Hawkeyes bring Floyd of Rosedale back to Iowa City
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Nate Stanley overcame two costly turnovers with four touchdown passes for an aggressive Iowa offense, and the Hawkeyes used four interceptions and five sacks of Minnesota’s Zack Annexstad to beat the Gophers 48-31 on Saturday for the fourth straight time.
Stanley completed 23 of 39 attempts for 314 yards, finding T.J. Hockenson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Nick Easley and Noah Fant for scores. Hockenson added a short touchdown run on a fake field goal to help the Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) hoist the Floyd of Rosedale bronze pig trophy for the 14th time in the last 18 meetings.
Annexstad finished 17 for 33 for 218 yards and three touchdowns, as the Gophers (3-2, 0-2) continued their growing pains on offense behind the true freshman walk-on quarterback despite some flashes of success.
“Until we keep growing as a team, some of the results could be like that,” coach P.J. Fleck said.
Anthony Nelson had three sacks for Iowa. True freshmen Riley Moss (two) and Julius Brents (one) took over at cornerback and picked off Annexstad a combined three times. Moss, a frequent target in man-to-man coverage, had an interception in the end zone late in the second quarter that he hauled in while landing on his back.
“Those guys have done a great job in practice really since the start of preseason camp,” Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ll keep playing the guys that are healthy and give us the best chance to win.”
Turning to not one but two rookies at a critical position midway through a season is unusual.
“Unnerving would be a good word,” said Ferentz, who revealed that starters Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia were injured.
The game was full of rarities, actually.
Hockenson, who teamed with Fant to give the Hawkeyes seven receptions for 105 yards from their tight ends, supplied the most exciting and surprising play in a game that was filled with highlight-reel moments between two typically defensive-oriented teams.
On fourth-and-goal from the 4, the normally conservative Ferentz sent the field-goal team out but ordered the swinging-gate formation with the entire line except the center shifted right. The snap went diagonally to Hockenson, who hustled in to the corner of the end zone with plenty of blocking in front of him.
Though they trailed 14-0 and 21-7, the Gophers sure didn’t wilt. The fearless Annexstad, who hobbled off the field with an apparent aggravation of his sprained ankle after one of Nelson’s sacks in the second quarter, kept winding up and going deep. Sometimes he threw too high and other times into double coverage, but he found Rashod Bateman seven times for 65 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Johnson six times for 107 yards and a score.
Stanley made a glaring mistake on the first play after the first interception by Moss, when he rolled right and threw into traffic with 1:12 left before halftime. Jacob Huff picked the ball off at the 27 and returned it to the 6, setting up Johnson’s touchdown catch.
“It was not a smart play,” Stanley said. “I should have just thrown that ball away.”
In the third quarter, Carter Coughlin blew by left tackle Alaric Jackson for a strip-sack of Stanley that was recovered by Thomas Barber at the 10 and returned to the 3 to set up a touchdown run by Seth Green that cut Iowa’s lead to 31-24. That was as close as the Gophers got, though.
“We need to figure out how to close that gap,” Coughlin said.
PILING UP THE POINTS
This was the third-highest combined score in the 112-edition series. Iowa’s victories in 1994 (49-42) and 2005 (52-28) are the only ones higher.
Iowa: Following the disheartening defeat by West Division favorite Wisconsin when they held a three-point lead with less than a minute left in the game, the Hawkeyes responded authoritatively on the road against one of their chief rivals that similarly followed a let-it-all-hang-out strategy. Stanley directed each of the first two drives for touchdowns, and he produced plenty of clutch throws throughout the afternoon as the Hawkeyes moved the chains on 12 of 21 plays on third or fourth down.
“I think everybody just took what happened two weeks ago on their own shoulders,” Stanley said, “and really decided to hone in and lock in.”
Minnesota: After giving up 315 yards rushing on 37 attempts to Maryland, the Gophers defense muscled up and limited Iowa to 106 yards on the ground on 40 carries. There were several costly coverage breakdowns in an inexperienced secondary now missing star safety Antoine Winfield Jr. for the season because of a foot injury, but the way the front seven played against a typically overpowering Hawkeyes attack ought to serve Minnesota well the rest of the way toward trying to reach bowl eligibility. The only game of Stanley’s three-year career when he had more attempts (41) and yards (333) was a five-touchdown game last season at Iowa State.
Iowa: Plays at Indiana next Saturday.
Minnesota: Plays at No. 3 Ohio State next Saturday.