Maybe they’re saving the animosity for Saturday.
With the 111th meeting between the Gophers and rival Iowa on tap Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, the lead-up to the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy has been tame. No grandiose statements. No guarantees. And certainly no insults.
Just look at how the coaches of the two teams approached things on Tuesday.
“I’m really honored to be able to coach in this rivalry,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “It’s gonna be a heck of an environment at Kinnick Stadium.”
“We’re excited to have a chance to play Minnesota,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Minnesota’s playing well, so we’ve got to do our best to get ready for Saturday’s game.”
Not exactly the Mayweather-McGregor weigh-in.
No, the Gophers and Iowa for the most part stuck to business, with the game carrying more weight for each team than just the bronze hog statue that goes to the winner. For the Gophers (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten), a victory would be Fleck’s first signature moment at Minnesota and would bring back a trophy that’s resided in Iowa City for the past two years. For the Hawkeyes (4-3, 1-3), a win would stanch the bleeding in a season of promise marred by three tight conference losses.
In Iowa, Fleck sees the type of program he wants at Minnesota — a contender based on consistency.
“I’ve got to be careful how I explain it. They’re very set in their ways and they’re very, very talented at it,” Fleck said, not wanting to offend. “It’s very difficult to put a 12- to 14-play drive together and score four different times against Iowa. They’ve done what they’ve done for so many years.”
That starts with the coaching, with Ferentz in his 19th year in Iowa City after succeeding Hayden Fry, who led the Hawkeyes for 20 years. And their success is remarkably consistent, too. Fry was 143-89-6 with three Big Ten titles. Ferentz is 139-95 with two conference crowns.
“You can always count on Iowa being in the mix,” Fleck said. “I know they’re our rival, but I respect people’s coaching jobs.”
To prepare for the trip to Iowa, Fleck had the locker room at the Gibson-Nagurski complex adorned in pink, mimicking the floor-to-ceiling, all-pink visitors’ room at Kinnick Stadium. Fry started that practice, believing the color had a calming effect on opponents, and Ferentz continued it.
Fleck also threw a bouquet at Iowa for its new gesture in which players and fans, at the end of the first quarter, wave to patients in the children’s hospital adjacent to the stadium.
“That’s my favorite tradition in college football,” said Fleck, who’ll have his team wave, too. “Those are moments and memories that fans, players, children and that hospital are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
Iowa players kept things loose Tuesday, with linebacker Bo Bowers even suggesting that Floyd of Rosedale be replaced with a live hog. “Have a real pig in the weight room in a cage, so you could see it,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Ferentz wasn’t biting, but he did up the ante in the rivalry just a bit.
“Floyd is pretty good just the way he is right now,” the coach said. “He looks happy. He’s doing well.”