Ruden: Iowa proves it’s the nation’s best spoiler

Minnesota was the latest top-10 team in a long line to suffer a hope-crushing loss under the lights in Kinnick.


Shivansh Ahuja

Minnesota coaches watch game action during a football game between Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers, 23-19.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

A few weeks ago, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron went viral on Twitter when he said in his trademarked Cajun accent, making the words almost incomprehensible, “Welcome to Death Valley, where opponents’ dreams come to die.”

Coach O just as well could have been talking about Kinnick Stadium at night, as long as the opponent is entering the game with a top-10 ranking in November under a night sky.

For years now, Iowa has been the best team in the country at playing spoiler, and it proved to be true once again against Minnesota on Saturday.

The Gophers entered Kinnick for a blackout game — already a bad sign for Minnesota — and the game ended at night, meaning Minnesota had an uphill battle to maintain its perfect record before the game even started.

The 23-19 Hawkeye victory was another in a long line of Iowa wins over top-10 teams under the lights at Kinnick.

In 2016, Iowa’s victory came in the form of a 14-13 victory over No. 2 Michigan on a game-winning field goal by Keith Duncan.

In 2017, a dominant 55-24 win over No. 3 Ohio State went down in Hawkeye history, as the game started in the afternoon and finished under the lights.

There’s a pattern here.

Iowa’s downing of Minnesota was its fifth win in its last six home games against top-7 teams in the AP Poll.

RELATED: Iowa defense saves day against Minnesota

As @actioncookbook said on Twitter, Iowa is the Mario Kart blue shell of college football, and that notion rings even truer after the Hawkeyes dashed the Gophers’ playoff hopes.

In the end, it didn’t matter if the Hawkeyes were favored. It didn’t matter whether or not fans stormed the field. It didn’t matter whether Iowa was still in the race for the Big Ten West title.

The game ended with pure elation from players carrying Floyd of Rosedale back to the locker room and fans turning Kinnick’s green turf black.

Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a team this good at ending an opposing teams’ dreams. But the Hawkeyes have made a living out of it.

Unfortunately for Iowa, the high-powered offense it displayed on its opening drive didn’t present itself earlier. Instead, the Hawkeyes fell short on the offensive end when a West title was still possible in games against Michigan and Penn State.

But Saturday wasn’t a day to reflect on what could have been. Instead, it served as a day of celebration. After all, it had been a while since Iowa had played that well against a ranked opponent.

“When you lose, it’s hard,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I’ve been coaching a lot of games, had my a** kicked plenty. But you feel bad for your players. It’s hard. A lot of people have opinions about all this and that. Any time you lose, that’s just the nature of what we do, so bottom line is I’m just really happy for our guys.”

Iowa showed it can close out games against some of the best teams in the country on Saturday. A 10-win season is still entirely possible.

So, enjoy it, Hawkeye fans. Only about 365 days until the next November game against a top-20 team.

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