Hawks set to face Minnesota for border bragging rights
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — The thought of playing for a 98.3-pound bronze pig usually brings a smile to the faces of Iowa and Minnesota’s players.
After dropping a heartbreaker in overtime at Northwestern, Hawkeyes star Akrum Wadley just wants to get a win.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a pig, a snake, a dog,” Wadley said. “The feeling in the locker room after a win and then winning a trophy game and swarming across the field with your team is priceless. And we need to get back the mood after a win.”
Iowa (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) is indeed reeling, losing three of its last four to fall out of Big Ten West contention heading into Saturday’s home game against the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota (4-3, 1-3) isn’t exactly rolling along, either.
The Gophers snapped a three-game losing streak last week, but beating woeful Illinois by only a touchdown at home is hardly a cause for celebration.
Here are some of the factors to consider as Iowa and Minnesota prepare to square off for pride and, of course, a pig:
All-American linebacker Josey Jewell missed last week’s 17-10 overtime loss to Northwestern with a right shoulder injury. But Jewell, who leads the Big Ten with 70 tackles, is expected to play against the Gophers.
“Didn’t expect him to accept it or like it, but that’s really kind of the thinking behind it. Bottom line, he just wasn’t strong enough,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said about sitting Jewell last week.
Iowa and Minnesota have long been known for their offensive lines. But injuries have left each unit struggling at times in 2017. Donnell Greene is the only Gopher to start every game at the same position this season, and the Hawkeyes have a pair of freshmen starting at tackle in Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. Minnesota’s rebuilt line has only given up four sacks and a national-best 20 tackles for loss though.
Iowa and Minnesota have remarkably similar resumes. The Hawkeyes are sixth in the Big Ten at 26.1 points a game and the Gophers are fifth at 27.3 — and Iowa is averaging just 3.4 yards per game more than Minnesota. The Hawkeyes are fifth in scoring defense at 18.4 points a game, while the Gophers are seventh at 19. The major difference between the two comes in the run game. Iowa has relied more on the passing attack, throwing for over 1,500 yards, while Minnesota has rushed for 1,316 yards.
GOPHER PROBLEM IN IOWA CITY
Minnesota has dropped seven consecutive games at Kinnick Stadium, last winning 25-21 in 1999 — coach Kirk Ferentz’s first season at Iowa. The Hawkeyes held off the Gophers 40-35 in Iowa City in 2015 as part of a 12-0 regular season.
HE SAID IT
“I’ll say this. I think that’s my favorite tradition in college football. I know it’s just started, that is my favorite, favorite one,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said of Iowa’s now-famous “Wave.” Fans, coaches and players turn to the children’s hospital adjacent to Kinnick Stadium at the end of the first to salute the patients watching from above.