Junior linebacker James Morris had seen enough of the empty trophy cases the last two years.
The Iowa coaches moved them everywhere — the locker room, the weight room, on the path to the practice field.
“I just wanted to take a sledgehammer to them,” Morris said. “Thank God we beat Minnesota so we can get one of those trophy cases filled.”
Iowa beat Minnesota 31-13 Saturday to bring Floyd of Rosedale home and end an 0-6 record in trophy games stretching back to 2010.
“Everywhere we’d go, there was an empty trophy case,” sophomore running back Mark Weisman said. “They just remind us what should be in there and today we went out and got it.”
Outside of the football complex, the sky was falling on Iowa (3-2, 1-0). The Hawkeyes were upset by Central Michigan last week, and headed into Big Ten play with two losses for the first time since 2000.
“The whole thing is to move forward and grow,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “When you lose, it typically doesn’t show up.”
The Hawkeyes looked like the undefeated, confident team in the first half, not Minnesota (4-1, 0-1).
“There’s no negativity,” senior receiver Keenan Davis said. “That’s what I love about Iowa. The first 24 hours after you lose, it does suck. But the season is not over. We’ve just got to come out and play.”
Iowa took the opening drive and on the second play, senior quarterback James Vandenberg hit C.J. Fiedorowicz with a 45-yard pass to set up a 44-yard field goal by Mike Meyer.
And on the first defensive series, Tanner Miller came up with an interception to stop the Gophers cold.
“The defense is improving,” Miller said. “We are getting to be more consistent and guys are stepping up and playing with a sense of energy. The whole team built off that.”
The Hawkeyes went whole hog in about a six-minute span at the start of the second quarter.
First Mark Weisman — who finished with 177 yards on 21 carries — scored his seventh touchdown of the season to put Iowa up 10-0.
Then after a 3-and-out by the Iowa defense, James Vandenberg hooked up with Jordan Cotton on a 47-yard touchdown on a flea flicker.
Ferentz said it was the first one used by the Hawkeyes since 2001. It definitely caught the Gophers by surprise.
“The first time (Coach Greg Davis) called it, I was laughing out loud,” Vandenberg said. “It was a great call.”
For a Homecoming crowd that grew up with Hayden Fry’s “exotics” for two decades, it was a nice flavor burst from the vanilla Ferentz.
“Great call by Greg and counts as a touchdown pass for Vandenberg, so it’s even better,” Ferentz said. “It was a good deal.”
One 3-and-out later and the Hawkeyes put together a third touchdown drive. This time Vandenberg used big 20-yard passes to sophomore tight end Ray Hamilton and Davis to set up a QB sneak at the goalline.
Suddenly, it was 24-0 Hawkeyes.
“Clearly in the first half, that’s the best 30 minutes of football that we’ve played,” Ferentz said. “That first 30 minutes is what we’re looking for.”
Minnesota, which had not trailed at halftime its previous three games, couldn’t get moving.
“I don’t think there is any question that they got some momentum early in the game and we couldn’t get it switched off,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said.
Minnesota did get a touchdown midway through the third quarter from back-up quarterback Max Shortell to Isaac Fruechte.
But two of the next three Minnesota drives ended with an Iowa interception. The last junior linebacker Christian Kirksey took 68 yards the other way for a touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 5:15 to play.
“That’s awesome; that’s what we’re trying to do,” Morris said.
Minnesota added a late touchdown. And unlike a week ago, the Hawkeyes covered up the onside kick.
Shortell finished 20-of-33 for 197 yards, but had three interceptions. Iowa limited Minnesota to 102 yards rushing on 32 carries.
“They were talking all week about how physical they wanted to be,” senior defensive end Joe Gaglione said. “We wanted to step it up this week, get a few sacks, and cause a few turnovers.”
Steve Bigach, Anthony Hitchens and Morris had sacks. Greg Castillo — starting for an injured B.J. Lowery — had the third interception.
Offensively Vandenberg was 18-for-31 for 192 yards, but completed passes to eight different receivers.
“We’ve had good balance the last couple weeks, and we’re executing down in the red zone,” Vandenberg said. “We’re looking for balance. That makes it harder on the defense.”
Vandenberg was able to assume the victory formation after Iowa recovered the onside kick.
Senior center James Ferentz led the offensive line in a sprint to the big, bronze pig. It was the first time Iowa was able to do a trophy run to the opposing sidelines since Wisconsin in 2008.
“I was the voice of reason,” Vandenberg said. “They have one time out. They may call that.
“James was leading the troops to the pig regardless of what their coach did.”
Iowa has a bye next Saturday, and returns to action on Oct. 13 at Michigan State.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football