Red zone remix
Until Saturday’s loss, the Gophers were 19-for-19 scoring TDs when they ventured inside the 10-yard line.
On Saturday, they reached the Iowa 6-yard line before kicking a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter after the Hawkeyes had taken a 13-0 lead. Minnesota also kicked a 20-yard field goal as the first half ran out.
Coach P.J. Fleck chose to kick and keep it a two-possession game at 20-6 rather than go for a TD from the 2-yard line with the risk of keeping it a three-possession game.
Gophers back Rodney Smith lamented his team’s inability to finish drives from both within and beyond 10 yards out.
“We would get in good position or have a penalty or lack of communication, lack of execution, and it’d turn into a sack and take us out of field goal range,” Smith said. “That happened a couple times. ... They played a heck of a game. That’s a tremendous team over there. We knew we’d get their best shot, we had to execute, and we didn’t tonight.”
The Gophers defense had a tough first half, allowing touchdowns on the first three series covering 221 total yards. Missed tackles and soft coverage were glaring.
Iowa’s offense had averaged only 18.8 points in its first six Big Ten games.
“It was simplistic things,” Fleck said. “It was tackling. It was setting the edge properly with technique. We were giving way too much ground.” Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi called more blitzes in the second half hoping to make quarterback Nate Stanley uncomfortable in the pocket.
That helped produce two sacks as the Gophers held the Hawkeyes to three points and 69 total yards in the second half.
“We adjusted just a little bit too late,” Fleck said.
Run game fizzles
The Gophers entered the game ranked 38th nationally in rushing at 195.2 yards rushing per game. Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca wants a balanced attack, but the Gophers were unable to get their running game in gear.
Iowa limited the Gophers to a season-low 63 yards rushing and only a 2.1-yard average. Smith, Minnesota’s leading rusher, managed only 46 yards on 14 carries.
“We had a lot of mistakes, penalties, stopped drives and miscommunication,” he said. “Lack of execution.”
The offensive line struggled to finish blocks and create running lanes for the backs. Too many runs were stuffed at the line, forcing the Gophers into tough situations on second and third down.