MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Reese Morgan challenged his guys all week in practice. Minnesota will get physical with you, Iowa’s defensive line coach warned them.
“He told us, “If you guys don’t play physical, these guys are going to run it down your throat,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “We took it as a challenge. We got it done.”
Iowa’s football team dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides if the ball and opened the Big Ten season with a 23-7 victory at sold-out TCF Stadium Saturday. The Hawkeyes flushed a six-game league losing streak, improved to 4-1 in this year and handed Minnesota its first loss of the season.
The Gophers entered the game 13th nationally in rushing at 282.3 yards a game. Iowa limited the Gophers to 30 yards in 27 carries. The Hawkeyes have held their last four foes to 74 yards or less.
“Certainly it was a big challenge for us coming in here,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said . “They’ve done a great job of running the football. And I thought our coaches did a great job with the game plan. And then most importantly the guys did a good job during the week of getting the plan down and today certainly competed hard. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. And there was nothing easy about it.”
Iowa had allowed no rushing touchdowns entering the game. Only Michigan could make the same claim. Minnesota had 16 rushing touchdowns in the first four games. They’ve still got 16.
“I was, “OK, we need to keep this going for as long as we can,” Davis said. “I wish we could have left them with no points on the scoreboard. We want to be perfect up front. We didn’t do that. But we played a great game. And it was good holding them down.”
Iowa entered the game 24th nationally in rushing at 244 yards a game. Minnesota was 12th nationally in rushing defense at 91.5 yards. Advantage, Iowa. The Hawkeyes pounded away for 246 yards on the ground in 45 carries. Mark Weisman finished with 147 by himself.
“The holes out there were huge,” Weisman said. “It’s great to run behind them.”
In Iowa’s 31-13 victory over Minnesota last season, Weisman had 177 yards rushing and Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said the Hawkeyes “physically kicked our butt.” Saturday felt just the same way.
“From what I noticed during the game, we couldn’t move Iowa,” Kill said. “They’d slide off a block and make a play. They handled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball better than we did.”
In addition to making Minnesota tread water on the ground, the Hawkeye defense recorded four sacks, double the number it had through the first four games. Iowa had just 13 sacks all last season. Dominic Alvis, Louis Trinca-Pasat,Nate Meier and James Morris all had sacks.
But Minnesota’s 30 yards rushing is the defining statement of this day.
“I think it was a collective effort, all 11 guys playing their best…or at least trying to,” Morris said. “The defensive line, I think, sets the tempo in that regard. And then I think the second level defenders did a good job of getting to the ball after the first contact was made.”
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens had a team-high 10 tackles, passing the 200-mark for his career. He, too, gave a nod to the guys in the trenches.
“Just knowing they’re inside, battling like that way they are, that motivates me,” Hitchens said.
Next up for the Hawkeyes is Michigan State Saturday. Another physical test of wills.
“We had a good week of preparation, but we still have a long ways to go,” said left offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, who was part of a line that opened the holes for Weisman and company, gave Jake Rudock time to throw and never let him get sacked. “We’re just scratching the surface.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football