The Call: Gophers vs. Iowa

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2013 - 8:38 AM
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Mitch Leidner did his damage against San Jose State in the running game.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • Star Tribune,

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2:30 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: Ch. 5 • Radio: 100.3-FM

Line: Iowa by 1½ • Series: Gophers lead 61-43-2

The opponent

After going 4-8 last year, the Hawkeyes have built momentum with impressive wins over Missouri State, Iowa State and Western Michigan.

Gophers offense vs. Hawkeyes defense

The strength of Iowa’s 4-3 defense is the senior linebacker trio of Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens. The Gophers rank third in the Big Ten with 282.2 rushing yards per game, but Iowa has held three teams in a row below 75 yards rushing. QB Mitch Leidner will have less room to run, and the Gophers will need to prove their passing game is better than their season totals (33 completions, 421 yards) make it look. Advantage: Gophers

Hawkeyes offense vs. Gophers defense

Iowa QB Jake Rudock has five passing TDs and four rushing TDs, though he’s more of a scrambler than a runner. Mark Weisman averaged 28 carries for 142 yards in Iowa’s first three games. Stopping Iowa’s running game will be a huge test, especially for the Gophers’ two junior college transfers at linebacker, Damien Wilson and De’Vondre Campbell. Advantage: Hawkeyes

Special teams

Iowa’s Kevonte Martin-Manley leads the nation with a 31.8-yard punt return average, including two touchdowns in a span of 59 seconds last week. Iowa kicker Mike Meyer is 5-for-6 on field goal attempts. Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne is 5-for-7 on field goals and 18-for-21 on extra points. Advantage: Hawkeyes

Intangibles

It’s homecoming, and the Gophers will have their first sellout crowd since last September’s win over Syracuse. This time, the challenge might be keeping players from getting over-amped and making mistakes that play right into Iowa’s hands. Advantage: Gophers

Prediction

Leidner and Rudock each let his inexperience show with head-scratching moments in a low-scoring first half. Weisman powers Iowa into the lead, but the Gophers defense tightens, and Leidner pulls it out not with his legs but with his arm, throwing two fourth-quarter TD passes.

 

Gophers 28

Iowa 24

NUMBERS TO KNOW

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  • Iowa defensive back B.J. Lowery, center, runs from Western Michigan's Brian Fields, left, and Taylor Moton, right, while returning an interception 35-yards for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) ORG XMIT: MIN2013092720061422

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