After starting the year 4-0, the University of Minnesota football team suffered its first loss of the season Saturday as the Gophers opened up Big Ten play on the road against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Minnesota fell behind early and never recovered, losing 31-13 in the first conference game of 2012. Head coach Jerry Kill's team now has a bye week before hosting Northwestern, but Saturday's loss will surely leave a sour taste in the Gophers' mouths for the next two weeks. Here are five things we learned from Minnesota's loss Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.1. Welcome to the Big Ten, Gophers.The Gophers' 4-0 start? It's looking a bit deceiving after Minnesota was routed at the hands of Iowa in the conference opener. The Gophers were gaining confidence in themselves after winning four straight games to open the year and surpassing last year's win total in the process. But Minnesota's non-conference schedule left something to be desired. After a triple-overtime win on the road against UNLV, the Gophers beat New Hampshire, Western Michigan and Syracuse at home. Clearly, those games didn't prepare Minnesota for the rigors of the Big Ten. Saturday's game came against a 2-2 Iowa team that was reeling after a home loss to Central Michigan. The Hawkeyes had lost two games at home this season, including one to in-state rival Iowa State. Yet despite all of that, it was clear that Saturday's game was a giant step up for the Gophers in terms of the level of competition and Iowa is far from the best Big Ten team Minnesota will face this season.2. Mark Weisman is the real deal and the Gophers couldn't do anything to slow down the bruising Iowa running back.
Weisman was a non-factor in the Hawkeyes' first two games this season. But the 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore had his third big game in a row Saturday, and it came at the Gophers' expenses. After rushing for 330 total yards and six touchdowns over the past two weeks, Weisman finished Saturday's game with 177 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against Minnesota. By the end of the first quarter, he had already racked up over 100 yard thanks to back-to-back rushes of 27 and 44 yards late in the half.Minnesota's defense had faced several pass-happy offenses, including last Saturday against Syracuse. The Gophers had yet to see a running back like Weisman, but they should get used to it as they continue their Big Ten schedule. Several talented running backs are still on the docket for Minnesota and if Saturday's game is any indication, the Gophers' rushing defense still has some work to do.3. The Gophers defense finally gave up big plays, and it cost them.Through four non-conference games, Minnesota did not allow a single play of more than 27 yards. That came against New Hampshire, as the Wildcats had a rush of 27 yards. The longest pass the Gophers' secondary had allowed was just 25 yards (also against New Hampshire). But Iowa had several big plays in Saturday's win, and they ended up burning Minnesota's defense as a result. The Hawkeyes' second play of the game was a 45-yard pass from James Vandenberg to C.J. Fiedorowicz that helped set up an Iowa field goal. Then, on consecutive plays on another first quarter drive, Weisman had rushes of 27 and 44 yards, both of which matched or surpassed the longest rushes the Gophers had allowed this year.Iowa's second touchdown came on a flea flicker pass from Vandenberg to a wide-open Jordan Cotton, as the duo connected for a 47-yard score. It was 22 yards longer than any pass Minnesota had allowed this year. Big plays hurt the Gophers' defense at times last season. They hadn't been an issue yet through conference play, but the Hawkeyes were able to exploit Minnesota to rack up big yardage.4. The Gophers finally lost the turnover battle.Minnesota had won the turnover battle in its first four games, entering Saturday with a Big Ten-best turnover margin of plus-5. But the Gophers gave the ball away four times against Iowa and did not force a Hawkeyes turnover. Minnesota's first turnover came in the first half when quarterback Max Shortell was intercepted on a deep pass intended for wide receiver A.J. Barker along the right sideline. But Iowa's Tanner Miller made a nice play on the ball, adjusting to the underthrown pass while keeping his feet inbounds. It was originally ruled an incompletion but was overturned upon review.The Gophers' second turnover came early in the second half after Minnesota converted just its fourth first down of the game. Freshman running back K.J. Maye lost the ball on a fumble after a 3-yard run, giving Iowa the ball near midfield. Shortell was picked off twice in the second half, including one late in the fourth quarter that was returned 68 yards for a touchdown to make it a 31-7 Iowa lead.5. Floyd is returning to Iowa.The Gophers and Hawkeyes play each other annually for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, a bronze pig that measures 15 inches high by 21 inches long. Minnesota kept Floyd in its possession each of the last two seasons as the Gophers beat Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium in 2010 and 2011. But Floyd will reside in Iowa City for at least a year. With the win, the Hawkeyes are now 43-61-2 all time in the rivalry with Minnesota. They've won Floyd 35 times dating back to 1935, when the trophy game started. Leading up to the game, the Gophers players emphasized the importance of keeping Floyd in Minnesota. They kept the pig in their locker room during the week. In the end, though, the Gophers didn't play nearly well enough to bring Floyd back to Minneapolis with them.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.