Iowa Football

Iowa football: 5 things to know about Minnesota

Coach P.J. Fleck loves to run (on the roads)

Iowa linebacker Bo Bower (41) carries the Floyd of Rosedale trophy after Iowa defeated Minnesota, 14-7, in a Big Ten game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in 2016. The Hawkeyes return to Minneapolis on Saturday with a three-game winning streak against the Gophers. (The Gazette)
Iowa linebacker Bo Bower (41) carries the Floyd of Rosedale trophy after Iowa defeated Minnesota, 14-7, in a Big Ten game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in 2016. The Hawkeyes return to Minneapolis on Saturday with a three-game winning streak against the Gophers. (The Gazette)

After a week off, the Iowa football team returns to action Saturday with one of its oldest rivalry games, and another trophy game.

The Hawkeyes travel to Minnesota, playing the Gophers for the coveted Floyd of Rosedale bronze pig (2:30 p.m., BTN).

Both teams had last week off, so they should be rested and ready for their fifth game of the 2018 season.

Here are “5 Things” about Saturday’s game, the third trophy game Iowa has played this fall.

1. Dig the pig

Iowa and Minnesota started playing for Floyd of Rosedale in 1935 after the 1934 game ended with a lot of tension between these border rivals.

Iowa running back Ozzie Simmons, one of the few black athletes playing major college football at this time, was sent to the sidelines several times during the ’34 game and said the Minnesota players were “piling on” and hitting him after the whistle.

“They came at me with knees high, and some of its was pretty obvious,” Simmons reportedly said.

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So before the 1935 game, Iowa Governor Clyde Henning, a bit upset about how Simmons was treated, noted Iowans wouldn’t put up with anything like that, basically threatening a riot on the field if things got a little too physical. Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson sent a telegram to Henning hoping to calm the tension, betting a prized hog on the outcome of the game.

The challenge was accepted, Minnesota won the game and “Floyd” was born after Henning delivered the prized Iowa pig to Olson.

Rivals.com in 2008 named this the top rivalry game in college football.

2. The rivalry

As mentioned above, this game has been a “trophy” game since the 1935 season, but the rivalry dates much longer than that.

Iowa and Minnesota first met in 1891, in Iowa City. The Gophers won, 42-4. Minnesota actually won the first 12 games. Iowa finally broke through with a 6-0 win in 1918. The Hawkeyes then won five in a row.

Minnesota holds a 62-47-2 advantage in the series, but Iowa has dominated in recent years.

The Hawkeyes have won three in a row, including last year’s 17-10 win in Iowa City, and have won five of the last six meetings, 13 of the last 17.

3. Running man

Gophers Coach P.J. Fleck, who “rowed the boat” to national prominence at Western Michigan in 2016, is quite a character.

Some of his antics while at Western Michigan and Minnesota have made headlines, like having the Navy SEALS drop out of a plane to let a player know he was going on scholarship.

Fleck also is a runner and was featured in Runner’s World Magazine in August.

He gets up early and hits the road around 4:30 a.m.

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“For me, it’s the only time of the day where no one bothers you or needs a solution to a problem,” he said in the RW article. “This is where you can collect your thoughts to be able to lead and motivate and inspire everyone else. It’s the time I use to get myself ready for the day and give myself to so many people.”

Running is his way of relaxing.

“There’s such a pressure to win every single day and you’re in charge of so many people,” he said. “As I got through my life, I saw that running was able to release a lot of that tension and a lot of that pressure I put on myself.”

Fleck has even run a marathon, completing the St. Louis Marathon in 2009 while coaching receivers at Northern Illinois, his alma mater. He finished in 3 hours, 24 minutes.

“I think best when I am running,” he said. “That’s where thoughts come to me very clearly.”

4. History lesson

For many, Minnesota and national powerhouse don’t go hand-and-hand in college football circles.

The Gophers have had just three winning seasons since 2010 and their record the past nine years is a very mediocre 51-54. That includes this year’s 3-1 mark. They haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1961, haven’t won a Big Ten title since 1967.

But they were in a bowl game in 2016, topping Washington State, 17-12, in the Holiday Bowl, capping a 9-4 season.

Minnesota has quite a past in football, one that includes seven national titles. You read that correct. Seven national titles.

Of course, the last one came in 1960. The others were in 1903, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940 and 1941.

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Those really early years were something special. Minnesota had a 35-game unbeaten streak from 1903 to 1905 and won three straight national titles in the mid-1930s with another unbeaten streak of 28 that included 21 consecutive wins.

The Gophers were voted the national champs by the Associated Press and United Press International in 1960 despite losing the Rose Bowl. They went back to the Rose Bowl in 1961 after Big Ten champ Ohio State declined the invitation and beat UCLA, 21-3.

It is the Gophers’ last Rose Bowl appearance.

5. Local connection

The Gophers have two Iowans on their roster, including former Cedar Rapids Washington prep Royal Silver.

Silver is a 6-foot-3. 300-pound defensive lineman who spent two seasons at Iowa Western Community College. He had 63 tackles, 11 for loss, and 4.5 sacks for the Reivers as a sophomore and earned second-team NJCAA All-American honors.

He has two tackles this year and has played in all four games.

Ko Kieft is a 6-4, 250-pound tight end from Sioux Center. He started against Miami and has one reception for 19 yards this season. He also caught a PAT pass against Fresno State,

Marcus Hendrickson is the director of player personnel for the Gophers. He’s from Blanchardville, Wis., but spent four years in northeast Iowa, graduating from Luther College in 1980.

He was a four-year letterman for the Norse, starting his final three seasons at linebacker. He was the team’s defensive MVP as a junior and senior and a captain his final year.

For the Gophers, he manages the recruiting operations.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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