Anthony Nelson sparks Iowa's Pinstripe Bowl rally

'Anthony is about due for a big play right now'

Iowa Hawkeyes DE Anthony Nelson (98) and DE Matt Nelson (96) tackle Boston College RB AJ Dillion (2) in the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Manish Gosalia/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes DE Anthony Nelson (98) and DE Matt Nelson (96) tackle Boston College RB AJ Dillion (2) in the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (Manish Gosalia/The Gazette)

NEW YORK — Anthony Nelson’s fourth-quarter sack happened in a baseball stadium. Let’s paint that picture.

The Pinstripe Bowl was tied. It was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes and do or let the other team drive for a potential game-winning field goal. OK, so the baseball doesn’t hold up very well here, but Nelson did.

The Iowa sophomore sacked Boston College quarterback Darius Wade on a third-and-8 from the 50-yard line with 4:22 left in Iowa’s 27-20 victory Wednesday.

You have to allow some giddiness here. Nelson was just kind of hanging out with safety Jake Gervase in the postgame.

You guys really needed that play.

“Yeah,” Nelson said.

“It was huge,” Gervase said.

“Lucky, but we’ll take it,” Nelson said with a laugh.

Just like almost everyone who stepped foot on the Yankee Stadium turf, Nelson said he was slipping and losing his balance when he slapped the ball out of Wade’s hands. Junior Parker Hesse, in a tackle for the third-down rush package, scooped up the fumble.

It set up fullback Drake Kulick’s go-ahead TD. The Hawkeyes scored 10 points off three BC turnovers.

“I kind of slid when I was coming in to hit him,” Nelson said. “I was just trying to keep my balance and I didn’t really realize the ball was out right away. Then, I saw it on the ground and Parker on top of it.”

Nelson called his play “lucky.” Well, he finished with 1.5 sacks and now has a team-high 7.5 this season. He’s only a sophomore, by the way.

“That was big time,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “He’s done that a couple of times in his career so far and he’s pretty young still. It was cool to have him do that.”

It basically was a defensive end touchdown. It also was right on time and kind of out of nowhere.

“I didn’t start that series in, but I was telling the other D-linemen, Anthony is about due for a big play right now,” Hesse said. “Usually, this time in the fourth quarter is when he catches fire. We needed a big play and he hadn’t had one so far in the game.

“I was saying that and sure enough, we brought the sub package in on third down. I saw the ball at my feet and I knew he came up with the play when we needed it.”

Nelson now has 13.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He also led the Hawkeyes the last two years in QB hurries and hits.

“To get the turnover there, that really gave us a spark,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “When you’re in a game like this, sparks are huge. It’s not a shock that Anthony, that’s one thing, he’s got a really good first step, and he’s given us some sparks during the last two years.”

There’s always chaos after the strip/sack. That’s mostly born out of simply finding the ball. Nelson didn’t spend a lot of time on that. There’s also the inevitable review.

Nelson actually had a plan for that.

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“I didn’t really know, I was kind of hoping,” Nelson said. “I tried to sell it, I guess. ... Once I saw Parker on it, I thought, ‘All right, well, I’m going to sell it. I don’t really know what happened, but we’ll go with it.”

He’s 6-7, 260-ish and can think on his feet.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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