The Minnesota Golden Gophers trailed the Iowa Hawkeyes 21-10 early in the fourth quarter of their battle for Floyd of Rosedale at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but Jerry Kill's team showed some serious heart and intestinal fortitude by mounting a brilliant comeback. The Gophers scored the final twelve points of the ball game and held Iowa at the end to retain the bronze pig by a score of 22-21.
The first quarter was scoreless, despite the fact that the Hawkeyes reached Gopher territory on all three of their possessions in the quarter. Those three possessions resulted in a turnover on downs, a punt, and a missed 24-yard field goal by Hawkeye kicker Mike Meyer. The Gophers punted on their first three possessions, but after the missed field goal, Duane Bennett fumbled the ball back to the Hawkeyes near midfield, and Iowa capitalized, completing a 10-play, 53-yard drive that concluded with a 12-yard touchdown pass from James Vandenberg to Marvin McNutt. That gave the Hawkeyes a 7-0 lead.
Minnesota answered back immediately on the next drive, as quarterback MarQueis Gray found freshman wide receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts for a 60-yard completion that took the Gophers down to the Iowa 16-yard line. A few plays later, Minnesota found the end zone on a 3-yard pass from Gray to tight end Collin McGarry to tie the score at 7.
After a three-and-out coming out of the locker room by the Gophers, the Hawkeyes drove for another score. McNutt was the featured player on the drive for Iowa, as he caught a 23-yard pass from Vandenberg on the first play of the drive, and took a handoff for 19 yards to put Iowa at the Gophers' 6-yard line. A couple plays later, sophomore running back Marcus Coker, who rushed for 252 yards on 32 carries on the afternoon, found the end zone from a yard out to give the Hawkeyes the lead, 14-7.
Following another Minnesota three-and-out, the Hawkeyes were driving again until Vandenberg got blindsided on a blitz by Kyle Henderson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Kirksey. Kirksey rumbled to midfield, and the Gophers had captured the momentum. They turned the ensuing possession into a 28-yard field goal by Jordan Wettstein to cut the deficit to 14-10. On the next Iowa drive, they marched right down the field and scored again, with Coker getting his second 1-yard touchdown run of the afternoon to make the score 21-10.
The Gophers took the ball back on offense again with 13:51 left, and proceeded to hold on to the ball for the next eleven minutes and three seconds, running twenty-six consecutive offensive plays. How did they do that? Well, they put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with a 1-yard scoring run by Bennett to cut the lead to 21-16. The two-point conversion failed, and it looked like the Gopher defense would have to hold.
However, Jerry Kill called for an onside kick, and the Gophers recovered at their own 41-yard line. From there, the Gophers put together what might be the best offensive drive you'll see all season, as they mixed the run and pass brilliantly and moved deep into Iowa territory. A third-and-goal from the Iowa 2-yard line got moved back five yards because of a false start, and Gray found Brandon Green for four yards to set up fourth-and-goal from the 3. Gray took the snap, rolled out to the right, and took off for the end zone himself, finding pay dirt and moving the score to 22-21, Minnesota. Another two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Hawkeyes got the ball back at their own 26-yard line with 2:48 left on the clock.
The Gophers' defense stiffened up in a big way on the last Iowa drive. Vandenberg threw three consecutive incompletions, and a false start by Iowa had the Hawkeyes looking at 4th-and-15 from the 21. Vandenberg dropped back to pass, saw nobody open, and decided he could run for the first down. However, Kyle Henderson and Mike Rallis brought him down after a 9-yard gain, six yards short of the sticks, and the Hawkeyes turned it over on downs. One Minnesota first down later, and the Gophers went into the victory formation.
A lot of Gophers played outstanding games this afternoon. Gray went 11-for-17 for 193 yards through the air, and added 11 carries for 62 yards and another score on the ground. Crawford-Tufts had his first 100-yard game, as he only caught two passes, but they went for exactly 100 yards on the afternoon. Duane Bennett more than made up for his early fumble, carrying the ball 20 times for 101 yards and a score. The defense, which had allowed more than 40 points in each of their first three Big Ten games, also stepped up in a big way on Saturday afternoon.
The Gophers will travel to East Lansing next week to take on the Michigan State Spartans, who lost to the Nebraska Cornhuskers this afternoon by a score of 24-3. The Hawkeyes will travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines, who blew out the Purdue Boilermakers today by a final tally of 36-14.