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Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has 143 wins under his belt at the University of Iowa, one away from the all-time record.

The Gazette will count down each win, as ranked by writer Marc Morehouse.

14

Adrian Clayborn was always the man

Iowa 21, No. 5 Penn State 10 | Sept. 26, 2009

Iowa's Adrian Clayborn runs with the ball on his way to a touchdown after blocking a punt against Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. (The Gazette)
Iowa's Adrian Clayborn runs with the ball on his way to a touchdown after blocking a punt against Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. (The Gazette)
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Three cool things:

1. Iowa called it “punt safe.” Basically, the defense stays on the field because coaches think maybe a fake could be coming.

(The foreshadowing here is noteworthy, because you know, but let’s play this out in the context that stood for this particular game. OK, let’s move forward.)

It’s “punt safe,” at least it was for the Hawkeyes. For Penn State, it was “punt off a cliff” or “punt into the dumpster.”

Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn bulled past Penn State’s Nick Sukay, blocked Jeremy Boone’s punt and sprinted off with the ball, the momentum and everything.

The ball bounced perfectly to Clayborn and he was off for a 53-yard score that gave Iowa an 11-10 lead with 12:21 left in the game.

“It was just ‘punt safe,’” defensive tackle Christian Ballard said. “The tackles are supposed to wait back and watch for the fake. The ends are supposed to blitz in. He just came through so fast it was kind of surreal. It was just an awesome play.”

It was Iowa’s first blocked punt for a touchdown since Sean Considine did it against LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. It also was Clayborn’s second career blocked kick.

It clearly was the play of the game.

“It’s a huge win for our team, the state of Iowa, everyone who’s involved in it,” Clayborn said. “We’re enjoying it. We’re just a little shocked. We’re glad we pulled it out.”

“Punt safe”

Pretty simple philosophy on the “punt safe.”

“I just bulled the guy back a little bit and worked the inside, stuck my hands out and, luckily, the ball was right there,” Clayborn said. “Forty pounds ago, I probably could’ve run a little faster. I’m just glad I got there.

“It was a great bounce. It was right into my hands and I just took it.”

Yeah, the bounce was great. Freakishly great.

“He fielded it like a DB (defensive back) would,” said Adam Robinson, who led all rushers with 88 yards and a TD on 19 carries. “He picked it up like a skill guy would. He just ran and sprinted and scored. It was a great play. From that, I think our team was a different team.”

After that, Iowa’s defense squeezed an interception, fumble and another interception out of Penn State and quarterback Daryll Clark, who was sacked twice and hurried and hit many more times.

(OK, have fun reading the next few paragraphs and revel in the names.)

Linebacker Pat Angerer’s interception and 38-yard return to Penn State’s 24 eventually turned into Robinson’s 13-yard TD run with 8:32 left, giving Iowa an 18-10 lead. On the next series, Angerer punched the ball out of PSU running back Evan Royster and defensive tackle Karl Klug recovered at Iowa’s 18.

After an Iowa punt, Klug tipped a Clark pass that linebacker A.J. Edds intercepted. Iowa drove for Daniel Murray’s 31-yard field goal and Beaver Stadium’s “White Out” of 109,316 fans started looking a little peaked.

It rained all night at State College. The turnovers poured out of Penn State in the second half.

Try to keep in mind, at this time, Clayborn was a 6-foot-3, 283-pound defensive end who did have a look at D-tackle that spring. This play was the difference. Flat out. No other way to put it. You can trace everything good that happened for Iowa back to Clayborn’s punt block. It ignited everything for Iowa. It extinguished everything Penn State.

“It seemed like that just kind of deflated them,” Klug said. “They never did give up, but even with the crowd, you could tell it just deflated them. It was a huge momentum shifter for us.”

All that from “punt safe.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a play like Adrian made,” Coach Kirk Ferentz said in the postgame radio interview. “That was just a thing of beauty. He never hesitated from what I can tell.

“It was just a ‘punt safe.’ We do rush one or two guys on that just to make sure they don’t run a fake. Great individual effort, that’s what that was.”

It was just “punt safe.”

2. Iowa ended Penn State’s national title hopes in 2008 with an upset at Kinnick. That stung the Lions and they made no secret about their desire to rip off the heads of the Hawkeyes’ pet parrots.

Iowa really had Penn State’s attention — for all of the right reasons if you’re Iowa — in the late 2000s.

Of course, there was the 2008 game. Penn State was third in the nation and 9-0. BCS was on the horizon. Here’s one you might’ve forgotten: In March 2009, the Nittany Lions had to beat Iowa probably for an NCAA tourney berth. The Hawkeyes were 4-13, so this was a free throw. Jake Kelly went off and that was it for Penn State and the dance.

