Maybe it was because both teams wore orange — Bowling Green with jersey and helmet accents, Illinois with lids and pants.

Maybe it was because they both capitalized on fourth-down defensive stops — Bowling Green cashing one in for a touchdown, Illinois stonewalling two Gophers trips that breached its 30-yard line.

And maybe, if not mostly, it was because both Bowling Green and Illinois, 31- and 14½-point road underdogs, respectively, forced the Gophers offense into playing its worst games of the year. The Falcons' 14-10 stunner came Sept. 25, and the Fighting Illini's 14-6 head-scratcher happened Saturday.

"The entire team was disappointed, especially the offense, in how they played,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. "That's the thing, nobody wants to play like that. We did so many things that were uncharacteristic of us.''

There are plenty of parallels in both losses, which also featured kicking miscues and ill-timed penalties, but the key moving forward for the Gophers is quickly rebounding in time to salvage a promising season. Minnesota visits Iowa on Saturday to start a three-game, season-ending stretch. At stake is the Floyd of Rosedale bronze hog statue and the chance to remain atop the Big Ten West standings.

The Gophers (6-3 overall) are tied for the division lead at 4-2 in conference play with the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin and Purdue. Minnesota will try to beat Iowa for the first time since 2014 and the first time in Iowa City since 1999, and if they do so, they'd bring Floyd back to Minneapolis and bolster their chances to make the Big Ten Championship Game.

"Rivalries are what makes college football really special,'' said Fleck, who's 0-4 against Iowa as Gophers coach. "And you know, all records get thrown out the window depending on what race is going on. There are four teams at the top of the West that can all win it.''

The Gophers showed their resilience after the Bowling Green loss by winning four consecutive Big Ten games, and Fleck is hoping for a similar response this week. In those wins over Purdue, Nebraska, Maryland and Northwestern, the Gophers averaged 395.8 yards of offense per game behind a dominant offensive line. During that span, Minnesota's passing game got a respectable 8.8 yards per attempt.

On Saturday, the line had a tough afternoon as the Gophers rushed for only 89 yards. Forced to pass after falling behind 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter, the Gophers couldn't find a rhythm, averaging only 6.7 yards per pass, and Tanner Morgan was sacked a season-high six times and threw two interceptions. Three ventures inside the Illinois 30 ended in the two fourth-down failures and Matthew Trickett's missed 45-yard field-goal attempt.

"We have to learn a lot from today,'' Morgan said Saturday. "I know I'm going to learn a ton watching the film, about myself and things that I can't let happen.''

Fleck said after the game that he's "absolutely'' sticking with Morgan as his starter.

Improving the passing game would appear to be imperative for the Gophers on Saturday. Iowa has the Big Ten's second-best run defense (98.7 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (15.7 points allowed per game), so relying solely on the run might not be prudent.

A sense of urgency with the Gophers should be palpable during a rivalry week and with so much still at stake.

"We talked about being in November and being in a hunt for a championship, and here we are with 19 days left,'' Fleck said. "Every year we want to be in that type of hunt.''