Gophers pounded in 35-7 loss to Iowa, fall to 1-3

Nico Ragaini #89 of the Iowa Hawkeyes scores a touchdown against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first quarter of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on November 13, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

Floyd of Rosedale is staying in Iowa City for another year, and P.J. Fleck dropped to 0-4 against Iowa after the Gophers were dominated in all phases in a 35-7 loss to the Hawkeyes Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium.

Iowa has now beaten Minnesota six straight times, and the Hawkeyes never really left Friday’s result in doubt. Iowa ran for 235 of its 346 total yards, led by Tyler Goodson’s 142 yards and two scores. The Hawkeyes’ defense limited Mo Ibrahim to 144 yards on 33 carries, intercepted Tanner Morgan twice and also sacked him four times. The Gophers managed just 4.3 yards per play on a night where Iowa was the better team in all three phases.

The Hawkeyes got the win, and they’re taking the pig home with them. It’s the Gophers’ largest margin of defeat under Fleck since a 42-13 loss at Maryland in 2018.

“Floyd of Rosedale, we didn’t deserve to bring it back here. Didn’t play well enough to get it. This is another scar, and scars remind us of where we’ve been to get to where we want to go. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they played really well,” Fleck said after the loss.

Friday’s game was going to be won in the trenches, and that’s where Iowa dominated. Coming off consecutive 200-yard rushing games, Ibrahim managed just 4.4 yards per carry. Minnesota’s defense, without Benjamin St. Juste and losing Mariano Sori-Marin in the first half to a targeting penalty, allowed Iowa to run for 6.7 yards per carry.

The Gophers’ defense has now allowed a team to run for more than 200 yards in three of its four games this season, all losses.

“Iowa just came out, played, they executed and did what they wanted to do. They came and ran the ball, pretty much had control of the game. We’ve just got to be better on defense and just come back out next week ready to play,” defensive back Coney Durr said.

Nico Ragaini took a jet sweep for a 2-yard touchdown to give Iowa the early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Gophers appeared to have life after James Gordon intercepted a Petras pass and took it to the Iowa 15-yard line, but the Gophers were flagged for a blind side block on the play. Fleck also was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct arguing the call, and Minnesota went back 45 yards on the drive due to penalties alone before having to punt.

Goodson took a direct snap and scored from seven yards out to give Iowa a 14-0 lead into the half. The Gophers had 10 penalties total entering Friday’s game. They committed eight on offense in the first half.

“A lot of things we did tonight is uncharacteristic of our football team. We have an identity, we know who we are, we win games a certain way and tonight we were basically complete opposite of that. That’s what it looks like,” Fleck said.

The Gophers had their chance to get back in the game in the third quarter. They went on a 17-play, 74-yard drive that took nearly 11 minutes of game clock, but it ended without points. Minnesota opted to run on a 3rd-and-6 play, and Ibrahim went for a 1-yard loss. Brock Walker’s 39-yard field goal went wide left.

“We just have to finish the drive as an offense. That’s execution, and that starts with me,” Morgan said.

Iowa added to its lead on the ensuing drive. Petras hit Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a 6-yard touchdown and a 20-0 lead. Morgan was then intercepted trying to hit Chris Autman-Bell, and the Hawkeyes scored three plays later on Goodson’s second touchdown of the night to take a 28-0 lead.

Morgan finished his night 16-of-33 for 167 yards, one score and two interceptions.

“Two interceptions in the game is completely unacceptable,” Morgan said.

Mekhi Sargent added a 14-yard touchdown run for the final dagger, giving the Hawkeyes a 35-0 lead with 6:37 left. The Gophers avoided a shut out on Morgan’s late touchdown to Rashod Bateman, which came with 14 seconds left and created an interesting finish. Fleck used a timeout to set up the play. Kirk Ferentz then called three straight timeouts.

“We figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here,” Ferentz told Iowa reporters after the game.

“I have no idea what happened,” Fleck said.

After winning seven Big Ten games for the first time ever last year, the Gophers are 1-3 to at the halfway point of the 2020 season.

“Definitely it’s a pretty tough start. A lot of guys haven’t been in this position before, and we just gotta come tomorrow with our heads up ready to prepare for Purdue. The season’s not over, we’ve got four more games,” Durr said.