The way Iowa celebrated in the locker room at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday it would be hard to guess that only a week ago the Hawkeyes' season appeared to be at a tipping point toward major disappointment.
Losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern humbled the Hawkeyes, especially since they returned key members of the team that opened with a 12-0 record last year. A slow start this year took Iowa out of the early conversation as the team to beat in the Big Ten West.
But just as quickly as they dropped out of the national spotlight, the Hawkeyes crept back into the division race and corrected some major issues in a critical 14-7 win against the Gophers on Saturday.
"This win defines our season," cornerback Desmond King said. "Only we can define our season. We can define what kind of team we want to be. Today, we played a really good game both sides."
The Hawkeyes would not have been able to pose for selfies after the game with the Floyd of Rosedale pig trophy if not for the offensive line and run defense showing improvement in a grind-it-out road victory, the first win in Minneapolis since 2013.
The biggest reason why Iowa got steamrolled 51-14 in its last outing at Minnesota was that the Hawkeyes were dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
The opposite occurred Saturday.
The Gophers came in averaging 228.3 rushing yards per game, fourth in the Big Ten. But they finished with just 102 against an Iowa defense that had been allowing 182.8 yards per game on the ground.
"We pressured the quarterback a little bit better first and foremost and we played the run better," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We haven't been doing a great job with it this year. To have a good defensive football team, you got to play the run successfully."
In last week's 38-31 loss to Northwestern, quarterback C.J. Beathard was sacked six times. And he was pressured into throwing a late-game interception that ended any comeback hopes in the final minute.
So Ferentz made offensive line changes against the Gophers. Boone Myers moved from starting left guard to left tackle. Ike Boettger went from starting right tackle to left guard, and Cole Croston switched from starting left tackle to right tackle.
"I know they got more angry," running back Akrum Wadley said about the line. "I like them when they're angry."
On Saturday, Iowa allowed only one sack. Beathard threw two interceptions, but the offensive line wasn't at fault. Changes up front aided the rushing attack that produced 179 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown run by Wadley that was the deciding score in the fourth quarter.
"Being able to win a close game, we needed this one," Beathard said. "We needed to get back to winning, what it feels like to win and celebrate in the locker room. I'd like to say we wanted it more. We wanted this very bad."