IOWA CITY –Floyd of Rosedale? He’s staying in Iowa for another year. The Gophers’ Big Ten West Division title hopes? They took a major hit.
Those are the results of what happened Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, as No. 20 Iowa rallied from a three-point halftime deficit with a couple of big plays before hanging on for a 27-22 victory over the Gophers.
Chris Autman-Bell’s 68-yard touchdown reception from Tanner Morgan with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter pulled the Gophers within 24-22, but Hawkeyes defensive back Dane Belton batted down Morgan’s 2-point conversion pass intended for Autman-Bell.
The Gophers had two more possessions in the final 3:08. Morgan’s fourth-and-17 pass from the Minnesota 3 fell incomplete, leading to Caleb Shudak’s 29-yard field goal with 41 seconds left for Iowa. Minnesota reached the Iowa 39 with 12 seconds left before Morgan was sacked for a 15-yard loss by Joe Evans, and the clock ran out.
“Unfortunately, we came up on the short end of it,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “We had every opportunity to win the football game. … I’m really proud of how hard they played. Since I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve played Iowa like that.”
Iowa (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) remained in a first-place tie with Wisconsin atop the West Division. The Gophers (6-4, 4-3) lost their second consecutive game and dropped into a third-place tie with Purdue. They also lost in the Floyd of Rosedale series for the seventh consecutive year and haven’t won at Iowa since 1999.
Minnesota led 13-10 at halftime on a pair of short field goals by Matthew Trickett and Cole Kramer’s 37-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ko Kieft on fourth-and-2 out of the wildcat formation.
Problem was, the Gophers were kicking field goals while the Hawkeyes got a 72-yard TD pass from Alex Padilla to Charlie Jones early in the third quarter and a 27-yarder to Keegan Johnson in the fourth.
Minnesota had drives reach the Iowa 2, 14 and 11 only to settle for field goals. Another march to the Iowa 33 ended with a blocked 53-yard field-goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“When we get down in the green zone, we have to score,” Autman-Bell said.
Ky Thomas rushed 29 times for 126 yards for the Gophers, and Autman-Bell caught five passes for 109 yards. Morgan completed 14 of 30 passes for 183 yards.
“I have to play better and give us more opportunities for us to be successful,” Morgan said.
Said Fleck, “I thought it was hit and miss. He threw some really good balls, and we had some drops. … You’d like to be able to see more completions.”
Iowa scored first on a 50-yard field goal by Shudak 5:11 into the first quarter, marking the 12thconsecutive year that Iowa has scored first in the series. The Gophers answered with a 20-yarder by Trickett after their 15-play, 73-yard drive stalled at the 2.
Padilla’s QB sneak gave Iowa a 10-3 lead before the Gophers cashed in on a short punt in dramatic fashion. Facing fourth-and-2 from the Iowa 37, Kramer faked a handoff and found a wide-open Kieft for a touchdown and 10-10 tie.
On the ensuing Iowa possession, the Gophers got a huge defensive play by freshman cornerback Justin Walley, who knocked the ball loose from wideout Nico Ragaini and recovered the fumble at the Iowa 46. Minnesota reached the Iowa 14 and went ahead 13-10 on Trickett’s 31-yard field goal as time expired.
In the third quarter, the Gophers drove to the Iowa 42 only to punt after Morgan’s third-and-7 pass was high for Autman-Bell. Iowa took the lead for good when Padilla immediately hit Jones for a 72-yard TD pass and a 17-13 edge. Jones put a double move on Walley, who bit and couldn’t recover.
“That was a critical, pivotal point in the game,” Fleck said of the two-series sequence.
After Autman-Bell beat Hawkeyes cornerback Matt Hankins, Morgan found the wide-open wideout for a 68-yard touchdown play with 5:28 left. That’s as close as the Gophers would get, leaving Fleck to answer what it will take to beat Iowa.
“A better performance than what just we just played,” he responded. “We played really good football against a top-15 team for the majority of the game. They want some plays back; we want some plays back. It came down to the final possession in a top-15 rivalry game and almost a shot at the end zone to win it.”