Hawkeyes search for answers after loss to Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS — The difference in intensity showed even on the sidelines at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday.
Throughout the contest, Minnesota players could be seen jumping up and down in excitement. A team that came into the game with two wins, no bowl hopes, and an interim head coach urged its fans for more noise.
On the opposite side, the Iowa players were also jumping up and down — to stay warm.
That energy — or lack of energy — carried over to the field — the Golden Gophers scored 10 points before Iowa's offense even touched the football.
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Minnesota (3-9, 2-6 Big Ten) — the team that had lost to Iowa in eight of the last nine meetings; the team that hadn't scored a single point against the Hawkeyes since 2007, the team that came into the game with only two wins this season — defeated Iowa, 27-24, to send the Floyd of Rosedale trophy to a new home for the first time since 2006.
"It seemed like in all three phases we were flat," defensive lineman Broderick Binns said. "You've got to tip your hats off to Minnesota. [The Gophers] came out ready to play, and we didn't."
The Gophers successfully recovered an onside kick, controlled the football for more than 36 minutes, and rushed for 216 yards against an Iowa defense that came into the contest ranked No. 14 nationally.
"The motivation was to leave the season with a great win and something that will last as [the seniors] pursue their lives after football," said Minnesota running back Duane Bennett, who rushed for 63 yards and scored a touchdown. "So coming in, just knowing the seniors did everything for us for four or five years, for them to be able to leave with something like this is big for us."
Iowa (7-5, 4-4) closes out the regular season riding a three-game losing streak and searching for answers about what went wrong in a season that supposedly had so much promise.
Something isn't going right for the Hawkeyes, tight end Allen Reisner said; he just couldn't pinpoint what. When asked if something was unplugged or broken with the team, defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn said, "A will to win."
Several players such as Clayborn and Karl Klug blamed Iowa's string of losses on a lack of execution, but when asked why that lack of execution is occurring, neither could come up with an answer.
In all five of Iowa's losses this season, the team has either led or tied in the fourth quarter, only to let the game slip away. The squad that began the season ranked No. 9 in the country will head into its bowl game unranked for the first time since its Sept. 26, 2009, game against Penn State — a 21-game stretch.
An Iowa defense heralded as one of the best in the country has allowed 384.66 total yards per game during the current three-game slide. If the Hawkeyes had given up that many yards per game all season, their defense would be ranked 72nd nationally.
The struggles haven't been relegated to just the defensive side of the ball. Iowa's offense, which averaged 32.3 points per game over its first nine games, has seen that nearly cut in half, averaging 19.3 points over the last three contests.
"We're not playing as well as we should be right now. That's pretty obvious," quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. "Obviously, we're not doing a good job in a lot of areas — we're not executing very well … It's showing up on the scoreboard. It's showing up on the field. It's showing up in tape. We just need to be better. I don't know how else to explain it."
Iowa is now unranked for the first time since its Sept. 26, 2009 game against Penn State — a 21-game stretch.
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