Fleck Finally Beats Ferentz the Hawkeye Way – 3 Takeaways from Minnesota vs Iowa

Syndication: The Des Moines Register
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The Minnesota Gophers, someway, somehow pulled out a messy and chaotic 12-10 victory at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, over the Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s their first win in Iowa City since 1999 and one PJ Fleck desperately needed, after starting his career 0-7 vs Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeye program.

After 8 years in Hawkeye possession, the Floyd of Rosedale is finally coming home to Dinkytown.

Minnesota Gophers win doesn’t come without controversy

The win didn’t come without plenty of drama and controversy. There was only one touchdown scored all game and it was the Iowa Hawkeyes who found the pay dirt. Yet, PJ Fleck stayed true to what he sees as the best mixture to beating the Hawkeyes and, finally, he was paid off.

The controversy came late in the 4th quarter, when Minnesota punted out of its own end zone with the same lead as how the game finished. Iowa’s stud returner, Cooper DeJean, returned the punt up, down and around the Gophers special teams and weaved his way into the end zone for what looked like a classic disappointing end to this rivalry game.

But then, after further review, the return was brought back to the spot of the catch, because DeJean slightly waved his left arm when the ball was in the air, technically signalling for a fair catch.

3 Takeaways from Minnesota vs Iowa

There was a lot to learn in today’s slogfest. Here are my three biggest takeaways from the historic, yet ugly Minnesota victory in Iowa City.

1. Fleck finally succeeds in beating Kirk Ferentz at his own game.

I wrote about it multiple times this week and we saw it unfold in front of our eyes on Saturday. I believe the Minnesota Gophers could have walked away with an easy victory in Kinnick Stadium, but PJ Fleck was not going to allow that to happen.

Related: Gophers Could Force Inept Iowa Offense to Beat Them but PJ Fleck Probably Won’t

It wasn’t that I didn’t think the Gophers could win on Saturday, by playing scared and conservative vs the Hawkeyes, like Fleck usually does. When the opposing offense is as inept as Iowa’s, you’re almost always within striking distance of a victory.

But much like what happened in 2022, when Mohamed Ibrahim fumbled at the goaline with a chance to win the game, you also leave yourself one big mistake away from a loss, which we almost saw play out again Saturday.

2. Athan Kaliakmanis Ain’t It

I think, 7 games into the regular season, PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Gophers coaching staff can officially start sending out unofficial feelers to high-caliber quarterbacks who might be looking at the transfer portal this offseason. Because it’s become clear that Athan Kaliakmanis is not it.

It’s time for Fleck to dig into his new Dinkytown beer fund and pull out a few $100 thousand, in order to entice a new quarterback to lead the team in 2024. Kaliakmanis was once a 4-star prospect who did not show the accuracy issues he has in 2023.

If he beats out the newcomer in the spring and fall, so be it. But what Athan has displayed so far this season is unacceptable for a power-5 starting quarterback, especially in a Big Ten that will include Oregon, UCLA, Washington and USC next year.

3. Thank God the Minnesota Gophers play in the Big Ten West

At the end of the day, there’s one narrative that continues through the end of the Big Ten West and East divisions. If you are a West team, you need to go to sleep at night thanking the football gods that the conference was split the way it was for most of the last decade.

The Gophers still have a chance at playing in the Big Ten championship because the Big Ten West is half the caliber of it’s Big Ten East brother. It’s almost like half of the conference is playing in a subdivision that still gets a chance at winning the championship.

The Big Ten East and West divisions will cease to exist, after this season. But we’ll enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan