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Giving back the pig: Iowa falls hard at Minnesota, 51-14, behind 3 TDs by Maxx Williams

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MINNEAPOLIS — Mark Weisman had no room to run. Jake Rudock had little time to throw.

Floyd had nowhere to hide.

Maxx Williams caught three of Mitch Leidner's four touchdown passes, and Minnesota ran for 291 yards in a romp past Iowa 51-14 on Saturday afternoon to retake the Floyd of Rosedale trophy after a two-year absence.

The Gophers (7-2, 4-1) smothered the Hawkeyes for a season-low 84 yards rushing and swarmed the visitor sideline when it was over to hoist the heavy bronze pig the teams have played for since 1935. They moved back into a first-place tie with idle Nebraska in the Big Ten West Division, while the Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2) fell into fourth.

"We weren't ready to play. I thought we had a good week of practice. It's just what you do to show up for game time. We obviously didn't do that, and they were a better team," left tackle Brandon Scherff said.

Weisman scored his 30th career touchdown, the third player in Iowa history to reach that mark, to cap a 76-yard drive to open the game. The Hawkeyes converted three third downs during that possession. But they just rolled over right after that. Weisman managed only 21 yards on 14 carries, after totaling 324 yards on 45 attempts against the Gophers each of the last two years.

Minnesota was so concerned about Iowa's running attack that coach Jerry Kill had the Gophers defense working against that scheme in spring practice.

"We had trouble stopping it the last three years, so you'd better do something about it," Kill said.

Iowa led 17-0 at halftime and won 23-7 here in 2013 and built a 24-0 advantage at the break on the way to a 31-13 victory in 2012. This script was flipped hard by Minnesota, which scored three touchdowns in the last 7 minutes of the first half.

PHOTO: Minnesota defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli (46) sacks Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock (15) during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 51-14. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)
Minnesota defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli (46) sacks Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock (15) during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 51-14. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

"They got confident as the game went on," Hawkeyes wide receiver Tevaun Smith said. "They did a great job."

The Hawkeyes were coming off a resounding 48-7 win over Northwestern in which they outgained the Wildcats 483-180 in total yards.

"You've got to learn you don't walk on water when things are going good, and the other thing, when things go bad you don't get in the fetal position and let somebody else kick the crap out of you," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It's pretty simple."

Iowa plays at Illinois next week before finishing with home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska.

"You play 12 games, you find out a lot as it goes," Ferentz said.

The Gophers had so many highlights that by the end it was easy to forget about the brilliance of Williams, the sophomore who has already set the single-season team record for touchdown catches by a tight end with seven.

On third-and-7 at the Iowa 48, with Minnesota leading 14-7, Leidner threw high to an open Williams near the sideline. He made a fully extended diving catch that was ruled out of bounds, but another look by the officials overturned the call upon evidence he somehow dragged his left toe on the turf in time.

Williams scored later on that drive. Then with 31 seconds left before the half, he made another tough grab of a ball headed out of bounds, this time underneath the goal post to give the Gophers a 35-7 lead.

The Gophers dominated this one in every way, starting with a shrewd game plan by offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover that had Leidner rolling out, dropping back and running with the ball on zone reads through the middle of the Hawkeyes defense. After a rough game against the Illini, Leidner bounced back in a big way with 138 yards on 10-for-13 passing plus 77 yards on 11 rushes.

David Cobb carried 16 times for 74 yards and a score, K.J. Maye totaled 66 yards and a touchdown on 10 wide-receiver sweeps and Rodrick Williams Jr. scored on a fourth-quarter run once the Gophers had all backups in the game.

Donovahn Jones caught a 44-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to give the Gophers the lead for good. They forced three turnovers, including an interception and a fumble from Rudock, and had four sacks. Rudock finished with only 89 yards on 10-for-19 passing.

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