Football true freshmen adjust to burn Minnesota

After being picked on time and time again, Iowa’s true freshmen corners made Minnesota’s quarterbacks pay with a combined 3 interceptions.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa cornerback Riley Moss (33) celebrates an interception with teammates Jake Gervase (30) and Geno Stone (8) during Iowa’s game against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Gophers 48-31.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa’s defense walked into Minnesota’s stadium determined to prove it wasn’t broken by Wisconsin, and it more than accomplished that goal.

The defensive line came out hard and fast against Minnesota’s quarterback Zack Annexstad, and never let up, tallying up 5 sacks for a loss of 31 yards.

The Gopher rushing game was held to just 86 yards after continually losing yards because of breaks in their offensive line.

Defensive end Anthony Nelson led the charge with 3 sacks — in the first half.

“Getting three, that’s an accumulation of everyone doing their job,” Nelson said. “We had great coverage in the back end, we had four guys rushing in their lanes, and you know, just got lucky on a couple of them.”

Minnesota focused on taking its game to the air because of uncertainty about two true freshmen in Iowa’s cornerback position. With regular Matt Hankins out and Michael Ojemudia limited after an injury, Riley Moss and Julius Brents were thrown into a sink-or-swim position.

RELATED: Hensley: Hawkeyes never fell from Gopher punches

The Gophers took advantage of the inexperience in the secondary. Minnesota’s first score of the game came after an Iowa penalty extended the drive. Annexstad threw the ball 34 yards downfield in Moss’s direction, burning him on his protection.

“I knew they were going to come my way,” Moss said. “I’m a true freshman, so I knew it was coming.”

In the second quarter, Moss got to his man, but couldn’t get turned around in time, resulting in a pass interference call. After the mistake, he made the needed adjustment, and more emphasis was put on going for the ball rather than the receiver.

It paid off big time, and Iowa’s focus on hunting turnovers against the Gophers was in full swing.

Toward the end of the half, Moss broke off of his man and went up for the ball, resulting in his first interception of the game and a big confidence booster.

RELATED: Report card: How did Iowa do against Minnesota?

“I’m meant to be here. I’m here for a reason,” Moss said. “It was mostly mental. Once that mental barrier was overcome, the game went a little bit better.”

Through the third quarter, Iowa had allowed 24 points and at one point had allowed Minnesota to tighten the deficit to one score, putting pressure on both the offense and defense. For its lack of rushing yards, the Gophers made up for it with 234 passing yards.

“To be honest, I’m a little frustrated just because I don’t think we played as cleanly as we should have,” Gervase said. “We knew we were going to get that look, and I think we adjusted well, they ran the ball here and there and got some yardage we’d like to take back, but at the same time, I thought we adjusted well. That was in our game plan.”

The fourth quarter showed those adjustments, both in the whole offense and continually by Moss.

Minnesota was held to 7 points by the defense in the final quarter thanks to 3 interceptions — including another by Moss and one from Brents — and a sack by Amani Jones.

Paired with the performance from quarterback Nate Stanley and the offense, Iowa was able to put away the win, but it was far from easy. Heading into the heart of Big Ten play, while it might mean getting their regulars back, Iowa’s defense will have to bounce back even harder and come out with the unstoppable intensity it began the season with.

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