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PLAY OF THE GAME
The Setup — Players don’t get “days” until well after their helmets are centerpieces in dens/TV caves, but Saturday at Kinnick Stadium was unofficially “Brandon Snyder Day.”
Illinois didn’t exactly want to go along with this, but eventually got the email.
Saturday’s game was Snyder’s first of the season and first since he suffered a torn ACL near the end of April during spring practice. It was five-plus months of gut-wrenching rehab and doubt, but the small victories started adding up and there was Snyder on Saturday.
And you know what, right on time and kind of out of nowhere.
The Hawkeyes held a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter. Things were getting tight in Kinnick. No. 4 Penn State? OK, you get that. At Michigan State, stinks, but it happens.
The Fighting Illini had first down at Iowa’s 22 and were threatening.
What Happened — Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr. ran a play-action fake and rolled to his right. He might’ve started turning his head a little early, tipping the “throwback” pass. George rolled right and immediately looked back to the boundary for an open receiver.
Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse shed his block and was within one or two steps of George. He had to get rid of it.
“That’s a play that they’ve run the last year and a half, over and over again,” said Snyder, who’s head was clearly into football during his rehab. “I didn’t really do my job, but I kind of knew the play. It’s something that you see so many times in your head the night before you’re going through it. The throw was a little behind him, but that was being in the right spot at the right time.”
George tried to hit a back-shoulder throw to tight end Louis Dorsey. He missed that window and threw it right into Brandon Snyder Day.
The Results — Snyder’s 89-yard pick-6 tied for the sixth longest in school history. It was the fourth interception of Snyder’s career and first returned for a TD.
This started the avalanche that buried Illinois. Suddenly, it was 24-13 and the Hawkeyes took control.
The game of football doesn’t give up these moments all that often. Snyder certainly appreciated this one.
“It was a really cool moment to run into a stands full of Iowa fans,” Snyder said. “It was a great way to comeback, that’s for sure.”
A- — A fake field goal that worked last weekend, a fake punt that worked this weekend. Fake news!
B — Too early to say if that was an exorcism for Iowa, but it did execute cleanly in the second half and so one of those “ex”-sounding words will do.
B — Iowa deserves credit for stepping on the gas and not wasting turnovers, but the first half was subpar at best across the board.
‘I OWE IT ALL TO IOWA’
Is Adrian Clayborn already in his seventh NFL season?
The answer to that is affirmative. Clayborn’s Atlanta Falcons are on their bye week, so the defensive end was able to return to his alma mater and be Iowa’s honorary captain this weekend.
“I owe it all to Iowa,” Clayborn said before the game. “Without Iowa, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
Clayborn was a consensus All-American his senior season, 2010, and was a third-team Associated Press All-American and a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten player. With him included in their star-studded defensive line, the Hawkeyes were 28-11 with three bowl wins over the three years he was a starter.
He was a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011, and was with the Bucs for four seasons. He signed with the Falcons in 2015. He has 22.5 career quarterback sacks.
Clayborn missed most of the 2012 and 2014 seasons with injuries, but said “I think it’s all working out. I had a little bit of an injury bug, but I’m where I need to be. It’s all good.”
He started seven games and had 4.5 sacks last year for the NFC champion Falcons.
Carl Allegretti of New York’s Pinstripe Bowl made an appearance at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
Allegretti, the chairman and chief operating officer of Deloitte Tax LLP in Chicago, is the father of starting Illinois left guard Nick Allegretti.
But the father was wearing a Pinstripe Bowl jacket, not Illini colors.
The Pinstripe Bowl, Allegretti said, “is a different experience for the kids. They’re not laying around in the sun. We take them to the Sept. 11 memorial and Wall Street. Yankee Stadium’s pretty good.”
This year’s Pinstripe Bowl is Dec. 27. It matches a Big Ten team with either an Atlantic Coast Conference club or Notre Dame.
BY THE NUMBERS
115 — Rushing yards for Akrum Wadley after 30 last week
89 — Yards Brandon Snyder returned his pick-6
47 — Points by which Iowa has outscored opponents in the fourth quarter this season
27 — Catches Nick Easley has this season after seven Saturday
21 — Straight points Iowa scored to end the game
4 — Turnovers forced by the Iowa defense
4 — True freshmen to start on the offensive line under Kirk Ferentz (Tristan Wirfs on Saturday)
4 — Games in which walk-on Nick Easley has led Iowa in receiving this season
3 — Games this season in which Nate Stanley has thrown three touchdowns
1 — True freshmen to start at tackle under Ferentz
Iowa escaped into the bye week relatively unscathed — at least in terms of adding more significant injuries — following its 45-16 win against Illinois on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
For a brief time Saturday, though, it looked very different. During the first half, All-American linebacker Josey Jewell left the game after tackling Illinois running back Mike Epstein out of bounds. Jewell ran off the field with his right arm limp, indicating a shoulder issue. He was briefly attended to by trainers on the sideline, went to the locker room and then returned to finish the game — ending with a co-team-leading 10 tackles.
Jewell dismissed any concern about his health after the game, insisting he was fine.
Nathan Bazata also missed the second half of the game after recording one tackle in the first half with an undisclosed injury. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said the injury shouldn’t linger for the senior defensive tackle.
“He wasn’t going to come back in today, but I have no reason to think that he won’t be — if we were playing next week, as far as I know he’d be ready to go,” Ferentz said. “But this week off will help him a little bit, get him and the older guys, try to get them healed up a little bit.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, Boone Myers missed another game with a lingering foot injury, which elevated true freshman Tristan Wirfs to start at right tackle. He became the first true freshman to start at tackle under Ferentz and just the fourth true freshman to start on the offensive line under Ferentz.
Additionally, Brandon Snyder returned to the field exactly six months after it was announced he had torn his ACL during a spring football practice. Snyder finished with three tackles, two pass breakups and an interception return for a touchdown.
Iowa has its bye week next week. The Hawkeyes enter the break 4-2 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play after its first conference win of the season Saturday against Illinois. Iowa returns after its off week to go on the road to play Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 21. The game’s kickoff time and television assignment have yet to be determined.