Hawkeyes have Minnesota motivation: 'We owe them one'

Chad Leistikow
Minnesota players carry Floyd of Rosedale after a 51-14 pasting of Iowa last season, Kirk Ferentz's worst Big Ten loss in 15 years.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Kirk Ferentz looked around at reporters Tuesday and playfully wondered why nobody brought up Floyd of Rosedale during his 27-minute news conference.

A bronze pig gets forgotten when your eighth-ranked Iowa football team is unbeaten (9-0) in mid-November.

Also, 51-14 is serving just fine as a motivating factor as the Hawkeyes prepare for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against Minnesota.

That was the bludgeoning score administered to the Hawkeyes a year ago in Minneapolis, Ferentz’s worst loss in a Big Ten Conference game since 1999, his first season as head coach.

“There’s nothing fun about losing,” Ferentz said, “whether it’s one point — or 100 points like last year.”

A 37-point loss might as well have been 100 in what was a collective team meltdown. The offense barely gained 200 yards.  The defense was shredded on the ground and through air. The special teams were a mess.

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Circulating from player to player during Tuesday’s weekly media availability, it was clear the Hawkeyes hadn’t forgotten Nov. 8, 2014.

Right guard Jordan Walsh: “It was kind of a bad day. We got our butts kicked.”

Cornerback Greg Mabin: “Inexcusable. … Anything that could go wrong went wrong that game.”

Running back Akrum Wadley: “That was embarrassing. That’s not Iowa football. It’s our time to get revenge.”

Center Austin Blythe called it the most humbling loss of his five-year career.

“You just take a step back and kind of re-evaluate what you’re doing as a player and a team,” he said.

As has been well-documented, the “bullcrap” (Ferentz’s term after last year’s Minnesota loss) of 2014 was flushed in an entire program re-evaluation and reboot in January.

The cliché of a one-game-at-a-time philosophy continues to be successful for the Hawkeyes. Ferentz said a few weeks ago that, in his experience, maintaining that focus can get more difficult with prosperity. But even with the hype of this week’s night game at Kinnick Stadium and alternate uniforms and outdoor wrestling, Ferentz likes what he’s seen in the quest to reach 10-0.

“It seems to me that maybe we're over the initial wave, if you will, over the last couple weeks,” Ferentz said. “Right now I think it seems like we're down to business.”

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And that business is executing the game plan. Iowa is an 11.5-point favorite to avenge last year’s loss to the Gophers (4-5, 1-4 Big Ten).

“They kind of stomped us last year,” right tackle Cole Croston said. “So we’re looking to kind of take it to them this year and match their intensity from last year. I think we owe them one.”

When these Hawkeyes talk, you believe them. They’ve said all the right things, especially since camp broke in August, about unity and focus. They’re a completely different team than in 2014 — 14 first-time starters underscores that.

Another reason to like the Hawkeyes is the leadership provided by junior quarterback C.J. Beathard, who saw limited snaps last year in Minneapolis behind starter Jake Rudock.

Nobody used the term “payback” Tuesday, but that’s what Saturday night would be if Iowa can move to 10-0 (and reclaim the Floyd of Rosedale trophy).

“Obviously they got the best of us last year, but we have a different team,” Beathard said. “It’s a different season. We feel different about this season. As long as we go in there and focused and be prepared, we’ll go out there and play our best football.”