Iowa was reeling from a pair of losses to teams the Hawkeyes were favored to beat, pushing that 12-0 regular season from 2015 to the back of the memory bank.
They got back on track with a gritty victory over rival Minnesota.
Akrum Wadley took off for a 54-yard touchdown run with 5:28 left and the Hawkeyes hung on to beat the Gophers 14-7 on Saturday to hoist the Floyd of Rosedale trophy for the second straight year.
"We just kept grinding," said Wadley, who had 14 carries for 107 yards for Iowa (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten), who matched the program record with an eighth straight road win despite two interceptions thrown by C.J. Beathard.
Iowa has won four of the last five meetings and 12 of 16. Minnesota still leads the overall series 62-46-2.
"I would like to say we wanted it more," said Beathard, whose streak with a touchdown pass in nine straight games was stopped.
Floyd, the 98-pound bronze pig first awarded in 1935 as a bet between the governors of the two states, must've felt unwanted for most of the game.
Mitch Leidner completed only 13 of 33 passes for 166 yards and was also picked off twice for the Gophers (3-2, 0-2), who were flagged eight times for 58 yards and lead the conference in penalties.
After one of Ryan Santoso's nine punts went only 30 yards, Wadley scored on the next play. Sophomore safety Jacob Huff, subbing for an injured Antoine Winfield Jr., went the wrong way at the snap and missed a futile diving attempt at the tackle. LeShun Daniels Jr. ran in the 2-point conversion.
"Sooner or later, they slip up and it will be a long one," Wadley said. "Either LeShun or me was going to hit it."
The Gophers overcame Leidner's second interception and regained the ball with no timeouts and 86 seconds remaining. Leidner moved the ball to the 13 with four completions, but his fourth-down fade throw to Brian Smith in the end zone fell short with 43 seconds left.
"This one really hurt," Gophers linebacker Jonathan Celestin said, "especially losing at home."
Shannon Brooks gave Minnesota a 7-6 lead midway through the third quarter with a 9-yard run, but the Gophers didn't take full advantage of an Iowa defense that was leaking an average of 183 rushing yards per game. Brooks and Rodney Smith combined for only 21 carries.
"I think the holes were there," Brooks said. "Maybe try to break more tackles."
IOWA: Kept alive the hope of winning the West Division again, recovering from a homecoming loss to Northwestern with a performance that wasn't pretty but still a winner. The Hawkeyes get both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home this season.
"This win defines our season," cornerback Desmond King said.
MINNESOTA: Struggled all afternoon to sustain drives, let alone score, after totaling 86 points in the last two games against Iowa. Leidner didn't complete a pass until less than 4 1/2 minutes were left in the first half, and his throw into double coverage at the Iowa 35 later on that possession was picked off.
"He never could set his feet because he had to get the hell out of the way," coach Tracy Claeys said. "They were just squeezing the pocket, and the protection wasn't any good, and I think that leads to some inaccuracies."
The Hawkeyes were unable to consistently protect Beathard, who was hampered by a handful of drops by their receivers. Twice they reached the 10 and settled for a short field goal by Keith Duncan. The run blocking was better, though, with Cole Croston (right tackle), Boone Myers (left tackle) and Ike Boettger (left guard) in new spots on the line.
Cornerback KiAnte Hardin, one of four players on Minnesota's defense reinstated this week from suspension after an alleged sexual assault investigation produced no charges, returned to the starting lineup with seven tackles and his first career interception off a pass he tipped in the end zone and returned 31 yards .
IOWA: Travels to face Purdue, where they've won three times in a row.
MINNESOTA: Plays at Maryland, the first regular season game between the two teams. The Terrapins beat Minnesota in the 1977 Hall of Fame Bowl.