Gophers Bring Pig Back to Minnesota
(MINNEAPOLIS - Gophersports.com ) -- Maxx Williams caught three of Mitch Leidner's four touchdown passes, and Minnesota ran for 291 yards in a romp past Iowa 51-14 on Saturday afternoon to retake the Floyd of Rosedale trophy after a two-year absence.
The Gophers (7-2, 4-1) smothered the Hawkeyes for a season-low 84 yards rushing and swarmed the visitor sideline when it was over to hoist the heavy bronze pig the teams have played for since 1935.
They moved back into a first-place tie with idle Nebraska in the Big Ten West Division, with a road game against the Huskers looming in two weeks. Wisconsin is a half-game back, and the Gophers finish this grueling month with a trip to play the Badgers.
This was quite the way to build some momentum for that stretch, following a stunning 28-24 loss at Illinois on Oct. 25.
The Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2) opened the game with a short touchdown run by Mark Weisman, one of three third-down conversions during that 76-yard drive, but they just rolled over right after that. Weisman managed only 21 yards on 14 carries, after totaling 324 yards on 45 attempts against the Gophers each of the last two years.
Iowa led 17-0 at halftime and won 23-7 here in 2013 and built a 24-0 advantage at the break on the way to a 31-13 victory in 2012. This script was flipped hard by Minnesota, which scored three touchdowns in the last 7 minutes of the first half.
The Gophers host mighty Ohio State next week, but for now they can revel in another decisive victory over one of the big three rivals they've had so much trouble with in recent years. They beat Michigan 30-14 on Sept. 27, making this is the first season since 1967 they've beaten both the Hawkeyes and the Wolverines. That was also the last year they beat Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Gophers had so many highlights that by the end it was easy to forget about the brilliance of Williams, the sophomore who has already set the single-season team record for touchdown catches by a tight end with seven.
On third-and-7 at the Iowa 48, with Minnesota leading 14-7, Leidner threw high to an open Williams near the sideline. He made a fully extended diving catch that was ruled out of bounds, but another look by the officials overturned the call upon evidence he somehow dragged his left toe on the turf in time.
Williams scored later on that drive. Then with 31 seconds left before the half, he made another tough grab of a ball headed out of bounds, this time underneath the goal post to give the Gophers a 35-7 lead.
This won't go down as one of coach Kirk Ferentz's best teams, but the Hawkeyes were coming off a resounding 48-7 win over Northwestern in which they outgained the Wildcats 483-180 in total yards.
The Gophers dominated this one in every way, starting with a shrewd game plan by offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover that had Leidner rolling out, dropping back and running with the ball on zone reads through the middle of the Hawkeyes defense. After a rough game against the Illini, Leidner bounced back in a big way with 138 yards on 10-for-13 passing plus 77 yards on 11 rushes.
David Cobb carried 16 times for 74 yards and a score, K.J. Maye totaled 66 yards and a touchdown on 10 wide receiver sweeps and Rodrick Williams Jr. scored on a fourth-quarter run once the Gophers had all backups in the game.
Donovahn Jones caught a 44-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to give the Gophers the lead for good. They forced three turnovers, including an interception and a fumble from Jake Rudock, and had four sacks. Rudock finished with only 89 yards on 10-for-19 passing.