The hate is palpable here in Minnesota. It’s like a fog that engulfs Dinkytown and the rest of the UM campus.
It’s “hate week” up here, which Minnesota reserves for chief rivals Iowa and Wisconsin. It’s also homecoming with decent temperatures and the Gophers are 4-0. Those factors clearly have added to the fans’ excitement.
The last time Iowa played an unbeaten Minnesota team in Minneapolis was in 1960. That year No. 1 Iowa lost 27-10 to the No. 3 Gophers 27-10, which ultimately gave Minnesota the national title. Nobody is predicting nation titles or top-five rankings for either team today.
The last time Iowa played at a Minnesota homecoming was in 1974. Iowa used to be a regular Minnesota homecoming opponent. The Hawkeyes are 2-10 on Minnesota homecomings winning in 1921 and 1950.
The rain is thick and and kickoff temperature should be around 60 degrees. That’s about 50 degrees warmer than the 2010 Iowa-Minnesota game, the final season-ending affair between the long-time rivals. In fact, today’s game is the earliest played in the schools’ 107-game series. Either one team or the other used to end their season against the other from 1983 through 2010. When the Big Ten revamped into two divisions in 2011, the season-ending slot was shelved so Iowa-Nebraska could start a similar rivalry.
The teams return to November meetings in 2014 and 2015 and then play in October in 2016 and 2017.
Minnesota Coach Jerry Kill played up the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry this week, comparing it to a bowl game.
“It’s great for our fans, it’s great for our state,” Kill said. “To me it’s like playing in a bowl game. We had to play at their place last year, I’m a lot happier to play at our place this year. But you treat it like a bowl game. You get excited about it. But you still have to got to keep your team focused and keep them concentrated on the most important thing they need to do and that’s play well on Saturday.”
The Gophers play four trophy games including the oldest (Little Brown Jug vs. Michigan), the most-played series (Paul Bunyan’s Axe vs. Wisconsin), perhaps the most unique (Floyd of Rosedale vs. Iowa) and maybe the most “meh” (Governor’s Victory Bell vs. Penn State).
“We taught all those things back there in two-a-day camp,” Kill said. “We have people come in and visit with our team and talk about the history and Mike Sherels is on our staff and he’s played in it. We have more historians, we’ve got historians in this room right here that help us with that situation. I think they’re well-educated on the importance and we talk about it in recruiting. It’s part of your sales pitch in recruiting. We get to play in all those trophy games. They’re well-aware of the importance of it.”
Minnesota offensive lineman Zac Epping said he’s partial to the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry because he’s from Wisconsin. But for most people, the hate for both teams is about equal.
“First of all, it’s a great rivalry,” Epping said. “We look forward to it every year. When we won it for the first time, I’ve never seen my team so happy. The year I actually played and we won it, I was just proud for my teammates and coaches. Losing it, it hurts. It’s one of the games that you look back on the season and say, many, I wish I would have won it. We wish we still had Floyd. You’ve just got to work hard and get it back.”
Iowa players were low key about the Minnesota rivalry — its second trophy game this season. But they’re aware of what the game means to the program’s tradition and fan base.
“When I first came to Iowa, I learned about the Iowa State trophy, the Wisconsin trophy, the Minnesota trophy,” Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “I just knew that this is something big for Iowa, and I wanted to be a part of it. So every time we play a trophy game, you just play your heart out. Not saying that you don’t play your heart out in other games, but we want to go get that trophy.”
Iowa quarterback tried to keep the trophy part of the rivalry in perspective.
“If you do everything you have to do, then the trophy comes with it,” Rudock said. “The trophy can be an incentive. For me, the incentive is being with the guys and having a good day and getting the trophy is another type of incentive.”
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