It is always a special football Saturday in Iowa when in-state rival Iowa meets Iowa State University on the football field. This year fans of both teams headed down Interstate 35 to Ames, the home of the Iowa State Cyclones. In order to accommodate television coverage, the game was early.
That meant tail-gating had to be curtailed because kickoff was at 11 a.m. The high point of the pregame festivities for assembled Iowans was celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the “dirty thirty,” Iowa State’s fabled 1959 football team that included Ohio State coaching legend John Cooper.
After last Saturday’s near-disaster for the Hawkeyes against another in-state rival in Northern Iowa, Iowa decided to air it out inside Jack Trice Stadium in a 35-3 victory that gave the team a shiny 2-0 record. In his team's first two series, Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw the ball on every down.
He suffered one interception on a miraculous one-handed grab by Cyclone David Sims during the opening drive. In fact, Sims hauled in both Stanzi interceptions on the afternoon.
On Iowa’s third possession, freshman running back Adam Robinson carried the ball for the first time. The rushing game, it appeared, would be on a slow back burner until the true freshman who ran the ball had time to warm up to the assignment.
The running game is definitely rebuilding after the departure of All-American Shonn Greene to the pros and the loss of seasoned back Jewel Hampton just prior to the start of the season.
Yardage in the early going would depend on the passing game.
It appeared that Iowa’s receiving corps was taking over the game as waves of tall, strong men ran predetermined patterns down field. Iowa receivers are big but do not possess great foot speed. They relied in the early going on their size and power in overcoming ISU defenders.
In the first half, Stanzi was not sharp, throwing errant passes that allowed for missed opportunities or resulting in interceptions.
Iowa State began to move the ball late in the first quarter with their hurry-up, no-huddle offense. They were advancing well on the ground. But soon penalties began to mount hurting their offensive and defensive efforts.
Iowa State scored first with a 46-yard field goal by Grant Mahoney late in the first quarter. The next play, however, changed the momentum forever in this game.
Iowa State decided to try an on-side kick. Hawkeye Bruce Davis recovered the ball. In addition to their failure to capture the pigskin, Iowa State was guilty of being off-side. With the resulting penalty, that gave Iowa possession on the Cyclone 41-yard line.
On the second down, Stanzi threw a pass to Trey Stross, who caught the pass and was shoved out of bounds by ISU corner Kennard Banks. The personal foul and the half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty put the ball on the Iowa State 12-yard line.
Adam Robinson scampered 11 yards down to the one-yard line, followed by a one-yard toss by Stanzi to fullback Brett Morse. The successful PAT by Daniel Murray put Iowa up, 7-3.
At the start of a 10-play drive by Iowa in the second quarter, the running game began to have an impact. Iowa began utilizing true freshmen Brandon Wegher and Keenan Davis. During the march down the field, Wegher grabbed the ball with a spectacular one-handed catch to keep the drive alive.
ISU was blitzing more than expected by Iowa. This resulted in another hurried throw by Stanzi and allowed the second interception by Cyclone Sims.
But, quickly, Tyler Sash picked off his second interception of an Austen Arnaud pass, returning it to the Cyclone eight-yard line. After some unsuccessful attempts, Stanzi connected with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on an 18-yard pass into the end zone for another score. Daniel Murray added the PAT to give Iowa another seven points. They now led 14-3.
They ended the first half with that 11-point lead. At the beginning of the third quarter, Iowa benefited from another turnover as UI linebacker Jeremiha Hunter recovered a fumble by ISU running back Alexander Robinson on the Cyclone 48-yard line.
Iowa moved the ball down the field in eight plays with the final play a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Allen Reisner. Just like that, the lead ballooned to 21-3.
Stanzi became more proficient and accurate as the game progressed while Iowa State continued to unravel with penalties and turnovers.
Later in the third quarter, Hawkeye safety Brett Greenwood gathered in his second interception of the afternoon. It was Iowa State’s fifth turnover. This led to a scoring drive polished off by freshman running back Brandon Wegher taking it in from the one-yard line for a score. Iowa led 28-3.
Tyler Sash snagged another interception. This one led to the final scoring drive of the game. The running game was now taking over as Wegher and Davis combined for 84 yards. Wegher rushed for 64 yards and Davis caught a 10-yard touchdown pass.
The final score of 35-3 was Iowa’s largest victory since 1997 and Iowa’s first win at Jack Trice Stadium in six years.
Iowa strong safety Tyler Sash, who had 10 tackles on the day, tied a school record with three pass interceptions. Brett Greenwood added two more to total five on the afternoon for the Hawkeyes, the most in one game since a 1985 contest against Illinois. The Iowa team also recovered a fumble, taking advantage of six total ISU turnovers.
Iowa had 426 total yards on offense (235 passing yards and 191 rushing yards). Wegher gained 101 yards on 15 carries. Stanzi completed 18-of-34 passes for 197 yards and four touchdowns.
The Hawkeyes converted 8-of-13 times on third down and were successful in the red zone 5-of-6 trips. It was a long and miserable afternoon for Arnaud, as the ISU quarterback finished 10-of-22 for 79 yards and four interceptions.
The Cyclones have not scored a touchdown against the Iowa defense since 2006. The Cy-Hawk Trophy remains in Iowa City for another season.
The Iowa faithful breathed a huge sigh of relief, leaving their in-state rivals to ponder their football future.