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Gophers’ perfect season ends in loss to Iowa

Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) directs the offense against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium Saturday, Nov. 16. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports1 / 3
Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Rodney Smith (1) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium Saturday, Nov. 16. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports2 / 3
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) runs the ball against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium Saturday, Nov. 16. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports3 / 3

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Gophers’ preliminary travel plans to Indianapolis and Pasadena, Calif., were sidetracked Saturday, Nov. 17, in a 23-19 loss to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

The eighth-ranked Gophers’ perfect season ended and their Big Ten Championship game and Rose Bowl reservations must be put on hold.

Minnesota (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) has not won in Iowa City in 20 years since 1999, and they haven’t had the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy since 2014.

The Gophers staked a second-half comeback, but coach P.J. Fleck fell to 0-13 when trailing at the half.

While Gophers fans stormed the field after the win over Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium last Saturday, they watched Hawkeye fans do it seven days later.

The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes’ (7-3, 4-3) win keeps them alive in the Big Ten West race and Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2) is still in the hunt, too, with a 37-21 win over Nebraska earlier Saturday.

The Gophers managed only two field goals and trailed 20-6 at halftime, but scored its first touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter. Minnesota went 66 yards for six plays, with Tanner Morgan finding Tyler Johnson for a 28-yard score.

After an Iowa punt, the Gophers drove down go Iowa’s 14, but Johnson dropped a fourth-down pass that would have been good for a first down.

After the play, Iowa was called for a late hit on Johnson and P.J. Fleck came onto the field in offsetting penalties, but according to Big Ten officials coordinator Bill Carollo said the play was over and Fleck’s action, which came after the play, did not have a bearing on Minnesota keeping the ball.

Gophers running back Rodney Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run cut Iowa’s lead to 23-19 but a missed extra point and failed onside kick stifled the comeback.

But Minnesota’s defense forced a punt, but an Iowa interception on backup quarterback Cole Kramer effectively ended the game. Kramer replaced an injured Morgan.

In the Gophers’ unprecedented 6-0 start to Big Ten play, they trailed for 10 minutes across their first six conference games. Minnesota then trailed for more than double that (26 minutes) in Saturday’s first half.

The Hawkeyes offense scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, with drives of at least 68 yards, while Minnesota managed only two field goals, including one as time expired at the half.

Instead of going for it from the 2-yard line with four seconds left, Fleck opted for Brock Walker to kick a 20-yard field goal to give a good vibe going into the locker room and Minnesota getting the abll to stat the second half.

In the first half, the Gophers defense gave up four plays of 20-plus yards as quarterback Nate Stanley went 8 for 10 for 108 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Goodson averaged 8.6 yards per carry and another score.

The Gophers offense was able to move the ball, out-gaining Iowa 226-221, but missed a 50-yard field goal after a 47-yard drive on their first possession and were forced to punt on another drive.

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