Rapid Reaction: More Kinnick magic as Iowa stuns undefeated Minnesota
Final score: #19 Iowa 23 #8 Minnesota 19
Brief recap: Kinnick Stadium is going to be included on the list of “most dangerous places to visit” before too long. The eighth-ranked Golden Gophers entered Iowa City with a perfect 9-0 record, but left with their first blemish of the season. Iowa got on top early, building a 13-0 lead through the first quarter and extending the advantage to 20-3 in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Nate Stanley to Ihmir Smith-Marsette. At that point, the Gophers were in serious trouble. Minnesota scratched and clawed its way back into the game, getting the score to 23-19 in the fourth quarter with just over three minutes to play. Minnesota got a huge stop with a chance to drive down the field and win the game, but could not convert. For the first time this year, Iowa’s defense got serious pressure on Tanner Morgan, getting Minnesota’s offense out of sync. The Gophers made plenty of mistakes that cost them the game, too.
Key moment: A dropped pass by Tyler Johnson on fourth down in the third quarter when the Gophers were knocking on the door of the end zone cost them valuable points. It could’ve been a game-changing moment, but instead, Iowa got a big stop.
Key stat: Minnesota has run the football fairly well throughout the B1G season but struggled to buy a yard against a stout Iowa defense. The Gophers were held to 63 rushing yards on 30 attempts for the game.
Key player: A.J. Epenesa had a monster performance for the Hawkeyes, seemingly getting pressure on Morgan all night long. He came up with a big sack late in the game and was almost impossible for Minnesota’s offensive line to block. As well as the Hawkeyes played offensively, especially early, Epenesa was consistent all afternoon.
What it means for Minnesota: The Gophers are going to tumble in the College Football Playoff rankings this week, but they still have their goals ahead of them. If Minnesota finds ways to beat Northwestern and No. 14 Wisconsin over the next two weeks, it’s still the B1G West champion and will be playing in Indianapolis for a conference title. And, if they were to somehow beat Ohio State or Penn State again, they could even work back into the College Football Playoff picture. But, for now, this is a tough pill to swallow.
What it means for Iowa: Well, the Hawkeyes proved that they’re still the most dangerous B1G team for College Football Playoff contenders in the month of November. In 2016 it was Michigan, in 2017 it was Ohio State and now it’s Minnesota. The Hawkeyes struggled to get their offense moving for most of the season, but got off to a hot start and played with a lead for the entire game. That made a huge difference in the game. Now, at 7-3, the Hawkeyes can get back to the 9-win mark this season.