A Day for Defense
Nov. 21, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Hey Hawkeye fans: When you're sunscreen shopping in the next few weeks, whisper a silent "thank you" in honor of the University of Iowa defense.
They go by the names Clayborn, Edds, Johnson, Angerer, Ballard and Binns. Today, they were beasts in black, illumining a sellout crowd of 70,585 on an otherwise overcast day by assuring one more kickoff in a January location a little sunnier than what could have been.
Iowa sprinkled just enough offense with a head-shaking defense and blanked Minnesota, 12-0, in a slugfest that produced 372 total yards -- combined. The Hawkeyes retained Floyd of Rosedale for the third consecutive season and finished with 10 regular-season victories for just the fourth time in school history (1985, 1991, 2002, 2009).
"It didn't come easy today and it was probably an appropriate way to end the year," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You have to appreciate their drive and perseverance. Everybody pulled together and kept pushing forward. Our defense played a tremendous football game and we certainly needed a great effort out of them."
Iowa has won eight of the last nine meetings against the Gophers including two straight shutouts against the neighbors to the north. The Hawkeye defense forced eight punts, stopped Minnesota three times on fourth down in the second half alone and benefitted from three turnovers.
"You can't complain, you just have to go out on the field and put out the fire," UI defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. "It was rough and we had to stick it to them the whole game."
Clayborn finished with five tackles, two quarterback hurries a forced fumble and a quarterback sack.
Iowa finishes the regular season 10-2 overall and runner-up in the Big Ten Conference at 6-2. Minnesota is 6-6, 3-5.
It was a rivalry clash with more punts (17) than points (12) and nearly twice as many punting yards (649) than total yards (372). But for the Hawkeyes, the result looked like a perfect 10. It is the first 10-win season since 2004 -- a year that ended with a 30-25 victory in the Capital One Bowl.
It was another learning experience for UI redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg, who completed 11 of 24 passes for 117 yards. He was sacked four times, threw an interception and lost a fumble.
"I'm really proud of James, he's done a lot of good things," Ferentz said. "Today was a tough day for him. Minnesota did a nice job disguising, but down the road, this is going to be a great day for James Vandenberg, too."
The Hawkeyes received more than a boost from a defense that swarmed the field and rushed Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber all day.
"It was great team defense," Ferentz said. "Everybody did their job and no one got discouraged. You go out and play and take care of your responsibility. It gets down to the players and they did a great job all day long."
Linebacker Pat Angerer led Iowa with 16 tackles, followed by Troy Johnson with 11, Christian Ballard added nine and A.J. Edds and Tyler Sash had eight apiece. Iowa compiled eight tackles for loss, five sacks and eight different Hawkeyes broke up nine passes.
A Hawkeye offensive highlight was provided by running back Adam Robinson who gained 72 rushing yards on 12 carries before re-aggravating an ankle sprain. Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos caught seven passes.
The Hawkeyes opened the game with an 11-play, 5-minute scoring drive that ended with a successful 30-yard field goal by Daniel Murray. Iowa chewed up 68 yards on the series with Robinson carrying seven times (including five in a row) for 52 yards, including a 26-yarder over the right end that took the ball to the Gopher 26.
Minnesota lost two fumbles and shanked a 16-yard punt in the first half, but it wasn't until Edds intercepted a reverse pass thrown by backup quarterback MarQueis Gray that the Hawkeyes turned the Gopher goofs into points. Edds ran the interception to the Minnesota 39 and six plays later, Brandon Wegher leaped into the end zone with 52 seconds left in the half for his seventh touchdown of the season. The point-after was blocked by Gopher Lee Campbell, making it a 9-0 in favor of the Hawkeyes.
The touchdown run by Wegher tied the school record for a freshman, established a year ago by Jewel Hampton.
Minnesota drove to the Iowa 12 on its first drive of the second quarter, but the Gophers came away empty when Weber couldn't handle the center exchange and Hawkeye linebacker Bruce Davis recovered. Iowa ran four plays before punting to Bryant Allen, who was dropped by Iowa punter Ryan Donahue after a 31-yard return to the Hawkeye 33. On third-and-19, Weber had the ball stripped by Johnson, who also recovered at the Hawkeye 46.
That drive stalled after a rare turnover by Iowa -- an interception of Vandenberg in the end zone by Minnesota cornerback Marcus Sherels. On the next drive by the Gophers, punter Blake Haudan booted a 16-yarder that bobbled out-of-bounds at the Minnesota 40. It was a three-and-out by the Iowa offense, but the Hawkeye fortunes would soon change.
Trailing by a field goal, the Gophers continued to flip to the back of the playbook for trick plays. The reverse pass by Gray ended up as a treat for Edds, who grabbed his fourth interception of the season and returned it 14 yards. Iowa turned that turnover into six crucial points. Vandenberg was 2 for 2 on the drive with both completions going to Johnson-Koulianos for nine and 15 yards. Johnson-Koulianos went into halftime with six catches for 52 yards.
Johnson was the Hawkeye tackle leader with seven at the break. He was credited with a sack on the forced fumble and headlined a Hawkeye defense that allowed just 99 yards in first half (3.1 yards per play).
The sticky hands of Marvin McNutt and the strong leg of Murray put Iowa ahead 12-0 with 7:10 left in the third period. After three impressive stops by the Hawkeye defense, Iowa began a series from its own 40. On second down, Vandenberg found McNutt down the left sideline for the first time in the game for a 28-yard pass reception that got the offense moving to the Gopher 32. Murray's second field goal put Iowa ahead by two touchdowns. It is the sixth time this season that Murray made multiple field goals in the same game.
Murray's field goal might have ended the game's scoring, but it didn't end the highlights. Iowa had a goal-line stand for the ages that preserved the shutout and zapped any hope for the Gophers.
On Iowa's first possession of the fourth quarter, a mishandled snap was recovered by Minnesota at the Hawkeye 29. A pass interference call in the end zone put the ball on the Iowa 2, giving Minnesota a fresh set of downs. On first down, Gray was stopped for no gain. On second down, Duane Bennett was stopped for no gain. On third down, Weber threw incomplete to Troy Stoudermire. On fourth down, Weber had no chance, losing five yards on a sack by Clayborn and Ballard.
In the end, Floyd of Rosedale stays in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes have double-digit victories, and the sunscreen shopping can now officially begin.