IOWA CITY — It’s not unfamiliar territory.
When seventh-ranked and unbeaten Minnesota shows up at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, the Iowa football team finds itself at the intersection of momentum and motivation.
In the 3 p.m. battle for Floyd of Rosedale, the Hawkeyes find themselves motivated to put an end to the momentum the Golden Gophers have gained while piling up nine straight wins to open the season.
“Motivation, that’s not hard at all,’’ Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley said. “Coming off a tough loss where we didn’t play our best football, you look forward to that next chance to prove yourself.’’
That next chance comes against an opponent that hasn’t beaten Iowa since 2014, hasn’t won at Kinnick Stadium since 1999 and hasn’t found itself 9-0 in a season since 1904.
“Great opportunity for us,’’ Iowa offensive guard Kyler Schott said. “This is a great opportunity for us to get back on track. They’re a good team. We know that, but this is a great time for us to be playing them. I really believe that.’’
The Golden Gophers enter the game coming off of a 31-26 victory over a Penn State team that entered the game ranked fifth in the nation.
The victory was the fifth of the season by seven points or less for Minnesota, which has been playing with a lead throughout much of its Big Ten season.
“This is the best offensive team we have seen, I’d go that far. They’re up there with Iowa State and Penn State,’’ Iowa linebacker Djimon Colbert said. “They have a lot of talent at the skill positions and they spread it around pretty well. It’s easy to see why they are having the type of season they have had so far.’’
That starts with quick starts, something that has been an objective that has eluded Iowa to this point.
“We’ve got to get that figured out,’’ running back Mekhi Sargent said.
In their 6-0 conference start, the Golden Gophers have trailed for only a combined 10 minutes, 35 seconds.
“I’m ready to beat this team and try to stop their wave,’’ safety Geno Stone said. “They’ve definitely got the momentum. They’re playing really well at this time of the year.’’
They bring the motivation into the equation, looking to shed a little of the sting from last weekend’s 24-22 loss at Wisconsin.
The defeat leaves the Hawkeyes with a 6-3 record, identical to the record Iowa had at this point a year ago on its way to a 9-4 ledger.
The only blemishes on the Hawkeye record are against three ranked opponents, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin, by a combined 14 points.
“We’ve got something to prove,’’ Stone said. “We’ve been close too many times. This needs to be the week we put it all together.’’
And this week, a match-up against Minnesota is all that seems to matter.
“The motivation is coming from knowing that we can play better than we did last week,’’ Stanley said. “We know we can play with the best teams in the country when we’re at our best. We just didn’t do that.’’
Coach Kirk Ferentz wasn’t in any mood Tuesday during his weekly news conference to look at the big picture, saying the time to reflect on where the program is at from an overall standpoint will come once the final chapter to the 2019 season is written.
Hawkeye players say the goal now is find a way to win 10 games, something that only eight teams in the program’s 130-year history have accomplished and something that would require Iowa to not only win all of its remaining three regular-season games but win its bowl match-up for a third straight year.
“We know that getting to (the Big Ten championship game) is a long shot, but we still have a chance to win 10 games, do a lot of good things,’’ Stanley said. “That starts with us taking care of things this week.’’
And to Ferentz, that is the only thing he wants his team to think about, this moment and Minnesota.
“I’m not real global with my thinking at this point,’’ Ferentz said. “I’m thinking about our next game, and that’s really the only one that counts. We have every opportunity to have a really good season this year.’’
But at the moment, only Minnesota matters.
“At the end of the season, we’ll count them up and we’ll get what we deserve, good bad or indifferent,’’ Ferentz said.