Brown: Iowa finding out making history isn't easy
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa made history Saturday, and it sure wasn’t easy. But then, doing something that’s never been done rarely is.
The eighth-ranked Hawkeyes dodged Minnesota’s upset punch 40-35 and became the first Iowa team to start a season 10-0.
This boring, plain vanilla team national pundits like to laugh at has now scored at least 30 points in four straight Big Ten games for the first time ever.
A sellout crowd celebrated — a combination of relief and joy — when Iowa players reclaimed Floyd of Rosedale from the Minnesota sideline and carried it back to their locker room.
The Gophers had the sellout crowd on the edge of their seats all game, and no one relaxed until Minnesota’s onside kick with 76 seconds to play sailed out-of-bounds and gave this team a place in history.
More importantly, the victory reduced Iowa’s magic number to one.
One more victory, either at Kinnick Stadium at 11 a.m. against Purdue or Nov. 27 at Nebraska, will earn the Hawkeyes the West Division title and a berth in the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 5 in Indianapolis. Another Wisconsin loss would also do the trick.
Raise your hand if you saw that coming at the start of the season. I sure didn’t.
I predicted an 8-4 season, and thought that was a tad optimistic.
This team doesn’t do it with style points or domination. This is the sixth game this season where the game has hung in the balance in the fourth quarter.
But this team has surprised me in so many ways. Even on a Saturday night when a usually rock-solid defense had plenty of holes punched in it by Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner, Iowa found a way to win.
The heroes seem to change by the game. On Saturday, it was a whirling-dervish effort by quarterback C.J. Beathard, who had some of his old zip in the open field and made enough plays for his team to win.
“The last two weeks, he’s starting to get closer to the guy we saw at the start of the season,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
And it was running back LeShun Daniels, who had a career-high 195 yards in 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. The junior, who looks like a modern-day Shonn Greene now that he’s healthy, is a combination of power and speed. Daniels was the starter when the season started, suffered a high-ankle sprain in the second game against Iowa State and was a shadow of himself until the last few games.
“The past two games, against Maryland and Indiana, I was feeling good, but not quite there yet,” Daniels said.
But Saturday, he was all the way back. Akrum Wadley missed the game with an ankle sprain. Jordan Canzeri was back on the field for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain in the first half at Northwestern on Oct. 17. Canzeri rushed for 256 yards against Illinois. Wadley had 204 at Northwestern.
Saturday, it was Daniels’ turn.
“It looks like he’s healthy,” Ferentz said. “I think we can confirm that now.”
Iowa had four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more. Two of them went for 91 and 97 yards.
The Hawkeyes finished with a season-high 506 yards of total offense, 272 on the ground. Beathard completed 18 of 26 passes for 213 yards, ran for 50 more in 10 carries.
Every yard was needed against a Minnesota team that fell to 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big Ten.
Iowa’s defense entered Saturday’s game eighth nationally in scoring defense and ninth in rushing defense. And Minnesota, last in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 20.3 points a game, always seemed to have an answer.
Leidner completed 19 of 27 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. It was his fourth straight game of 250 yards passing or more. His play had history on the brink.
But a magical season took another step forward instead.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.