AMES — The fourth quarter was pretty much a sweat sock sandwich for Iowa cornerback B.J. Lowery.
The top portion was the 67-yard TD pass that gave Iowa State some life late in the third quarter. ISU quarterback Sam Richardson hit wide receiver Quenton Bundrage on a short curl route against a blitz. Lowery got a hold of Bundrage’s jersey, but couldn’t make the stop. Then, with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter, there was the bottom part of the sandwich.
Lowery allowed Bundrage to beat him with a post route and it was an easy pitch and catch to make it 27-14 and very, very interesting during Iowa’s 27-21 victory over Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday night.
Between the smelly sweat socks was the delicious interception Lowery somehow snared at the top of a leap. If it clears Lowery, maybe ISU wide receiver Jarvis West makes a tough over-the-shoulder catch and strolls into the end zone. It was a gorgeous, one-handed beauty that ended up on ESPN SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the day (No. 4 to be exact).
“That’s the life of a corner,” linebacker James Morris said. “B.J. is a great player. He doesn’t surprise me at all. He does that in practice all the time.”
Lowery also had a pass breakup in the Iowa end zone, getting inside position on Lowery and nearly coming up with the interception. Bundrage played great defense, raking Lowery’s face as the two fell to the turf.
The life of a corner is a life of being in the right place at the right time and then being able to brush off your mistakes, because there are going to be mistakes.
“You’ve just got to keep fighting,” said Lowery, who finished with four tackles, an interception and pass breakup. “I know I have my guys supporting me through ups and downs. That’s one thing we do emphasize here is supporting the next, and that was me. Tonight was my night, I had to step up.”
The fourth quarter became an ‘all-or-nothing” proposition for both teams. Iowa QB Jake Rudock scored on a 1-yard sneak with 7:05 left in the fourth to give Iowa a 27-7 lead. But then, Richardson and Bundrage hooked up for the first of three TD connections to pull ISU within 27-14 with 4:27 left. The 26-yarder was the first blow in the Lowery-Bundrage matchup.
The Cyclones recovered an onside kick and were back in business. This is where the game within the game leaned toward Lowery. Richardson tried to get some air under a seam route to West. Lowery read the throw the whole way, but had taken one step too far toward the line of scrimmage. He was caught in a desperation situation.
“I was going for the pick,” Lowery said. “I make that play sometimes [in practice], the majority of times, I don’t. I actually thought I jumped a little too early, so at that point I just had to adjust.”
The jersey grab is something Lowery pulled off against Northern Illinois in week 1. He was able to hang on and make the tackle. Saturday night, it brought the Cyclones to life, sending a jolt through the Jack Trice crowd and pulling ISU within 13-7.
“I didn’t feel too down after those two touchdowns, even though that’s big for me and the defense and I’m pretty sure it messed up our stats,” Lowery said. “It really doesn’t matter right now. It was just big for us.”
This is mostly about the play that was made. Iowa’s secondary has become the pressure point for the Hawkeyes’ defense. The Hawkeyes blitzed on Richardson-to-Bundrage TD pass No. 3, a 17-yarder with 2:26 left that really did make it a high-wire act for Iowa. Iowa lost on a couple of blitz gambles against the Cyclones.
“There were a couple of times in the fourth quarter where, in my position, I had the option to check out of the blitz,” Morris said. “Sometimes when they hurt us on those third downs, maybe I should’ve checked out, so I have some regrets in that sense. But in terms of how we executed, I think we executed well. Some of them, we’d like to have back.”
Iowa has allowed 10 pass completions of 20-plus yards, that’s tied for No. 81 in the country. As far as sandwiches go, this fact would be much higher in this story without Lowery’s one-handed SportsCenter grab.
“He made a great play on that interception, which was huge,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It was getting a little dicey out there.”
Iowa-ISU box score
Iowa game notes from ISU
Iowa season cumulative stats