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Gophers fail to get Floyd of Rosedale in a 27-22 loss to Iowa

Iowa (8-2, 5-2) kept pace with Wisconsin for the lead in the Big Ten West division, while Minnesota (6-4, 4-3) fell off the top spot, which they had to themselves weeks ago.

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Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Jack Campbell (31) and defensive back Jack Koerner (28) tackle Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Ky Thomas in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Iowa Hawkeyes hosted a “blackout” for the annual Battle for Floyd of Rosedale at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, with players and fans wearing the matching color.

Meanwhile for the Minnesota Gophers, these rivalry games continue to end in a black hole.

Minnesota couldn’t convert a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and had two even later possessions stall before darkness fully set in on No. 19 Iowa’s 27-22 win. The Gophers have now lost 10 straight games in Iowa City since 1999, seven overall since 2015 and head coach P.J. Fleck fell to 0-5 since 2017.

Stuck in this tunnel, how far away is the light?

Fleck paused for four seconds before saying, “A better performance than we just played. I thought we played really good football for the … majority of the game. … It came down to the very end. … It’s so frustrating to say it, but it’s the next step. You got closer and you’ve got to get closer before you can get over it.”

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Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner carries the Floyd of Rosedale trophy after the game against Minnesota on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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Minnesota out-gained Iowa by 130 total yards, including 118 on the ground. They held the ball for 20 more minutes and were plus-one in turnover margin, but still lost. Three red-zone drives ending in field goals instead of touchdowns, and they came up short, in part, due to Fleck’s risk-adverse approach.

Not only did Iowa keep Minnesota from hoisting the trophy, the Hawkeyes (8-2, 5-2) kept pace with Wisconsin for the lead in the Big Ten West Division, while the Gophers (6-4, 4-3) fell off the top spot they had all to themselves two weeks ago.

Trailing 24-16, Minnesota got back into the game with quarterback Tanner Morgan finding Chris Autman-Bell for a 68-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-22 with five minutes left in the game. They were aggressive when they absolutely needed it.

But on the ensuing two-point conversion, Iowa blitzed nickel back Dane Belton as Morgan sprinted out in the same direction, and Belton knocked down the throw to Autman-Bell, meaning field goals instead of touchdowns in the first three quarters continued to loom.

The Gophers defense forced an Iowa punt, but Morgan suffered a sack on second down and threw two incompletions toward Autman-Bell and Mike Brown-Stephens to end the drive.

Iowa, which had been more aggressive than Minnesota early in the game, got the ball back at Minnesota’s 3, but went even more conservative than Fleck and settled for a 27-yard field goal. It gave the Gophers yet another chance to win it with a touchdown.

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The Gophers drove 32 yards into Iowa territory, but with 12 seconds left, Morgan was pressured, fumbled and while Minnesota recovered the ball, they could only watch the clock hit zero and the Hawkeyes went to locate the bronzed pig trophy.

At the end of the third quarter, Minnesota brought on long-distance kicker Dragan Kesich, who made kicks from 55 yards in pregame warmups, for a 53-yard field goal.

It was blocked, and Iowa scored five plays later on a funky play where Coney Durr and Thomas Rush smashed into Keegan Johnson for no gain, but somehow Johnson got out of it and ran for a 27-yard touchdown to take a 24-16 lead.

The Gophers went up 13-10 on a field goal just before the half to take their first lead over Iowa since 2016 — a span of 275 minutes.

Minnesota, however, could have had more. After a Justin Walley strip of Niko Ragaini and fumble recovery, Minnesota took over at Iowa’s 46 and drove to the 16. On second-and-3 and 56 seconds left, the Gophers ran a toss to Irving that was stopped, and on third-and-1 and with 38 seconds a dive to Irving was stopped.

Fleck took his final timeout with two seconds left, and Matthew Trickett made a 31-yard field goal.

Iowa scored on its opening two drives to take a 10-3 lead before Minnesota went for it on fourth-and-2 from Iowa’s 37-yard line.

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University of Minnesota tight end Ko Kieft runs for a 42-yard touchdown against Iowa on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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After five straight runs, wildcat quarterback Cole Kramer ran play-action and threw to a wide open Ko Kieft, and the Iowa native ran 30-plus yards to tie the game.

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Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta (84) is tackled by Minnesota linebacker Braelen Oliver on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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