Three cool things:
1. Sometimes, you have to make your own fun.
Tight end George Kittle got that and at least heard me out on the whole “shopping cart” thing. I don’t know why that popped into my head. When a block is really great, the poor defensive guy is as helpless as the person in the basket of a shopping cart.
Kittle basically did that to a Minnesota defensive end and this game — a sleepy, sloppy, grip and grunt — and that was enough to spring it open.
That turned out well. I walked away thinking, “Well, it was 14-7. I wash my hands. It’s in God’s hands now. Something, something hands.”
2. We probably should talk a little about where 2016 fits for Kirk Ferentz.
It was a perfectly average season. The embarrassment at the hands of North Dakota State (don’t give me “Best of the FCS,” I don’t care, I’m not hearing it, all due respect to NDSU) came off the board with the Keith Duncan field goal to beat Michigan and you guys helping your team absolutely own that moment.
Maybe crushing Nebraska and getting the defensive coordinator to say “Their practices must be blood baths” probably wiped a little of the 38-17 loss to Northwestern off.
If you’re going to deem an eight-win Iowa season as a success, you have to get into who the Hawkeyes beat. Were there enough big wins to cover up the dreadful 30-3 loss to Florida in the Outback? What Outback? That’s the right answer.
3. We’d have to set the parameters, but you can make a good argument for RB Akrum Wadley being one of the most “clutch” players of the Ferentz era. This was a 54-yard TD run to win the game late in the fourth quarter. Same deal at Rutgers in 2016. And just run the Iowa State 2017 tape.
As fun as it was to watch Wadley run and do his thing, the most impressive element of his career was the clutch. For a team like Iowa to get that kind of performance in the tense moments, it’s gold. That was Akrum.
Quote: “The first bad play, flushed it. The second bad play, flushed it. I was able to stand my ground and make a play.” — cornerback Greg Mabin. He finished this one off with a batted ball in the end zone. A lot of you guys wanted Manny Rugamba to start ahead of him. That eventually happened, but only because of injury.
Mabin played six games for the 49ers last year. He was more the sidekick to Desmond King, but he’s playing corner in the NFL. The people who wanted him out? You were wrong.
Note: Brandon Snyder broke into the lineup in the 2016 season. He has since suffered two ACL tears. He’s in the mix this spring, but no one really knows how much. We are talking about two torn ACLs.
Still, in 2016, Snyder was a turnover maker. He caused three fumbles (thunderous hits on at least two and the turnover that they needed to win at Rutgers) and had three picks.
Something to keep in mind.
Why No. 110? — Here are the head coaches at Minnesota since Ferentz has been at Iowa:
In the words of U2 (I hate U2, but this really works here), I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2016
MINNEAPOLIS — 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 they stop the run? Could they 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.
Everyone mentioned getting hats to the football defensively, 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 season lows for the Gophers.
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. 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.