Sports writers Chad Leistikow and Chris Cuellar break down a must-win for the Hawkeyes as Iowa gets set to face Minnesota.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Saturday is for respect as much as it is for Floyd of Rosedale.
Staring down Minnesota for an 11 a.m. kickoff (ESPN2) at TCF Bank Stadium, Iowa can ill afford a rivalry slip-up with its season seemingly hanging in the balance.
Defeat would drop the Hawkeyes to .500 on the heels of a Rose Bowl berth, with losses in three of the last four weeks and a Big Ten title likely out of reach.
But a win in Minneapolis? Iowa players know picking up that bronze trophy pig again could put their season back on track.
The Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers, here are three storylines to follow during the game.
“We’re kind of going in with the mentality that we don’t necessarily own that trophy,” Iowa senior receiver Riley McCarron said Tuesday.
“It’s up for grabs. We need to show up on Saturday and go get that thing.
“Last year was very close and two years ago was not our best game, obviously. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.”
The Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-1) have admittedly looked out of sorts since rolling in their first trophy game of 2016 against Iowa State. Approaching the halfway point of the season, their weaknesses are unusual and stark: 87th in FBS in rushing defense, 95th in rushing offense, and 126th in time of possession.
And those happen to be strengths for Minnesota, stacking up 27th, 34th and 25th in the physically demanding categories.
“We just haven’t been playing like Iowa football and that’s what we need to get back to, what this program’s based on,” Iowa left guard Boone Myers said.
“Tough, hard-nosed football, doing your job and doing it well. It’s what we did last year and it’s what we’ve got to get back to.”
Iowa is also trying to improve on its last couple showings for Floyd.
The Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-1) made sure a sold-out Kinnick Stadium stayed nervous until the final whistle last season, forcing Iowa to earn its 10-0 start with a 40-35 win. The 2014 game was Minnesota’s biggest victory (51-14) since Kirk Ferentz became head coach at Iowa.
Saturday’s edition will feature a clash of experienced quarterbacks – Iowa’s C.J. Beathard and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner – as well as two defenses trying to steady their seasons. The Hawkeye unit will be up against a massive Minnesota front, which includes 6-foot-10, 275-pound tight end Nate Wozniak and an offensive line that averages 322 pounds across the board.
By comparison, Floyd of Rosedale weighs a little less than 100 pounds.
“Like you would expect, they’re big on offense,” Ferentz said. “Probably bigger than in the past. They’ve got some new linemen that are really big guys. The collective effort is big. Tight end is big, quarterback is big and a veteran player.”
Iowa will have to defend the trophy on its sideline for Saturday’s matchup and its streaks, too. Seven consecutive road wins and five straight trophy victories are on the line. But those runs won’t matter if the Hawkeyes are out of the Big Ten West Division race by next Saturday’s game at Purdue.
“Do we need to get better?” Myers said. “Yes, we do, and we have a lot of stuff we need to get better at. But there’s still a lot of season left and as long as we take care of what we need to, we’ll be all right.”
With all the superlatives and added importance around an early Week 6 contest, only Iowa running back Akrum Wadley was willing to call Saturday’s game a “must-win” at media availability this week. With Floyd of Rosedale and a successful season on the line, many fans likely agree.
“Our backs are against the wall and we’ve got to come out swinging,” Wadley said.
“In order to accomplish the goals we set in preseason, this game is a big game. Not only for our record, but one of our goals is to keep our trophies inside this building. It’s big for us.”
Iowa has won 11 of the last 15 meetings with Minnesota, including three of the last four.
IOWA (3-2, 1-1) at MINNESOTA (3-1, 0-1)
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
Time/TV: 11:01 a.m., ESPN2 (Announcers: Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, Rocky Boiman)
Line: Iowa by 1
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 54, light wind and light chance of rain
RECENT RESULTS FOR FLOYD OF ROSEDALE
Iowa has won six of the last 10 meetings with Minnesota for the Floyd of Rosedale traveling trophy, which has been at stake since a bet between the two states’ governors in 1935. Here are the Hawkeyes’ recent results in the game.
Year W/L Score Location Date
2006 L 34-24 Minneapolis Nov. 18
2007 W 21-16 Iowa City Nov. 10
2008 W 55-0 Minneapolis Nov. 22
2009 W 12-0 Iowa City Nov. 21
2010 L 27-24 Minneapolis Nov. 27
2011 L 22-21 Minneapolis Oct. 29
2012 W 31-13 Iowa City Sept. 29
2013 W 23-7 Minneapolis Sept. 28
2014 L 51-14 Minneapolis Nov. 8
2015 W 40-35 Iowa City Nov. 14