Iowa, Stanley Retain Floyd, Hand Gophers Homecoming Loss

Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Floyd still resides in Iowa City.

For the fourth straight year, the Gophers were unable to win the battle for Floyd of Rosedale, losing to Iowa 48-31 on Saturday.

After the loss to Maryland, the Gophers knew they had to stop the run. Maryland’s running backs torched the Gophers on several big plays. Iowa’s running back committee, however, was held to 106 total rushing yards with a measly 2.7 yards per carry.

With a weakened secondary, because of the season-ending injury to Antoine Winfield Jr., Iowa’s running game became mostly an afterthought. The Hawkeyes exposed the Gophers through the air. Iowa’s quarterback Nate Stanley threw for four touchdowns, two of which came in the first quarter.

The last time an opponent threw for four or more touchdowns against the Gophers was Purdue’s David Blough in 2016.

Stanley finished the day 23 for 39 for 314 yards. He spread the ball around and attacked the weak areas of the Gophers zone defense — especially on the first two drives. Stanley was 6 for 7 for 108 yards after the first quarter with 60 of his yards coming on his second touchdown pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

For Gophers, they put up the points but just not enough to overcome the 14-point hole.

“Throughout the entire game, you saw our team respond,” senior edge rusher Carter Coughlin said. “There were deficits that we closed, and something would happen where we’d let it slip away through minor details. I think that shows how close we are. As we’ve talked about we have a young team.

“We were out-matured by Iowa and we need to figure out how to close that gap. A lot of it has to do with our leadership. We talk about how the elite team’s players lead, and we’re not leading enough so we have to take care of that.”

On the positive side for the Gophers, they scored 31 points against an Iowa defense that allowed its highest point total (28) last week to a ranked Wisconsin squad. Minnesota being unranked with an offense chalk-full of freshmen was able to turn in a respectable, but not complete, offensive performance.

Zack Annexstad threw three interceptions and was sacked five times but also threw for three touchdowns and 218 yards. The Gophers have an offense that is capable of giving the toughest teams in the Big Ten West a run for their money.

Winning the game though is another point entirely. Minnesota had too many drives stall around midfield and struggled to get a consistent offense to take the field.

In order for the Gophers to win games like these, and perhaps take home a rivalry trophy or two, the team needs to show more consistency.

Gophers head coach PJ Fleck described the inconsistencies as having different growth levels. He went on to say each group of personal is at a different level of growth.

“I told my team I’m disappointed, very disappointed. However, I saw a ton of growth,” Fleck said. “We’re getting spotted growth in a lot of areas. It’s like planting crops where they’re all supposed to grow at the same time. That’s what you expect. Every row is supposed to grow at the time, same temperature, and the same size. We kind of have spotted growth right now.”

Developing Skill and Chemistry

Rashod Bateman has developed quite quickly early on in the season. After the bye week, headed into the latter half of the Gophers schedule, it’s clear Bateman has established himself into primary receiver alongside Tyler Johnson.

Fleck said at his weekly press conference that Bateman was quickly becoming the second option in the passing game and that his relationship with Annexstad is very strong. Johnson has noticed the big-play skill that has developed in Bateman and his fellow receivers.

“Playing alongside (Bateman), it gets me excited,” Johnson said. “Knowing those guys are freshmen and they can just go out there and make any play at any moment of the game. It just makes me excited to see them play to that level.”

Bateman finished the day with seven catches for 65 yards and led all Gophers receivers with two touchdowns.

Playing Without Winfield

Originally, Jordan Howden was slated to start at defensive back in place of the injured Winfield. Come game time, it was redshirt junior Chris Williamson who started over Howden.

Williamson didn’t make any flashy plays but the secondary as a whole was clearly weakened by the loss of Winfield and some players playing new positions to fill the gaps.

“We had a 4th-and-2, we should be able to stop them there, get off the field and we don’t,” Fleck said. “They get a first down; they go down and throw a 3-yard touchdown. The second (Iowa touchdown) is a blown coverage. It’s cover two, backside safety who is just supposed to stay back. Saw Nate Stanley scramble, (the defensive back came down) and when you do that you leave a wide open receiver down the field.

“You’re the deeper of the deepest, that’s the rule. That’s someone playing the position they normally don’t play and that’s the position we’re in.”

The Gophers did get defensive back Kiondre Thomas back from suspension, which helps the team. Yet, without Winfield, it could be a revolving door of starters at safety alongside Jacob Huff.

Adjusting to the Pressure

Sam Schlueter was replaced after an atrocious first half. The big man, Daniel Faalele from Australia started at right tackle for the Gophers beginning on the team’s first drive of the second half. Listed as 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, Fleck had no choice but to make the move to Faalele after Schlueter couldn’t slow down Anthony Nelson. Nelson tallied three sacks, all coming in the first half.

“I made a decision to be able to make the switch at right tackle based on getting Daniel Faalele reps. … He’s one of the strongest people in the Big Ten,” Fleck said. “I thought that would give us a strength advantage. We’re getting too much pressure so who’s our strongest guy on the bench and that would be him.”

Notes/Other Observations

The Gophers and Hawkeyes have played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy since 1935. With the loss, the Gophers move to 42-40-2 in the trophy series The last time the Gophers held the trophy was 2014 when it trounced Iowa 51-14 at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota is 62-48-2 all-time against Iowa.

Going mostly unnoticed was the performance of freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim. He carried the ball 13 times for 62 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. This season Ibrahim has rushed for 258 yards on 48 carries.

Seth Green rushed for another touchdown out of the wildcat formation. He leads the team with six rushing touchdowns.

The Gophers next travel to play Ohio State (6-0) next week. Ohio State is coming off a 49-26 win over Indiana.

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