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AMES — Oh, nooooo, there’s no value for Iowa in continuing to schedule Iowa State in football. Surrrre, there isn’t.
“I will never say forever,” Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta replied Thursday when asked if the Cy-Hawk Trophy game will go on indefinitely.
“Through 2023, we’ll keep playing. (After that), your guess is as good as mine.”
If anyone connected with Iowa even hints at dropping this series after the game the Hawkeyes and Cyclones presented to the state and an ESPN2 audience Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium, they will define “wrongheaded.”
Iowa’s 44-41 overtime win over Iowa State wasn’t the kind of game the two have often staged together. But given how fast and far Matt Campbell has brought the Cyclones in 14 games and the kinds of young players Kirk Ferentz showcased Saturday, it appears the Iowa-ISU game will mean even more in years to come.
“I think it’s so good for our entire state, no doubt about that,” Ferentz said. “Today the game certainly lived up to all the hype. It was a heck of a football game.”
It showed Iowa could take hard shots in a hostile stadium and come back swinging. It showed Iowa State looks to be on track to escape football mediocrity.
“I really love our football team,” Campbell said. “I thought our kids played as hard as they could play for as long as they could, but at the end of it there were some details. We just have to be better than that.
“We just couldn’t make the final dagger play you’re going to have to make to beat that team. … Detail. To me, that’s the difference.”
But plenty of detail has already been installed in Campbell’s program. The team that looked like lost football souls in a 42-3 loss at Iowa last year?
“Geez, it was night and day from 365 days ago,” Campbell said.
This was a players’ game. Offensive players, anyway.
Iowa has a sophomore quarterback with the look of someone who will be a 3-year breadwinner. Nate Stanley’s eight touchdown passes in two games jump off the page, but it’s how he played once his team fell behind 31-21 with 11:46 left Saturday that tells a bigger story.
He guided fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 92 and 89 yards, the latter to tie the game at 38 with 1:09 left. Then he did what the Cyclones couldn’t, and took his team the 25 yards for an overtime TD to win the thing.
“Stanley’s doing an awesome job,” said Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson. “He’s killing it.”
He had some overthrows, yes. But for a first road start, he was exceptional. He had to be, because Cyclone junior Jacob Park threw four TD balls himself, two of them long strikes to wide-open Hakeem Butler.
Nine Hawkeyes had receptions as opposed just three in the Week 1 win over Wyoming. First-year freshman Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught two scoring passes, including the game-winner.
Smith-Marsette fumbled the ball away on his first college touch last week, a running play. Was the rookie put in mothballs? Surprisingly, knowing Ferentz, no.
“He’s got a lot of spunk to him, a lot of personality,” Ferentz said. “He seems like the kind of guy who could shake that off.”
Smith-Marsette is from the same Newark, N.J., school (Weequahic High) as senior running back Akrum Wadley, who had his greatest play in a large stack of them as a Hawkeye. He turned a Stanley dump-off pass into the late 46-yard touchdown play that forced overtime.
The play showcased Wadley’s speed and deceptive strength, and he busted enough moves to make Beyonce nod in approval.
Iowa needed all of Wadley’s 190 total yards, because Iowa State sophomore running back David Montgomery had 166 of his own and added to his quickly growing reputation.
“He’s really special,” Campbell said about Montgomery. “I don’t know what adjectives I can give that can tell you how much I feel about who he is and what he means to our football team.”
The 7-yard touchdown run Montgomery had early in the fourth quarter was gold. Three Hawkeye defenders missed him, then linebacker Josey Jewell stacked him up inside the Iowa 2. But Montgomery drove himself and Jewell over the goal line. Iowa was penalized for grabbing his face mask, not that it slowed him.
“He’s a dog,” Wadley said. A what?
“That’s a good thing,” he insisted. “You see him running like a dog, that goal-line play when he kept going, face-masked.”
“You think I’m a dog?” Wadley asked. If that’s a good thing for a back to be, he was told, then yes.
“All right,” he replied. “I’m a dog, yeah.”
This Iowa-Iowa State game, like many before it, was for the dogs. But this time, it was in a good way.