By Daniel Kobren
Athletic Communications Student Assistant
The Gopher defense had one of their best performances of the year against Iowa last Saturday.
Minnesota lost 14-7, but allowed only one touchdown to the Hawkeyes (Iowa kicked two field goals and converted a two-point play on its touchdown). It was the first time that Minnesota allowed only one touchdown in a Big Ten game since it beat Penn State 24-10 at home on Nov. 9, 2013 (span of 19 games). The 14 points allowed by Minnesota were the fewest in a Big Ten game since it beat Purdue 41-13 (Purdue points came off of two touchdowns) on the road on Oct. 10, 2015.
The Gophers also had a knack for taking the ball away, recording a season-high three turnovers.
“Defensively, they gave us the effort we needed,” head coach Tracy Claeys said after the game. “I thought that defensively after the way we played at Penn State we bounced back and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Defensive back KiAnte Hardin recorded his first career interception against Iowa. Hawkeyes quarterback CJ Beathard lofted a ball deep to his receiver in the first quarter, but the speedy Hardin tipped it in the air and then came down with the interception. The sophomore added seven tackles on the day.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, the opportunistic Gopher defense struck again. This time linebacker Nick Rallis forced a turnover to give the ball back to Minnesota. He stripped the ball from an Iowa running back and Winston DeLattiboudere, who also recorded his first sack of the day, recovered.
Freshman linebacker Kamal Martin completed the turnover trifecta late in the fourth quarter with his first career interception. He read Beathard perfectly, cutting off his receiver’s route and stretched into the air to snag the interception.
Linebacker Jonathan Celestin was all over the field the entire contest. The junior entered Saturday’s game with 17 tackles, but added a career-high 13 (12 solo) against the Hawkeyes. Celestin put up career numbers on the day assistant coach Mike Sherels was fully reinstated to coach the linebackers.
“It was an awesome feeling,” said Celestin. “Throughout this whole process, to come back to the sidelines and see him was amazing.”
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