Iowa football instant analysis: Strong fourth quarter keeps Hawkeyes' division title hopes alive
Much like the last 86 meetings between Iowa and Minnesota, the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy went down to the wire. The 87th meeting and seventh in a row went in favor of the Hawkeyes.
Iowa defeated Minnesota 27-22 to advance to 8-2 on the year but most importantly, 5-2 in Big Ten play. Both teams entered the game in the same spot: locked into a four-way tie for first place in the division where the winner surges ahead with momentum and the loser's chances virtually gone.
Through three quarters the statistics were not on Iowa's side. They'd been outrushed 204-48, trailed time of possession by over 20 minutes and didn't record one sack or tackles for loss. And still, they held a 17-16 lead entering the fourth quarter.
And that's where the Hawkeyes played their best and forged onward to a potential Big Ten West title.
In typical Iowa fashion, the special teams set the tone. Defensive lineman Logan Lee blocked a Minnesota 53-yard field goal attempt on the quarter's first play. The Gophers successfully converted their first three attempts in the game.
Five plays later, the offense capitalized and punched in a touchdown to extend the lead to 24-16. True freshman receiver Keagan Johnson brought Kinnick Stadium to its feet with his 27-yard touchdown catch and run where he shed several Gopher tacklers.
Missed tackles have steadily risen up the ladder of concerns for Iowa's defense and it came into play on Saturday. Run plays that would've been stopped in the backfield or for short gains became substantial gains that kept drives alive. Entering the fourth quarter Minnesota nearly doubled Iowa in total plays and had four drives of at least nine plays.
The Hawkeyes allowed a 68-yard touchdown with under six minutes to play to cut their lead to 24-22. But defensive back Dane Belton swatted away a potential two-point conversion attempt.
With three minutes remaining, Minnesota's offense stalled out inside their own 10-yard line. Defensive end Zach VanValkenburg recorded the team's first sack during the stand.
Overall, it was hardly a performance that lives up to their usual standard. However, there's one stat that defensive coordinator Phil Parker will take pride in: Minnesota made it into Iowa's red zone three times and every time Iowa forced them to settle for a field goal. Bend don't break.
Offensively, now-starting quarterback Alex Padilla continued his momentum from the Northwestern game. He completed 10-for-21 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The completion percentage won't blow fans away but offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz allowed Padilla to throw it deep. Two plays in particular stick out: a 34-yard completion to Charlie Jones that set up Iowa's first touchdown and then a 72-yard reception by Jones for a touchdown.
For large stretches of the game, Iowa's offense executed well. Two of their first three possessions went for scores and on the fourth possession easily converted three first downs in a row before a Nico Ragaini fumble halted progress.
However, the biggest story of all on offense was the play of the offensive line. For the first time this year, the five linemen who started played wire-to-wire. On the day they didn't allow a sack and only allowed two tackles for loss.
Saturday's results across the Big Ten West landscape cleared the dust a bit. Purdue's run of Top 5 upsets ended at Ohio State and Wisconsin rolled to a win over Northwestern. Only the Badgers and Hawkeyes remain as two-loss teams in the division.
The Hawkeyes need help but within the realm of what they can control did what they needed to do to fight another day. It wasn't perfect but at this point in the year, the motto for teams in contention is "survive and advance."
Iowa did just that in week 10, on to Illinois.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.