Minnesota was battered, bullied and bruised in their loss at Iowa last year and vowed that things would be different this time around. Mark Weisman’s 150-yard first half from a year ago served as motivation this offseason in the weight room. We were told that Minnesota’s 4-0 start to this season was better and different from their empty 4-0 from a year ago.
On Saturday in a rain soaked Minneapolis, the song remained the same as Iowa gained 246 yards on the ground en route to a 23-7 win against the somewhat disliked Gophers.
Jake Rudock improved to 2-0 as a starter in road games, including his win at Iowa State. The environments in Columbus and Lincoln will be much more raucous than Ames and Minneapolis, but he’s handled the road environments quite well for a sophomore who played in just his fifth collegiate game. Drew Tate set the standard for sophomore seasons for an Iowa quarterback back in 2004, but outside of that performance, I think Rudock has had the best start I can ever recall for someone so young.
Ricky Stanzi showed a short memory in 2008, but he had taken snaps and was not the starter from game one. He looks more under control than Matt Rodgers did in 1989, but Matt didn’t have much to work with. Then again, it’s not like Rudock does, either. Chuck Long was 157-265 for 2,601 yards and 14 TD passes as a sophomore in 1983. Rodgers was 178-312 for 2,222 yards and 12 TD passes as a sophomore in 1989. Stanzi was 150-254 for 1,956 yards and 14 TD passes in 2008.
Jake is on a pace for over 2,300 passing yards and 14 touchdown passes, which would rank favorably from a statistical standpoint with those sophs. However, he is near the top of the list as far as pocket demeanor is concerned; he’s cool and has a great presence. He also has 128 rushing yards and is a better runner than any of the aforementioned QB’s.
He threw for 218 yards on 15 of 25 which included at least two drops. He threw one interception, trying to squeeze a pass into Tevaun Smith in the endzone just two steps too late. His TD pass went to the electric Damond Powell who took at tunnel screen 74 yards for a score. Powell’s speed from catch to score is something we haven’t seen from an Iowa player since Tim Dwight roamed the sidelines in Kinnick. His score made it 17-0 and gave Iowa some breathing room.
Mark Weisman led all rushers with 147 yards on 24 carries. He really got into his groove in the second half as the left side of the Iowa offensive line wore down the Gophers.
Iowa finished the game with a 36:01 to 23:59 time of possession advantage and ran a season low 70 plays, but the Gophers ran just 51.
As impressive as Weisman, Rudock and the offensive line were, the Iowa defense stole the show for me.
The biggest offseason question, at least in my mind, was how many strides could the defensive line make this year? Without significant improvement, Iowa’s experience at linebacker was going to be glossed over as they just can’t play cleanly unless the front four are soaking up blockers.
Through five games, nearly half the season, the Iowa defensive line has proven to be much better than they were in 2012 and possibly 2011. As a group, I think they are better than the 2011 group but they had Mike Daniels in the middle.
Iowa was able to get some pressure with the front four today and even if it didn’t result in boat load of sacks, they forced the ball to come out early. Minnesota was challenged in the passing game to begin with and this really helped throw them out of their comfort zone.
Iowa’s linebackers played great again this week and the defense held Minnesota to just 165 total yards, including 30 on the ground. Prior to Saturday’s game, Minnesota had averaged 288 yards rushing per game through their first four contests. Iowa gained 22 first downs to Minnesota’s 11 and the defense held the Gophers to just 4 of 13 on third down while Iowa was 8 of 14.
Dominic Alvis and Louis Trinca-Pasat really stood out to me today, and LTP is getting stronger as the year goes along. Minnesota spent a lot of time looking at Carl Davis and when you add it all up, the linebackers are able to suck it up; Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey combined for 23 tackles on Minnesota’s 51 plays.
Iowa wins its fourth game of the year, matching last year’s win total. They will eclipse it and while I had them at 4-1 at this point, I didn’t think they’d look this good from a physical standpoint, nor did I think the quarterback play would be this good.
Iowa’s play on both sides of the line of scrimmage are starting to harken back to the best of the Kirk Ferentz era.
In the out of season, some asked me if I saw any parallels to the 2007 to 2008 seasons for Iowa. I really didn’t see it because the 2007 defense was a lot better than the 2012 Iowa defense…and I felt it was mostly wishful thinking.
After five games, this team is reminding me a bit of that bunch. I don’t think this year’s defense will be anything like the 2008 group, but the offensive line is playing well and the defensive line is getting back to holding its own on the line, which is a must in this league.
Considering how Jake Rudock has played and the skill set he brings to the table, I don’t think eight wins are out of the realm of possibility now, something I would not have written five weeks ago. I am not saying they will get there and if they do, they have to win next week against Michigan State.
That game is going to be incredibly physical and Iowa will be able to lay it all on the line as they have a bye week following the game. Michigan State’s offense is not good, but they will have had this week to work on things as it was their bye.
I think Iowa has a very good chance to get to 5-1, which is what I picked them before the year began. But I had them going just 1-5 on the other side, which included a loss at Purdue. That game looks so much more winnable now than I saw it this summer, so if the Hawks can beat Michigan State, a bowl game would seem likely.
The biggest bugaboo for this Iowa team thus far is finishing. Iowa should have scored 35 to 40 points today without much of a stretch of the imagination. They wound up scoring just 23, which leaves you open to flukes and short fields plus onside kicks. Iowa has got to do a better job of getting points in every trip to the 30 and closer. They doinked a field goal off the uprights today and Jake Rudock threw a redzone interception. Iowa also punted from just inside its own 40 on its first drive of the game after it stalled.
Lastly, place kicker Mike Meyers deserves mention..he made field goals from 49 and 44 yards plus a chip shot.
First things first; enjoy this win, the fact that Floyd returns to Iowa City and that for all of their talk of Hating Iowa and the like, the Gophers fans still must deal with this harsh reality; when it comes to physical play, the Gophers cannot hang with the Hawkeyes.