Vikings offensive lineman Riley Reiff was dominant at Iowa for three seasons, and as a redshirt junior was named first team All-America by Pro Football Weekly and first team all-Big Ten by the league coaches and the media.
Now Riley’s younger brother, Brady, is on the Hawkeyes roster as a 6-3, 272-pound redshirt junior defensive lineman and will face the Gophers on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Brady has recorded two tackles this year and picked up his first sack of the season against Northern Iowa in mid-September.
Riley — who also was a three-time state wrestling champion with a 121-1 record at Parkston (S.D.) High — played for the Hawkeyes from 2009-11, when the Gophers were actually having success playing Iowa.
In Riley’s first game against the Gophers, when the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 13 in the country, Iowa won 12-0 at Iowa City. But in the next two meetings, both in Minneapolis, the Gophers won 27-24 in 2010 and 22-21 in 2011.
That 22-21 victory was one of the great recent victories in Gophers history. Iowa led 21-10 in the fourth quarter before Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray led two touchdown drives and scored the game-winner on a 3-yard run with under three minutes remaining.
Now the Gophers and Iowa will meet for the 112th time, with the Gophers leading the series 62-47-2, but the Hawkeyes have won 13 of the past 17 contests.
“It means a lot. It’s for the pig [Floyd of Rosedale trophy], it’s a big rivalry game,” Riley Reiff said. “They always played us tough, and you have to bring it for 60 minutes versus them.”
He recalled the Gophers beat the Hawkeyes “a few times” when he was in college. He was asked what he remembered about playing at Minnesota.
“It was always towards the end of the year, and playing outside the first couple of years at their new [TCF Bank Stadium], the weather was bad,” he said. “One time it was like a sheet of ice on the ground. But they always played us tough. It’s a Big Ten game, always physical.”
Riley Reiff said he was happy his brother was having a good time at Iowa and playing more this season. On top of that, Brady Reiff was named Academic All-Big Ten last season.
“I know he’s enjoying it and so are my parents,” Riley said. “He’s doing good, getting a little bit of playing time and getting bigger and stronger. They do a good job of developing guys down there. Brady still needs to develop but he’s doing a good job.”
Reiff said he still watches all of Iowa’s games. When asked what makes the Hawkeyes consistent winners, he pointed to the coaching staff.
“I really like Coach [Kirk] Ferentz,” he said. “He has a good group of coaches in place around him, he’s a great coach. You know their strength coach [Chris Doyle] does a great job developing guys. They have a system and they play to their strengths.”
Happy with Vikings
Riley Reiff said joining the Vikings as a free agent in 2017 had a lot to do with playing close to home, and he called it fun to play here.
What’s his assessment about the offensive line’s play so far?
“We’ve had some tough opponents, there is always room to get better and it just starts on the practice field and getting better,” he said, adding that getting center Pat Elflein back from shoulder and ankle injuries should help. “[Elflein] brings a lot to our offensive line, and it’s good to get him back in there and all of us working together.”
Reiff knows how important Sunday’s game at Philadelphia is, with the team starting 1-2-1 despite lofty preseason expectations.
“[Beating the Eagles is] super important,” he said. “They are a good team, obviously, and you know they’re physical and tough. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Bailey has familiarity
The Vikings signed Dan Bailey on Sept. 18 because he was the second-most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history, after making 186 out of 211 attempts (88.2 percent) in seven years with the Cowboys. He has made all three of his field-goal attempts since joining the Vikings.
Bailey has been as accurate against the Eagles as any kicker, going 17-for-18 in his career. His lone miss was on New Year’s Eve last season in Philadelphia, when the temperature was 19 degrees and the wind blowing at 17 miles per hour.
In a 29-23 overtime victory over the Eagles in 2016, Bailey kicked a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and then made the game-tying extra point with 3:04 left in regulation as the Cowboys rallied from a 20-10 deficit to win.
Bailey said he has always enjoyed playing against the Eagles.
“When I was in Dallas, we played against them twice every year, so I’ve had a couple of games that went to overtime,” he said. “I’ve never had any game-winners against them, but I’ve had a couple of kicks to tie the game and send it into overtime.”
He was asked if Philadelphia’s reputation as a tough place to play holds true for kickers.
“It can be, but it’s nice,” he said. “It’s a little windy and when you get there later in the year, you can get some colder weather and stuff. … In my experience kicking there, I’ve probably had more tricky weather games than good weather, for sure.”
Fleck talks bye, Iowa
Asked for a scouting report on the Hawkeyes, Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said he sees a typical Iowa squad coming to TCF Bank Stadium.
“Big up front, very physical, two of the best tight ends [Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson] in the country,” Fleck said. “Their quarterback [Nate Stanley] is big, strong and accurate. A really good running game, a really good play-action game, they have really good deep threats on the outside at wideout.
“Defensively, they’re probably the best front seven we have played. They’re very long, very big, [the] tallest and rangiest defensive line we have played against and they keep everything in front of you. They make you put a 10-, 12-play drive together to score. And their special teams, they get after it.”
Yes, this will be a battle of defenses. The Hawkeyes rank first in the Big Ten in scoring defense (13.0 points against per game) while the Gophers rank fourth (17.3).
After the Gophers took their first loss of the season, 42-13 at home against Maryland on Sept. 22, Fleck spent time asking questions of himself and his team.
“What is too much for our players? What can they do more of?” he asked. “Then you evaluate all of that and make some decisions and get them back to the academic part, give them some time off, practice on the fundamentals, a lot of individual stuff. And you get back to work for Iowa.”