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MINNEAPOLIS – There's a line from the current season of "The Walking Dead" that immediately came to mind watching the first half of Iowa's 51-14 loss to Minnesota today.
"You're the butcher or you're the cattle."
This being the battle for Floyd of Rosedale, perhaps something more porcine should be used to describe what took place at TCF Bank Stadium.
"Pigs get fat and hogs go to market," was a favorite of the late, great Charlie Finley, owner of the Oakland Athletics.
The Hawkeyes, playing in their most pivotal Big Ten game to date, were neither cattle nor pig against the Gophers, though perhaps they did fatten up a little too much on superlatives after last week's dismantling of Northwestern. At least that was a working theory of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz afterward.
"Maybe we believed some of the bull crap that was written," he postulated.
If Iowa(6-3 and 3-2 in the Big Ten) was great in victory at Kinnick Stadium against the Wildcats, it was equally dismal in defeat at the hands of the Golden Gophers (7-2/4-1). The Hawkeyes went 76 yards on the opening drive and finished the day with 205. They scored first. They scored last. In between it was all Minnesota.
Quarterback Mitch Leidner was 10-of-13 for 138 yards and four touchdowns while also leading Minnesota in rushing with 77 yards. Three of tight end Maxx Williams' five catches were for touchdowns. Running back David Cobb was held to half his season average with just 74 yards but was still able to find the end zone in the second quarter for a touchdown that put the Gophers up 28-7.
Minnesota held a 35-7 lead at the half.
"They were the aggressor," Ferentz said. "We were the acceptor."
Those are not words you want to hear from a Big Ten coach in November, and especially not from Ferentz. Iowa traditionally plays its best football in the final month of the season and this was a regression in every facet of the game. The offensive line was dominated by an undersized, yet plucky Minnesota defensive line. Defensively the Gophers piled up 429 yards, including 298 through the air. Special teams was perhaps the worst offender.
"Our special teams did nothing to help us," Ferentz said.
Return man Jonathan Parker muffed a kickoff in the first quarter that backed the Hawkeyes up to the 6-yard line. After getting the ball out to the 30, Rudock was picked off by Briean Boddy-Calhoun. In the second quarter the Gophers blocked an Iowa punt and needed just one play and 44 yards for Leidner to connect with Donovahn Jones for a touchdown.
"They were the better team today," said offensive lineman Brandon Scherff.
A week ago there was talk of this Iowa team competing for a Big Ten West championship and the school's first ever trip to Indianapolis. Now some are questioning whether Iowa can manage to avoid the dubious distinction of having an empty trophy case at the end of the year. Wisconsin (Heartland) and Nebraska (Heroes Game) remain after the Hawkeyes make their first trip to Illinois since the 2008. At 6-3 the season is far from over but if you're a fan it probably doesn't feel that way.
Embarrassing was the term used by Ferentz after Iowa's first conference loss of the season at Maryland. He said that description would fit today's game as well.
"We've got to come out and play better football," said quarterback Jake Rudock, who was sacked twice and was 10-of-19 for 89 yards with an interception. "And we've got to flush (today)."
There were no answers from Ferentz or the Iowa players after the game. Defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat stared down the legendary Bob Brooks when Brooks stated "The defense wasn't there today" before adding, almost sheepishly, "was it?"
It was a good week of practice, reporters were told.
"Every game is different," said Weisman. "If we didn't move on (from Northwestern), shame on us."
Pigs get fat, hogs go to market and Floyd of Rosedale remains behind in the Twin Cities.