8 OCT 2016: Iowa Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley (25) rushes in the 3rd quarter during the Big Ten rivalry game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire)
Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa stays afloat in Big Ten West with ugly win over Minnesota

(Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire)

Iowa football (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) will have fun lugging Floyd of Rosedale back to Iowa City and keeping him there for the second straight year. The Hawkeyes defeated Minnesota (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) 14-7 on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, keeping both their road winning streak and rivalry trophy game streak alive.

Iowa has now won eight straight games away from Kinnick Stadium and six straight rivalry trophy games.

So yes, the Hawkeyes will have fun bringing back Floyd where they believe he rightfully belongs. To say the win was fun to watch, though, would be a lie.

Perhaps it was fitting that a rivalry game between two physical teams was so ugly. Combined, the two teams put up only 589 yards of offense — Minnesota only managed 268. Between the two teams, there were six turnovers. Iowa fumbled once and senior quarterback C.J. Beathard threw two interceptions. He completed only 17-of-31 passes for 142 yards (a quarterback rating of 30.9).

Minnesota senior quarterback Mitch Leidner was even worse. He completed just 13-of-33 passes for 166 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Leidner posted a quarterback rating of 8.2 and didn’t look confident at all when throwing the ball. In fact, many of his throws, especially in the fourth quarter, were not even close to his intended receivers.

To the naked eye it was an ugly game. It wasn’t all that exciting and it certainly wasn’t efficient football.

Some may disagree with that assessment, though. In particular, Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker will probably sleep soundly for the rest of the weekend. One man’s ugly football game is an another man’s treasure, especially if said another man enjoys defense.

After a pretty average showing so far this season, Iowa’s defense got back to its dominant ways.

The Hawkeyes forced Minnesota into eight three-and-outs. The Hawkeyes kept Minnesota’s air game grounded until 4:15 to go in the second quarter. The Gophers were scoreless going into halftime and outside of a flurry from Minnesota sophomore Shannon Brooks — who rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown — Iowa made sure that its rival was extremely ineffective on offense.

That’s not to say that Iowa’s offensive showing was a thing of art, but the Hawkeyes did rely on what they do best — effectively running the ball — to put the Gophers away.

Akrum Wadley continued his impressive junior season with 107 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Wadley is as quick as he’s explosive, and he’s now put up 416 yards and seven touchdowns on the year — which is not bad at all for being 1B in Iowa’s backfield. His effort put him over 1,000 career yards as a Hawkeye, and his touchdown run of 54-yards was Iowa’s longest play from scrimmage this season so far. Yes, that’s somewhat of a sad statement about the Iowa offense, but it does not take anything away from Wadley, who has been very effective for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa also received good production from senior wide receiver Riley McCarron, who stepped up in the absence of leading receiver Matt VandeBerg. McCarron caught six passes for 62 yards, leading Iowa in receptions.

In all, it was a win the Hawkeyes will take; it was definitely needed. Though nobody will mistake this team for a College Football Playoff contender this season, at the very least Kirk Ferentz and his team are still in the hunt for the Big Ten West crown. The Hawkeyes were helped out by a Wisconsin loss to Michigan last weekend, and the Badgers do have a game against Ohio State coming up. Undefeated Nebraska still sits on top of the division.

The Hawkeyes also have a tough schedule, and though this was an important rivalry win over Minnesota, it likely didn’t give anybody reason to believe Iowa can hang with the Wisconsins, Michigans and Nebraskas of the world (all still ahead on the slate). Minnesota did have the chance to tie the game at the end after Iowa couldn’t ice it after a Brandon Snyder interception with 2:39 to go. Minnesota was able to get all the way to the Iowa 13 yard line before Leidner and the Gopher offense remembered that ineffectiveness had been its calling card all game.

Still, a win is a win, and it’s hard to deny that this was one Iowa needed. Perhaps in the long run of this season it won’t matter as much, but in the here and now it was Iowa’s most important win to date.

Playing one game at a time is Iowa’s best chance to turn 2016 around.

Iowa stays afloat in Big Ten West with ugly win over Minnesota
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