Cover Story: The battle for Floyd
The Iowa football team will play Minnesota on Saturday for the 105th time. At stake since since 1935 is the Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze pig trophy. Iowa won the trophy in 13 of 17 games leading up to 2010.
But this season, the programs seem to be moving in opposite directions. And the foundation for the Gophers’ improvement was built on Floyd’s back.
Keanon Cooper, Minnesota senior linebacker: Being a kid from Texas, I inherited the rivalry — I didn’t grow up in it. Coming here, I thought Wisconsin was Minnesota’s biggest rival. But then as a freshman, I heard the random chants of “Who hates Iowa,” when we’re not even playing Iowa.
Ed Olson, Minnesota junior offensive tackle: My dad played in ’82, as a captain, so he tells me a lot of history about Iowa. He always told me about the pink locker room. He showed me film of the Iowa fans taking the goal posts. I’ve always not liked Iowa growing up.
MarQueis Gray, Minnesota senior quarterback: The whole week of that game, we have people — even the custodial staff at the stadium — talking about how we need to beat Iowa.
Minnesota was struggling at the end of the 2010 season. The Gophers had fired their head coach, Tim Brewster, midway through that season and were limping to the end of senior quarterback Adam Weber’s statistically accomplished career, bringing a 2-9 record into the season’s final game.
Iowa was also limping to the end of the season, but it had started its 2010 with Rose Bowl hopes.
An onside-kick recovery, a touchdown drive in the final five minutes and an ensuing Marcus Coker fumble gave Minnesota a 27-24 win under the lights of still-new TCF Bank stadium. The Gophers had the Floyd of Rosedale for the second time in 10 years.
Olson: That was a really cool experience. We knew we weren’t going to a bowl game, and it was our last game, and it was against Iowa. We treated that like it was our Rose Bowl. Weber went out on top, just how he should’ve.
Cooper: That game, we were able to pull off a win, not only for our coaching staff but for the state of Minnesota, which hadn’t seen the pig in a long time.
Things didn’t seem improved for Minnesota the next year. The Gophers were just 1-6 entering their game against 5-2 Iowa. For the second year in a row, the game was in Minneapolis.
Olson: We had that trophy, and we didn’t want to lose that. We wanted to keep it so bad.
Gray: We felt complete that whole week. Guys were doing their assignments right the whole week. It was our best practice week of the season.
Early in the game, the Hawkeyes moved the ball with ease — until they reached the red zone. Iowa turned the ball over on downs in Minnesota territory on its first drive. Kicker Mike Meyer missed a 24-yard chip shot on its third drive. He missed another kick on its fourth. Iowa went into halftime tied 7-7, having left several points on the field.
Meyer: It was definitely an eye-opener for me. It showed I need to focus a lot more on my job, and I think it’s helped me progress to how I’m doing right now. I’m not going to forget what I learned from that game.
James Vandenberg, Iowa senior quarterback: We were getting in the red zone and not getting any points. We needed to do a better job of that.
Gray: I told the guys, they’re missing field goals, and they’re turning the ball over. That’s a sign that we’re going to win this game. We’re still in this. That’s what I told our guys at halftime.
Olson: That’s when MarQueis Gray became a vocal leader. He took us over on the sideline and he put a spark under us.
Up 14-7 in the third quarter, Iowa experienced its most dramatic red zone failure yet. It had brought the ball down to the Minnesota 14-yard line and was looking to throw it into the end zone.
Vandenberg: I was rolling out to the right, and somebody came up from the front side and made me pull up. You can’t ever really do that on a rollout.
Cooper: [Defensive back] Kyle Harrison came on a corner blitz and hit him in the back. Our D-tackle picked it up. And if you watch the footage from that game, you can see our sideline just erupt. That’s the type of energy you have to play with in those types of games.
Iowa scored on a one-yard Marcus Coker run to start the fourth quarter. The Gophers answered with a one-yard scoring plunge of their own, making the score 21-16 Iowa with just over eight minutes to play.
Cooper: We usually go to the opposite side of the field to get ready to go on the field after the offense scores. My teammate came down, and I asked him if he had a play yet. He said, “Hopefully, we won’t need one, because we’re going to run the onside kick.” Our bench tried to play it off like it was a typical play.
Jerry Kill, Minnesota head coach: If you followed my career, we did the same kick at Northern Illinois. We did the same kick at Southern Illinois. We’ve been maybe 60 or 65 percent on it. Two out of three, we’ve been able to get. We needed to change the momentum of the game, and I’m convinced if Iowa gets the ball back, the game is over.
Cooper: You get to a point during the year, where we’ve played some tough games, gotten blown out, and it’s like, “We keep practicing this onside kick.” It gets repetitive after a while.
Olson: We came off the field, and we had just scored a touchdown. I sat down on the bench and then just heard the crowd go crazy. I knew exactly what was going on.
Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa sophomore receiver: We were really down after that. It was a bad play.
Minnesota recovered the kick and went on a 12-play, 59-yard, 5:34 drive. It ended with a fourth-down and goal from the 3-yard line.
Micah Hyde, Iowa senior cornerback: [Gray] is huge, definitely hard to tackle. He got out of the pocket on us.
Gray: The tight end threw me a great block, and I was able to get to the pylon.
Olson: He’s our playmaker. He’s the guy we want with the ball in his hands. And he scored and won us the game.
Cooper: Oh man, that night was crazy. Being in Dinkytown, a lot of fans showing love, having the pig down there downtown with us. That night was special.
Gray: It’s a huge thing for the Gopher program, bringing that trophy home two years in a row. It’s a weird trophy. It’s awfully heavy. Most people don’t think it’s that heavy. I don’t even try to carry it, I just go rub it a few times. I’m not going to injure myself trying to carry it.
Cooper: Floyd is everywhere now. This summer I worked in the ticket office. I worked freshman Orientation, and Floyd would be down there. People come and show Floyd love and take pictures with him. He has been our own for two years now. I believe Floyd’s enjoying himself. We love having him.
Vandenberg: I don’t think we’re going to have to talk much to get guys going for this game. It’s a trophy game, a rivalry game, and one we haven’t had success in for two years.
Hyde: You do try to forget. But you’ve got to look back because you want to know what they did well against us. But you definitely want to forget about the last couple losses. Because those were big losses.
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