilla hit Jones on a deep route, and the senior wideout ran it for a 72-yard touchdown.
“It’s one of those that you just try not to overthrow it,” Padilla said. “When he’s wide open, I just have to get him the ball. He did the rest.”
Padilla finished with two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
At the same time, Padilla was far from perfect. His completion rate certainly won’t put him in any awards conversations, and he got away with a few incompletions that could have easily been interceptions.
Iowa’s rushing attack similarly had mixed results. Running back Tyler Goodson had a couple open-field runs that gave the Hawkeyes quick chunks of yardage.
But he also had plenty of 1-yard, 2-yard or 3-yard carries where the offensive line did not afford him much space to run. He finished with 59 yards on 18 carries.
No other running back had more than one rushing attempt.
Iowa’s usually-steadfast defense had a sloppy first half and allowed the Gophers to essentially run the ball at will.
About 78 percent of Minnesota’s first-half possessions were running plays.
Minnesota’s second drive of the day — and one of three scoring drives in the first half — went 73 yards on 15 plays. All 73 yards were on the ground, and many of them followed broken tackles.
Later in the first half, Minnesota used play action on fourth-and-2 from the Iowa 42-yard-line. The Hawkeyes fell for it, and backup quarterback Cole Kramer lofted a ball to tight end Ko Kieft.
Kieft then sprinted almost 40 yards into the end zone with Iowa cornerback Matt Hankins trying to poke the ball loose from behind.
The defense improved in the fourth quarter, when Minnesota had to throw more because of the game situation.
Iowa’s red-zone defense also was a bright spot. Minnesota scored only nine points on three red-zone trips.
Iowa defensive lineman Logan Lee blocked a field goal early in the fourth quarter. Had the field goal been successful, Minnesota would’ve taken a 19-17 lead.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a field-goal block in my career,” Lee said. “I have in practice a time or two, but in a game setting, I have not been able to do that.”
The win keeps the Hawkeyes tied with No. 18 Wisconsin for the lead in the Big Ten West. The Badgers have the tiebreaker, though, so Iowa will likely have to win its final two games and have Wisconsin lose at least once to go to Indianapolis.
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