Gophers’ perfect run ends in 23-19 loss to Iowa

IOWA CITY — The Gophers’ preliminary travel plans to Indianapolis and Pasadena, Calif., were sidetracked Saturday in a 23-19 loss to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

The eighth-ranked Gophers’ bid for a perfect season ended, and their Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl reservations must be put on hold.

Minnesota (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) has not won in Iowa City in 20 years since 1999, and they haven’t had the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy since 2014.

The Gophers made a second-half comeback, but coach P.J. Fleck fell to 0-13 when trailing at the half.

While Gophers fans stormed the field after the win over Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium last Saturday, they watched Hawkeye fans do it eight days later.

The win by the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes (7-3, 4-3) keeps them alive in the Big Ten West race, and Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2) is still in the hunt, too, with a 37-21 win over Nebraska earlier Saturday.

The Gophers managed only two field goals and trailed 20-6 at halftime, but they scored their first touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter. Minnesota went 66 yards in six plays, with Tanner Morgan finding Tyler Johnson for a 28-yard score.

After an Iowa punt, the Gophers drove down to Iowa’s 14, but Johnson dropped a fourth-down pass that would have been good for a first down.

After that play, Iowa was called for a late hit on Johnson, and Fleck was penalized for charging onto the field — offsetting penalties. According to Big Ten officials coordinator Bill Carollo, the play was ruled over before either penalty, and Fleck’s action did not have a bearing on Minnesota keeping the ball.

Gophers running back Rodney Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run cut Iowa’s lead to 23-19, but a missed extra point by Brock Walker and a failed onside kick stifled the comeback.

Minnesota’s defense forced a punt, but an Iowa interception on backup quarterback Cole Kramer’s only pass effectively ended the game. Kramer replaced Morgan, who was injured on third down.

In the Gophers’ unprecedented 6-0 start to Big Ten play, they trailed for 10 minutes across their first six conference games. Minnesota then trailed for more than double that (26 minutes) in Saturday’s first half.

The Hawkeyes’ offense scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, with drives of at least 68 yards, while Minnesota managed only two field goals, including one as time expired at the half.

Instead of going for it from the 2-yard line with four seconds left, Fleck opted for Walker to kick a 20-yard field goal to give a good vibe going into the locker room and Minnesota getting the ball to stat the second half.

In the first half, the Gophers’ defense gave up four plays of 20-plus yards as quarterback Nate Stanley went 8 for 10 for 108 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Goodson averaged 8.6 yards per carry and another score.

The Gophers’ offense was able to move the ball, outgaining Iowa 226-221, but missed a 50-yard field goal after a 47-yard drive on their first possession and were forced to punt on another drive.


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