Iowa, Minnesota ending season in trophy battle


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The difference between chaos and serenity is in the eye of the beholder — especially if said beholder is a bronze pig named Floyd.

Iowa football faithful can complain in earnest of the maddening season the Hawkeyes have survived in 2009, but it pales in comparison with Minnesota’s roller-coaster campaign. Still, the Hawks anticipate a ride.

“It’s a great game. There’s a lot of tradition behind it,” Iowa junior Bryan Bulaga said about the Hawkeyes’ rivalrly with Minnesota. “We get their best shot [every] time … But it’s a big game for the state of Iowa, too.”

The Gophers enter the annual “Battle for Floyd of Rosedale” after what has quite literally been an up-and-down season. Minnesota’s schedule so far shows only one instance of back-to-back wins, which came during the first two weeks of the season against Syracuse and Air Force.

Since the Gopher’s last win streak ended at home against California in September, the only streak they’ve managed is successive losses to Penn State and Ohio State in mid-October.

Aside from that rough patch, Minnesota has had a tough time finding any sort of momentum — positive or negative. To say the least, consistency has been a problem for head coach Tim Brewster’s squad in his third year in Minneapolis.

The oddest aspect of the Gophers’ inconsistency is that aside from two games, the season has gone as most expected it would.

Those two games, not surprisingly, came in back-to-back weeks against Michigan State and Illinois.

Michigan State came in as one of the hottest teams in the conference, winning three in a row before losing a heartbreaker to Iowa a week before. The Gophers, on the other hand, came in with a two-game losing streak in tow and without standout wide receiver Eric Decker.

By way of a late game-breaking touchdown catch that summoned flashes of the Immaculate Reception, Minnesota downed the Spartans.

The Gophers then lost, 35-32, to conference doormat Illinois the following week, which sparked renewed complaints about consistency woes. Quarterback Adam Weber turned in a one touchdown, one interception performance.

While the Gophers enter Kinnick Stadium this weekend with a 16-13 win over South Dakota State last week in the rearview mirror, Weber has continued to struggle in the absence of Decker. The junior from Shoreview, Minn., had just 94 yards and an interception against the Jackrabbits.

“We’ve had some great offensive performances this year,” Brewster said earlier this week. “Last week certainly wasn’t one of them. This week we’ve got to work really hard in practice at all areas … to have a chance against Iowa.”

Of course, Iowa has its own problems to deal with, including a rash of injuries on offense.

Offensive lineman Dace Richardson will miss Saturday’s game nursing a broken foot, and junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi will miss a second-straight game with a sprained ankle.

Leading rusher Adam Robinson returned last week against Ohio State after missing two games with an ankle sprain. Robinson’s backfield mate, true freshman Brandon Wegher, is expected to return as well after missing Iowa’s game against the Buckeyes with “internal complications.”

Despite the injuries, Iowa silenced some critics after going toe-to-toe with conference champion Ohio State on Nov. 14. Redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg looked stellar in the loss, completing 20-of-33 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the first start of his career.

“Now the next step is what [does Vandenberg] do in Week Two,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ll find that out this week, but we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”

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