"We still get to represent the Big Ten and we should," Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said after Minnesota beat the Hawkeyes, 31-24, on Saturday.
The 13th-ranked Hawkeyes (8-3 overall, 6-2 in the Big Ten) earned a share of their seventh Big Ten title and their fifth Rose Bowl berth when Michigan beat Ohio State, 16-13. Iowa finished in a four-way tie for the conference title with Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois, but the Hawkeyes got the Rose Bowl bid by beating the other three teams.
"We beat the teams we're tied with head-up on the road," Fry said. "We don't have any excuses about going. We deserve to be there. Maybe this loss will help us in the Rose Bowl."
Most Big Ten teams going to Pasadena celebrate. Not the Hawkeyes. They were subdued after the game.
"I don't know how to feel. I feel terrible that we lost," quarterback Matt Rodgers said. "I'm happy we're going, but I'm not happy now. We didn't play like Big Ten champs."
"It's a bittersweet feeling," said Tony Stewart, who ran nine times for 34 yards, leaving him 16 yards shy of Owen Gill's rushing mark for a career of 2,556 yards. "We have to be happy to go to the Rose Bowl. Eventually that feeling is going to override the loss. Probably when we get back to Iowa City and the fans meet us at the airport, it'll sink in. We know we deserve to be there."
The Gophers (6-5, 5-3) lost out on a bowl bid with losses of 28-16 to Michigan State and 35-18 to Michigan in the previous two weeks.
"After the last two weeks, I didn't know if they had enough left to play this hard, but they did," Coach John Gutekunst said. "Our kids rose to the challenge."
They did it with defense and with a running attack. Iowa entered the game leading the Big Ten in total offense with 440 yards a game, but managed 303 against the Gophers. Iowa had allowed 94.5 rushing yards a game and had held five teams to fewer than 60 yards this season. Led by Mark Smith's 80 yards, the Gophers rushed for 150 yards Saturday.
Smith's one-yard touchdown run gave Minnesota a 14-10 lead with 4:23 left in the half.
Then 1:45 later, freshman Omar Douglas blocked Jim Hujsak's punt at Iowa's 28. Minnesota's Keswic Joiner and Iowa's Jason Olejniczak both grabbed the ball at the two, but Joiner wrestled it away in the end zone to give the Gophers a 21-10 halftime lead.
After Minnesota's Brent Berglund kicked a 33-yard field goal and Rodgers threw a four-yard scoring pass to Michael Titley, Marquel Fleetwood hit Joiner with a 28-yard touchdown pass to give the Gophers a 31-17 lead with 14:08 to play.
Minnesota led, 7-3, when news of Ohio State's loss sent about 30,000 Iowa fans into a frenzy with 10:52 to go in the second quarter at the Metrodome.
The large visiting crowd created a unique situation when its screaming in the third quarter forced officials to stop play twice because the Gophers couldn't hear Fleetwood's signals.
BOWL DATE TEAMS California Dec. 8 Central Michigan vs. San Jose State Independence Dec. 15 Louisiana Tech vs. Maryland Aloha Dec. 25 Syracuse vs. Arizona Liberty Dec. 27 Air Force vs. Ohio State All American Dec. 28 North Carolina St. vs. Southern Miss. Blockbuster Dec. 28 Penn State vs. Florida State Peach Dec. 29 Indiana vs. SEC No. 4 Freedom Dec. 29 Oregon vs. Colorado State Holiday Dec. 29 Brigham Young vs. Texas A&M; John Hancock Dec. 31 USC vs. Michigan State Copper Dec. 31 California vs. Wyoming Gator Jan. 1 Michigan vs. SEC No. 3 Hall of Fame Jan. 1 Clemson vs. Illinois Citrus Jan. 1 Georgia Tech vs. Nebraska Cotton Jan. 1 Texas vs. Miami Fiesta Jan. 1 Louisville vs. SEC No. 2 Rose Jan. 1 Washington vs. Iowa Orange Jan. 1 Colorado vs. Notre Dame Sugar Jan. 1 Virginia vs. SEC Champion