Redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Leidner and right tackle Jonah Pirsig both have the same memory of their favorite Iowa-Minnesota game before they started playing for the Gophers.
The two were in high school and were separately attending a game between the Gophers and the Hawkeyes in 2011. On that day, Minnesota staged an 11-point, 4th quarterback comeback. Fans rushed the field afterwards.
Both of them said they remember running onto the field and celebrating with the team. Leidner even took a picture with former Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray.
“I was still in high school and got down on the field, so that was really awesome,” Pirsig said. “I think if we win this weekend hopefully the fans will be doing the same thing. It’s always a great feeling to beat a team like that.”
The fond memory of that game blossomed into a strong disdain of Iowa for Leidner — and he didn’t hide his feelings when asked about it.
“I wouldn’t say I like them one bit,” Leidner said. “There’s a lot of hatred between the two states and two teams, and I think everyone on this team understands that.”
The Gophers will face Iowa and attempt to regain the 98-pound Floyd of Rosedale trophy on Saturday at home after an overtime road loss to Penn State.
For Pirsig, the best way to move on from the overtime loss to Penn State is to get right back into it with one of Minnesota’s biggest rivals.
“Just to have the rivalry between us and the history that goes along with it, I think it’ll get guys really excited and have a lot of energy at practice this week,” Pirsig said. “I think guys are really looking forward to that because you come from Penn State where 106,000 people were hating on us and now we get to come back and have our own fans cheering for us and cheering at the right times.”
The Penn State, Minnesota game was over on one play.
Kicker Emmit Carpenter hit a field goal to break a tie with 54 seconds left. Penn State marched down the field, hit a field goal just before the end of regulation, and won on their first offensive play of overtime, a 25-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley.
“We played our gaps. It was just pretty much missed tackles,” said senior defensive end Hendrick Ekpe. “Nobody was out of position. Nobody did the wrong play. It just came down to tackling pretty much. Other than that, nobody was out of position or didn't do their job.”
Even with the loss against Penn State, the defensive line is in a much better position than it was last year when facing Iowa.
The group was missing their two starting defensive tackles, junior Steven Richardson and redshirt senior Scott Ekpe, as Iowa rushed for 272 yards.
That was the most yards Minnesota allowed all year, and the third highest run by Iowa.
“We're healthy [now]. We'll see … We have our guys back on the D-line,” said head coach Tracy Claeys. “Whoever wins, obviously, up front, will play a big part whether we win the game or not.”
-Four defensive players — KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson, and Tamarion Johnson — have all returned to practice after being suspended for the past three games, Claeys said, after the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined to press charges over their alleged connection to a sexual assault case. Cleys said he isn’t sure if they will play Saturday.
-Middle linebacker Cody Poock won’t play in the Iowa game due to a shoulder injury suffered in the second quarter of last Saturday’s game. Claeys didn’t elaborate how long he might be out.
-Linebacker Carter Coughlin, wide receiver Rashad Still and right guard Vincent Calhoun will practice this week but their status for Saturday’s game is unknown, Claeys said. Coughlin missed the last game, Calhoun missed the last two games and Still missed the last three games.