Iowa football: Hawkeyes storming into uncharted territory
“Act like you’ve been there before.”
Sure, the No. 3 Hawkeyes topped No. 4 Penn State 23-20, so an upset it was not.
But we have been sharing all week just how special this game is — none of us have been here before, let alone current college students, so storm away.
Let’s review exactly how rare.
It was the biggest game at Kinnick Stadium since No. 1 Iowa beat No. 2 Michigan 12-10 in 1985.
Guess what the fans did after that game:
— MamaHawk (@xrayanneiowa) October 5, 2021
So I guess Hawkeyes fans as a collective have been here before — and did the exact same thing.
It turns out, storming the field as the higher ranked team is as generational as Iowa counting on its defense — we might as well call it a tradition at this point.
It was the first time two Top 5 Big Ten teams met in the regular season without one of them being named Michigan or Ohio State since 1962.
If you were 5 years old at that Minnesota-Wisconsin game, you probably have either retired by now or getting ready to.
This doesn’t happen every year, folks. Not in Iowa, and not in many places.
Now consider how the Hawkeyes did it.
- Down 14-3 after the first quarter despite having two of their normally game-changing takeaways already in hand.
- Being down 17-3 in the second quarter knowing the Iowa offense has been less than explosive.
- Giving up a 20th point with 6:45 left in the 3rd quarter with a defense that has not allowed 18 all season — or 25 in the past 27 games.
Penn State didn’t score again, and Iowa managed just enough offensively — two field goals and the explosive play that put them ahead, Nico Ragaini’s 44-yard touchdown reception, to secure their third win over a ranked opponent this season.
And what a play it was. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras, who started the game 1-for-9 for 14 yards, rolled out right on a play-action pass across the field to find Ragaini, who took it the last 17 yards to the left pylon.
It was the Hawkeyes’ first lead since 3-0. Petras, after that dreadful first quarter, went 16-for-24 with 181 yards the last three.
The defense did its part, adding 4 interceptions by 4 different players. The Hawkeyes lead FBS with 16 INTs.
Now the road ahead is paved with teams that aren’t expected to be nearly as challenging. The Hawks are on a 6-game winning streak against ranked teams — their longest streak since 1960 — but might not see one again until the Big Ten Football Championship Game, if they handle their business.
But again, this is Iowa, not a statistical football heaven where blowouts are common. Expect stress to come.
So by all means storm the field. Let loose. No one’s really been here before. (Just don’t hurt any players or steal their equipment.)
“It’s a pretty special place when the lights go on and the sun goes down,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
And speaking of special:
Caleb Shudak’s field goals of 34, 48 and 36 yards were all crucial, clearly.
Tory Taylor had 9 punts for 398 yards — 6 inside the 20 — and his knack for placing them at the 1 was on full display.
Ferentz was so confident in his punter and defense, that the offense was in victory formation with more than 2 minutes left. Petras was taking knees even though there was too much time left for Iowa to run out all of the clock. Taylor pinned the Nittany Lions at their own 8-yard line with 39 seconds left. Four downs later, Petras was taking a knee again and Ferentz’ faith paid off.
Winning the field position battle was huge in winning the penalty battle. That same Iowa crowd that stormed the field caused plenty of PSU false starts — eight to be exact.
So get out there and celebrate with your team. You were a big part of this giant W.