By Don Lund
Talk about deja-vü all over again.
Last year, Minnesota was 4-0 when it came to Iowa City.
The Gophers were a good running team and were playing good defense last season.
This year, Minnesota was 4-0 coming into to the Iowa game.
The Gophers’ running game is one of the best in the Big Ten and their defense was bigger and stronger.
Last year, Iowa won 31-13 and Mark Weisman rushed for 177 yards (8.4 per carry). Iowa led 24-0 at half.
This year Iowa won 23-7 and Mark ran for 145 yards (6.1 per carry). Iowa led 17-0 at the half.
Can you say domination?
I think you can.
This week, I have to start with the defense.
When you hold a rushing team to 30 yards on the ground on 27 carries which comes out to 1.1 yards per carry…that’s dominating.
I know that includes four sacks for -23 yards but the front seven plugged up the middle all afternoon.
Minnesota came into the game averaging over 282 yards on the ground.
Reece Morgan, who is in his second year of coaching the defensive line, has to get some of the credit, but the players still have to perform.
Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, the Hawks’ defensive tackles, took on the Gopher offensive line and didn’t budge.
They both had four tackles and Louis had a sack and a tackle for a loss.
Dominic Alvis and Nate Meier also had sacks.
Iowa came into the game with only two sacks for the season.
Iowa came into the season counting on their three senior linebackers to lead the way and they have, big time.
Anthony Hitchens led the way with 10 tackles including one for a loss.
Christian Kirksey had five tackles and a key interception while James Morris was all over the field with eight tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and the game-ending interception.
“I was pretty pleased with how we played,” said James. “I took a gamble on the interception. That’s a lot of what linebackers do.”
The front seven shut down the run game.
“Penetration at the point of attack is huge,” said the former Solon prep. “The defensive line being nasty and Anthony is really playing his game. You wouldn’t believe from last year to this year how much he’s improved. Also Louis is really stepping into a leadership role.”
James was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
One of the biggest stats that the defense looks at is third down conversions.
The Gophers were only 4-13 and they only had the ball for 24 minutes.
“I can’t say enough about those guys,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz about his defense. “Overall it was kind of ‘strength on strength.’ The guys did a good job up front and our linebackers were there to do what they’re supposed to do. A lot of guys hustling to the football and I was just really proud of our effort. Certainly James comes up with that big play and Christian comes up with one earlier. Our seniors all season long have done a good job of coming up with big plays at the right time.”
Iowa had 464 yards total offense which is the fourth time this year the Hawks have gone over 400 yards.
They lead the Big Ten in time of possession and had the ball for 36 minutes Saturday at Minnesota.
When you have a one-two punch like Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock it sure helps.
Mark had 147 yards, Damon 47. Mark averaged 6.1, Damon 4.3 per carry.
How about Jake Rudock with 35 yards on the ground including a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter?
Jake’s running has been a key to Iowa’s success.
Iowa totaled 246 yards on the ground. They have rushed for over 200 yards for five straight games.
The Hawks had 22 runs on the left side where tackle Brandon Scherff and guard Conor Boffeli open up holes that I could run through.
Jake also does a good job of checking off plays at the line of scrimmage. He also hit a couple of big third down plays and helped Iowa to finish 8-14 on third down conversions.
“Certainly, Jake came up with some big plays,” said coach Ferentz. “Both with his throws and his feet and Kevonte Martin-Manley stepped up with some key catches.”
Kevonte led Iowa with six catches for 56 yards.
What a great pass to my main man Damond Powell, who took the screen pass 74 yards for a second-quarter score.
You can’t coach speed and Damond’s 51.5 average per catch is unbelievable.
I’m sure Jake would like the interception back that he threw in the Gopher end zone, but 15-25 for 218 yards and no sacks is a good day at the office.
For the season, Jake is completing 61.7 percent for 961 yards and six touchdowns. Iowa had seven touchdown passes all of last year.
I thought for Iowa to have a good season, Jake needed to throw for around 18 touchdowns because the games will get tougher and the defenses will try to stop Iowa’s ground game.
How about only one penalty against the Gophers. That takes discipline and winning teams have that.
Once again, Iowa’s fullbacks did a great job at blocking, plus Adam Cox picked up a key first down on a 5-yard run and had a 35-yard catch.
Fullback is not a glamour position at Iowa but it can really help the offense go.
It wasn’t a great day for the Hawkeye special teams, especially on kickoff coverage where Minnesota averaged 39.5 yards per return.
That has to change.
Connor Kornbrath only averaged 29.5 yards on two punts but one of them was inside the 20.
Mike Meyer hit 4-5 field goals on a wet and windy day, including a 49-yard kick. His only miss hit the crossbar.
The Gophers were keying on Kevonte on punt returns so he only had two for 14 yards.
Iowa is sitting at 4-1 with Michigan State coming to Kinnick Stadium for homecoming.
The Hawkeyes lead the series, 23-19-2.
Iowa has won five of the last seven and the Spartans have a tough defense but their offense is a big question mark.
It will be a good test for Jake and the Hawks.