Chip Scoggins
See more of the story

The Gophers got Hawkeye'd. Again.

They fell into the trap. Again.

Same old, same old.

Play cautious, make killer mistakes, lose late.

Coach Kirk Ferentz didn't leave his timeouts in Minneapolis this time. He left the Gophers clutching a mountain of regret.

The Gophers were officially eliminated from Big Ten West contention on a frigid Saturday night in the most Gophers-way possible.

They gave the Iowa Hawkeyes an opening and their nemesis did what they so often do. They turned mistakes into their own gold and strutted home with the bronzed pig that has basically become a rumor on the Minnesota side of the border.

The Hawkeyes claimed their eighth consecutive victory over their rivals, a 13-10 triumph featuring a fourth quarter that deserves its own oral history.

P.J. Fleck fell to 0-6 against Ferentz in his Dinkytown tenure, and No. 6 goes down as another squandered opportunity.

Fleck has become Sisyphus when facing Ferentz. The boulder keeps rolling back down the hill.

"We had our chances," Fleck said. "In fact, we had a lot of chances. We just didn't capitalize on those chances."

The Gophers rushed for 312 yards and won time of possession by 10-plus minutes and had the game within their grasp. And then Iowa sneaked in and stole their wallet. Poof, gone.

This loss belongs in the category of self-inflicted, not the result of being overmatched by a superior team.

The Gophers missed a 34-yard field goal after an ultraconservative coaching sequence in the first half. They lost a fumble at the end of what seemed destined to be an iconic drive. They dropped an interception deep in Iowa territory right after the fumble.

And when forced to pass the ball after ignoring it in the second half, disaster struck — an interception with two minutes left that set up a winning field goal.

"They force you to beat yourself," Fleck said. "We happened to be another victim."

The Gophers tried ride to Mohamed Ibrahim to glory. Ibrahim poured his heart into his final home game, with 39 carries for 263 yards, but a fumble on his 14th rushing attempt on a 16-play drive gave the Hawkeyes hope and that's all they needed.

Ibrahim is an extraordinary talent. He cannot do it alone.

He threw his best punch at one of college football's elite defenses, but eventually, the Gophers needed a timely completion and couldn't do it, providing more evidence that Fleck's Stonehenge offensive approach must evolve.

Freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis completed one pass in the second half. One. On eight attempts.

Required to throw on third-and-7 late in the game because they were outside field-goal range, Kaliakmanis' pass got deflected and intercepted by linebacker Jack Campbell, who returned to the Minnesota 45.

The door was wide open at that point. The outcome felt inevitable.

A long completion set up Iowa's game-winning field goal range.

Fleck's conservative nature emerged again late in the first half when the moment screamed for him to be aggressive. Ibrahim rushed for 65 yards on a drive that stalled in the red zone.

Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca called a pass play on third-and-1 from the Iowa 16. Kaliakmanis' pass to Le'Meke Brockington nearly was intercepted.

Fleck opted not to go for it on fourth down, even though Ibrahim had knocked Iowa's defense back on its heels.

A year ago, Fleck played for field goals at Iowa, and it backfired. This decision did, too. Matthew Trickett's 34-yard field goal missed wide right with 38 seconds left until halftime.

Fleck's decision might have been influenced by him having already used all his timeouts. He called his first timeout early in the game to mull a fourth-and-1 decision. He ended up punting.

Fleck had to burn his second timeout when his defense showed confusion. He called his final timeout with 11:08 left in the half when he noticed something askew with the offense.

Those sequences made the Gophers look disorganized. Then they turned overly cautious. Then they leaned on Ibrahim to carry them to the finish line.

That formula nearly worked but close doesn't count.

Eight losses in a row is a trend. An ugly trend. And the Gophers keep falling into the trap.