Then, there was this.

At this point out at Penn State there was a Paternoville (it’s renamed “Nittanyville” now) and it was rocking. College GameDay was there. It was 108,000-plus for a “White Out.”

So, in a span of 10 months, Iowa knocked PSU out of the BCS, NCAA Tournament and punched out the Lions in front of a thoroughly engaged “White Out” crowd.

I don’t think you guys felt bad.

3. If this isn’t an Adrian Clayborn game, I don’t know what is.

We’re going to get to a Clayborn feature, but let me intro it.

A lot of people have asked, what about Ferentz’s losses? The next beat writer can handle those, but that 2010 Wisconsin game is what? Top three? No. 1?

Clayborn was in for interviews quickly after that one. Sometimes the players just want it over. After a loss, let’s make that all of the time.

Clayborn locked horns with the UW super tackle du jour Gabe Carimi. He took this personally. About 30 seconds into the interview, Clayborn turned away from the cameras, took a few deep breaths and then returned for a few more minutes.

Reporters carrying cameras then was relatively new. I had one. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to post the video, but I did. Got ripped apart on YouTube (What the hell is up with the vile comments on YouTube? I shut the comments down. Enough). I felt horrible, I still posted. It told a story. I think Clayborn was OK with it. He was one of those unedited people who left it all out there. He’d already seen a lot in his young life. This wasn’t going to touch him.

Clayborn was always going to be a superstar. He was used to attention and he had fun with it instead of recoiling. I loved that about him.

Enjoy the story.

Quote: “It was big, man. Big players make big plays in big games. Adrian is one of those players who always comes through when we need it.” — LB Jermiha Hunter

Note: The victory extended an eight-game winning streak for the Hawkeyes. Bonus: At this point in 2009, Iowa’s defense hadn’t allowed a rushing TD in 29 quarters.

Why No. 14? — So unexpected. The Paternoville pep rally on that Thursday night was Minnesota’s “We hate Iowa” times 10.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME

Game story from 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA. — This was a game that only a defensive coordinator could love.

Iowa’s Norm Parker, crusty 67-year-old fireplug of a defensive coordinator, loved it a little more Saturday night.

You had your sacks, interceptions and generally offensive offensive stats coming out of both offenses. In the end, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn provided the offense for the Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) in their 21-10 victory at Penn State, Iowa’s fourth victory at Beaver Stadium under Coach Kirk Ferentz.

The 6-3, 282-pound junior ripped past Nick Sukay, blocked Jeremy Boone’s punt and scooped it and scored it, covering 53 yards to give the Hawkeyes an 11-10 lead with 12:21 left in the game.

On Penn State’s next drive, running back Evan Royster tipped a Daryll Clark pass into the air and into linebacker Pat Angerer’s arms. Angerer returned the ball 38 yards to Penn State’s 24.

Three plays later, running back Adam Robinson broke two tackles, kept his legs churning and scored from 13 yards for an 18-10 lead with 8:32 left in the game.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a play like Adrian made,” Ferentz said on ABC after the game. “That was just a thing of beauty.”

It rained all night in State College. Iowa brought the lighting.

Four defensive strikes and the Hawkeyes blotted out the “White Out.”

Safety Tyler Sash caught Royster from behind, poked out the football and defensive tackle Karl Klug recovered, halting a PSU drive with 8:16 left that had reached Iowa’s 25.

Then, on PSU’s last gasp, Klug batted a Clark pass into the air and into linebacker A.J. Edds’ arms.

That gave Iowa first down at PSU’s 39 and Beaver Stadium started bleeding white.

The “White Out” was blotted out.

Robinson and freshman Brandon Wegher combined for nearly 170 rushing yards and the Hawkeyes’ ownership of No. 5 Penn State (3-1, 0-1) continued.

Penn State talked openly about revenge. The Lions will have four turnovers (three picks and a fumble) to think about next year’s shot at revenge.

Until the defense rode in and without question saved the day, the theme of the night was incomplete. Iowa was an incomplete football team. Drops, penalties and a missed field goal nearly added up to missed opportunity to blot out the “White Out.”

And coincidence said “hello” with eight seconds left when kicker Daniel Murray put away Penn State with a ... wait for it ... 31-yard field goal, sealing Iowa’s 21-10 victory.

Less than two minutes into the game, Clark showed he planned to back up the semi-guarantee he made in Paternoville on Thursday night.

