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IOWA CITY, Ia. — The week began with whether spoiler was a role Iowa wanted to fully embrace. With division-title dreams dashed — facing a familiar program riding an unfamiliar wave — it would have to do. It was on the Hawkeyes to muster enough interest.

They answered that question early, then finished it late.

The fastest start against a Power Five foe this season gave way to enough juice down the stretch, as the No. 22 Hawkeyes halted No. 7 Minnesota’s undefeated season, 23-19 at Kinnick Stadium. The Golden Gophers are still winless in Iowa City since 1999.

Although Minnesota (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten Conference) climbed back into the game from a 20-3 hole, the Hawkeyes (7-3, 4-3) paired key defensive stops with their early offensive burst. The Gophers piled up more than 440 total yards, yet found the end zone only twice. Even on Minnesota’s last attempt to steal the game — no timeouts, 80 yards away and a little more than two minutes left — Iowa’s defense answered the bell with a pivotal stop.

Iowa's offense delivers a rare fast start

Before the late-game drama, the Hawkeyes surged ahead with the most offensive flow seen in weeks. Nico Ragaini’s 21-yard touchdown catch and Tyler Goodson’s 10-yard scoring scamper handed Iowa a 13-0 first-quarter lead. Saturday marked the first time the Hawkeyes scored on their opening drive since Sept. 28 against Middle Tennessee State.

A 5-yard touchdown pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette gave Iowa a 20-3 lead with 6:20 left in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes scored just three points the rest of the way, but that was enough to keep the Floyd of Rosedale in town.          

The freshman takes the reins, and delivers

Iowa fans have been clamoring for weeks that Goodson get the bulk of the backfield workload. With the Hawkeyes desperately searching for offensive flow, it finally happened.

Goodson made his first career start, dwarfing Iowa’s other running backs in carries and snaps. Mekhi Sargent had just three carries. Toren Young hardly saw the field.

Goodson answered the call early, scampering for 27 yards on a fake fullback dive turned halfback pitch that picked up a key third down. That set the tone for a dominant day. Iowa put its trust in Goodson more than it had all season. The speedy freshman rewarded the Hawkeyes with splash plays all day.

His most emphatic came on a 10-yard touchdown run at first quarter’s end, where Goodson sprinted outside before bulldozing Minnesota defenders for the end-zone visit. It gave Kinnick early life it needed. Goodson was off from there.

He finished with 94 yards on 13 carries. Consider it a solid debut as the main feature.     

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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