Iowa Football

When Iowa got Minnesota into real passing downs, the Hawkeyes brought the real heat

Iowa racks up 6 sacks, including 2 on the Gophers' final drive

IOWA CITY — In football, sometimes the hardest thing to do is take advantage of something that seems so obvious.

It can’t be as easy as the center pointing and calling out the protection and then going to where he’s not going to be. The game just can’t be that easy. It can’t be that easy until it seemingly is.

No. 8 Minnesota had the ball and needed a touchdown. The Gophers needed to march 80 yards in 1:52 with no timeouts. With Iowa jumping to a 20-6 first-half lead, Minnesota needed to throw in the second half. It really needed to throw here with everything winding down in No. 20 Iowa’s 23-19 victory at Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa countered with moving ends A.J. Epenesa and Chauncey Golston to the defensive tackle spots. Hybrid edge defender Joe Evans and defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon moved out to the end spots.

“We were taking advantage of their slide,” Epenesa said. “The center would point and tell us where he’s going and we were able to take advantage of that.”

Wait, the center said where he was going?

“It’s not uncommon for the quarterback to call out the mike (middle) linebacker and determine where the strong side is and where they’re going to slide to,” Epenesa said. “We can take advantage of that.”

Minnesota’s last-ditch drive started with an Evans sack. Second down was Epenesa sprinting past the guard and sacking UM quarterback Tanner Morgan, who then had to leave the game with an injury.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Cole Kramer finished it out. Cornerback Riley Moss finished out the Gophers with his second interception of the season.

Iowa was on to the protection slide early, but the game was close enough for Minnesota to still be able to run the ball. That went away with 1:52 left and no timeouts.

“You can’t really key in on something if there’s still the possibility of them running the ball. You have to stay gap sound,” Golston said. “Once we got them into real passing situations, we took full advantage. On that last drive, they were sliding to me and A.J. came up and it just worked out perfectly.”

The Hawkeyes finished with 6.0 sacks, the most by an Iowa defense since six against Northwestern in 2013. Epenesa picked up 2.5 and Evans had 1.5.

The Hawkeyes missed a PAT kick and that hung on the board and looked ominous until Minnesota missed the PAT when it scored to make it 23-19. That kept the Gophers in emergency pass mode on the final drive.

“Having a four-point lead was pivotal,” Ferentz said. “It exposes their line. No knock on their guys, but just gives you a chance to have a little bit more wiggle room inside, or even on the edges. You’re playing two different types of offenses almost during the course of the game.”

Epenesa was a menace. Minnesota did shade protection his way. The Gophers had no answer when Epenesa moved inside on the final drive.

“Every team is going to have something for him,” linebacker Kristian Welch said. “They’re going to know where he’s at and they’re going to have multiple protections for him. He’s one of those relentless guys you see on the tape. He showed his presence today.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

So, what’s it like as a defensive back when your back is turned and the offense has had success through the air and then you get the sack?

“It’s a great feeling,” cornerback Matt Hankins said. “I turn around and I see a quarterback on the ground, I just stop where I’m at and start celebrating, look into the crowd and just bring it all in and enjoy the moment.”

That’s how it ended up Saturday night at Kinnick, and everyone rushed the field and enjoyed the moment on the field.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.