Hawks hope to retrieve pig

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Iowa stepped in TCF Bank Stadium last November and discovered a Minnesota team determined to finish a dismal season in strong fashion.

Minnesota's Sean Ferguson (left) D.J. Burris (center) and Brandon Kirksey (right) carry the "Floyd of Rosedale" trophy off the field after Minnesota upset No. 24th Iowa 27-24 last year in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Iowa stepped in TCF Bank Stadium last November and discovered a Minnesota team determined to finish a dismal season in strong fashion.

The Hawkeyes are coming back on Saturday. Last time, they left something behind.

"It's always just a terrible feeling, especially after playing so bad, knowing you could have done so much better," Iowa right tackle Markus Zusevics said, reflecting on last year's loss that relinquished possession of the Floyd of Rosedale trophy to the Gophers.

The old bronze pig is about all Minnesota has to be proud of at the moment, other than that sparkling open-air stadium. The Gophers (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) have lost their first three conference games in coach Jerry Kill's first season by an average margin of 38 points. They would love experience that winning feeling again, especially against a big rival like the Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-1).

"The coaches and the seniors, they kind of establish it in your heart that you don't like these teams and you realize why as soon as you step on the field," freshman defensive end Ben Perry said, adding: "Our fans always cheer, 'We hate Iowa,' and so we want to fight for them."


Last season's win gave the Gophers a 3-9 record, but it was more important than that.

They'd beaten Iowa only once -- 2006 -- in the previous nine years. The other traveling trophies have been tough to get their hands on, too. The last win over Michigan was 2005, the only time they've had the Little Brown Jug since 1986. Wisconsin hasn't surrendered Paul Bunyan's Axe since 2003. The Governor's Victory Bell, a lesser-known prize in a relatively new series, has belonged to Penn State since 2005.

"I think it's something we have to continue to preach to the younger guys to let them know what the rivalry is all about. We have to get that feeling back and keep the fans in it," said fifth-year senior running back Duane Bennett, whose enjoyment of beating a rival during his college career has been limited to last year's 27-24 win on that cold afternoon.

"We didn't come out ready to play," Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt said. "I think we came a little weak-minded toward the weather, and we just didn't execute."

Though the Hawkeyes won their Insight Bowl game over Missouri, they finished the season with three straight losses after beating then-fifth-ranked Michigan State 37-6 last Oct. 30. They were outgained by the Gophers 382-218 in total yardage in that game, a true sign of how they badly were outplayed.

"Any time you lose a trophy, if it doesn't impact you, you're probably not paying attention," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Last November, the way we played that day, looked like none of us were paying attention quite frankly. That wasn't much fun."

Ferentz added: "For the 60 minutes the game went on, they beat us in every phase possible including coaching. ... It clearly looked like we weren't interested in competing. That's not a good thing."

This is the first time since 1982 that Iowa and Minnesota won't meet in November; most of those were the final regular-season game. But the Hawkeyes are more focused on the venue than the calendar. They have a four-game road losing streak since a win at Indiana last Nov. 6.


"Something we try priding ourselves on is winning on the road," said quarterback James Vandenberg, who is still looking for his first road win as a college starter.

McNutt, who had three touchdowns and 184 yards receiving last week in the win over Indiana, and running back Marcus Coker have helped Vandenberg guide a productive attack that ranks fourth in the conference with an average of 34.3 points per game.

These Hawkeyes have been missing their stingy, swarming defense, though. Having three starting defensive linemen get drafted by NFL teams didn't help, and neither have a handful of injuries this fall. But they're not playing up to Ferentz's standard.

With consecutive games against Michigan and Michigan State looming after this, the Hawkeyes can't afford a letdown like last year if they're going to get a top-tier bowl bid. They finish the season at Nebraska.

Minnesota's November schedule is just as daunting, but that doesn't matter as much to the Gophers. Kill is simply trying to get them playing, acting and thinking like a winning team as he tries to move this massive rebuilding project forward. He's so appreciative of the fans who have supported them that he and his wife are planning to treat a few thousand students to lunch before the game.

"We need everybody to help us go this direction," Kill said.

What To Read Next
Get Local