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Harty: Last Gopher game still hard to figure

[ 11 ] October 25, 2011 |

The Iowa football team underachieved last season by losing five games, but all of the losses — except one — can be explained.

Iowa’s 27-24 loss Nov. 27 at Minnesota still is puzzling nearly a year later because the better team on paper by a wide margin didn’t win that day.

Nothing against the 2010 Gophers, but they were about as bad as a Big Ten football team can be as evidenced by their 2-9 record heading into last year’s game.

This year’s squad doesn’t appear any better at 1-6 overall under new coach Jerry Kill.

So perhaps Minnesota has Iowa right where it wants it heading into Saturday’s rematch at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — because on paper it looks like a mismatch.

Even the much-maligned Iowa defense looks good compared to the Gopher defense, which has about as many leaks as Minnesota has lakes.

The Iowa players that attended Tuesday’s weekly news gathering repeatedly were asked to explain last year’s loss at Minnesota.

Most of them gave the standard line that we came out flat and didn’t execute. However, senior defensive end Broderick Binns, who is from St. Paul, Minn., said there might have been more to it.

When asked if Iowa took the Gophers lightly last season, Binns said:

“Maybe that would be it, too. We came out and I guess we felt entitled a little bit. But I guess we learned from our mistakes, and we can’t do that ever again.”

It’s hard to say if Iowa has learned from its mistakes without facing the Gophers and with how the Hawkeyes have played on the road this season, losing to Iowa State and Penn State.

Nobody has to apologize for losing at Penn State, although, Iowa’s performance during the 13-3 loss Sept. 8 left much to be desired.

Losing 44-41 to Iowa State in triple-overtime Sept. 10 also showed that Iowa is not a team that can take any opponent lightly, especially a Big Ten opponent with a dual-threat quarterback, as is the case with Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray.

If last year’s Iowa team, which had six players selected in the NFL draft, could lose to the hapless Gophers, then so can this year’s team.

The memory of last year’s Minnesota game is one advantage that Iowa has this season over last season because the players already know what can happen if you don’t compete.

It also won’t be as cold Saturday in Minneapolis as it was a year ago because the game is being played almost a month earlier.

Binns said the bitter cold might have been a factor in last year’s game, at least for his team because the Gophers seemed to thrive in it.

“I’m not sure if it was just the weather being really cold and the field and how everything was,” Binns said. “But I really don’t have a definite answer. That game was by far the coldest game that I’ve played in.

“But as a football player, you’re taught to just play through the elements. Football is supposed to be tough, and you’re not supposed to complain about the weather or anything like that. So I guess we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for why we lost. It’s plain and simple; we didn’t come ready to play.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that he saw no signs of a letdown heading into last year’s Minnesota game.

Iowa had lost its previous two games to Northwestern and Ohio State by a combined seven points. But Ferentz still liked how his team practiced before the Minnesota game, and he didn’t sense anything was wrong until after the opening kickoff.

“When the game started, it clearly looked like we weren’t interested in competing,” Ferentz said.

You could argue that Iowa got caught in a perfect storm last season at Minnesota.

Combine the adverse weather conditions and the gut-wrenching losses from the previous two weeks, with a Minnesota team that was playing its last game of the season for an interim coach and with a highly respected senior quarterback (Adam Weber) leading the way and, maybe we should’ve seen the upset coming.

It’s hard to see it coming again, though, because if upsets happened frequently they wouldn’t be called upsets.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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