One play, 79 yards, 11 seconds.

PSU went up 7-0 on Clark’s 79-yard TD to wide receiver Chaz Powell, who just ran a streak past Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey. Clearly, Spievey got caught looking in the backfield.

It was a well-scouted play. PSU coaches knew Spievey would bite and they popped it on play No. 1. And, it charged the “White Out” crowd of 109,316.

The last play was made on Penn State’s sideline. Angerer took his helmet off and shook hands with Coach Joe Paterno.

Iowa’s eight-game winning streak is now tied for second-longest in the country, behind defending national champion Florida. Iowa’s defense hasn’t allowed a rushing TD in 29 quarters.

Iowa countered with a 28-yard run from freshman running back Brandon Wegher, who took it to PSU’s 40. But then it just got weird for the Hawkeyes.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi put a pass just over a linebacker, who must’ve shaded wide receiver Colin Sandeman’s view. Sandeman was late reacting and batted the ball down. He then kicked the ball in the air, where hero back Nick Sukay picked it out of the air for first down at PSU’s 21.

So in the first four minutes, Iowa’s defense gave up the longest play of the season and kicked an interception to Penn State.

As far as omens go, that’s a raven flying into your living room and stealing the remote.

The Nittany Lions took the interception and jogged down field on Iowa’s defense, going 20 plays, 68 yards and chowing down 10:17 of clock before settling on Colin Wagner’s 28-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 52 seconds in the first quarter.

Twenty plays, 10:17 and a 10-0 PSU lead. That’s some big bro, little bro stuff.

Meanwhile, at that point, Iowa’s offense ran seven plays. Iowa’s defense in the first half was its best offense.

After Iowa was forced to punt at PSU’s 40, punter Ryan Donahue booted a 34-yarder that pinned PSU at its 6. The Lions went false start, tackle for loss by defensive end Broderick Binns, sack by Binns on Clark in the end zone and pulled within 10-2 with 11:47 left in the first half.

Binns, who had 1.5 sacks in the first half, whipped right tackle DeOn’tae Pannell and caused the fumble. Guard Johnnie Troutman recovered and it was 10-2. Before the first half was over, Nerraw McCormack replaced Pannell.

Otherwise, Iowa’s offense did nothing and, believe it or not, the first-half struggles didn’t belong to Stanzi. Iowa receivers dropped four passes, including two from WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. The drops, of course, turned into empty downs and ruined any tempo the Hawkeyes tried to get going, finishing the half 2 of 9 on third down.

Murray, the most wanted man in eastern Pennsylvania, went 1 of 2 in field goals, hitting from 41 and going wide right from 42 near the end of the first half.

After the first play, Penn State had just 25 yards passing and was held to minus-6 yards in the second quarter.

Stanzi finished 9 of 22 for 114 and the kick pick. Clark was 6 of 12 for 104 and a TD. For the first half, Clark was good on his 4-0 promise. The second half, Iowa’s defense burned it all to the ground. Revenge will have to wait.

Adrian Clayborn feature from 2010

Staying close

IOWA CITY — Mom sits close to her son. Sure, the chairs are positioned that way in the lounge area of Kirk Ferentz’s office, but Mom is close.

That’s the theme.

It’s a rainy Wednesday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. The Clayborns arrived in separate cars, but their drives were similar.

Tracie Clayborn moved to Iowa City this summer from the south side of St. Louis. The idea was to be close to her son, Adrian, and enjoy his senior season as a defensive end for the Iowa football team. Right here, right now in August, it sets up to be a fantastic season. Clayborn is everybody’s preseason All-American.

”She comes over a lot ... No, no she comes over sometimes,” Adrian said. “She brings food. That’s always a plus. Cleans up every once in a while, which is also nice.”

You can see it. Mom moves up to Iowa City to soak in her son’s senior season for the Hawkeyes. Makes sense. It’s been a sweet, sweet love affair for the Clayborns and Iowa fans.

In January, during a Hawkeye Huddle before the Orange Bowl in Miami, Tracie Clayborn was introduced as Adrian’s mother. The fans went wild. Long, long raucous applause. It brought tears to Tracie’s eyes.

“I expected something, but the way they just went crazy and wouldn’t stop, that’s what made me cry,” she said. “It was just a good feeling, to know that all these people love my son.”

It’s nice, it’s great and it’s only part of the reason Tracie Clayborn moved to Iowa City.

In October, Adrian Clayborn was involved in a stalking incident, and the woman was eventually charged and convicted of third-degree harassment. This year, Adrian pleaded guilty to an assault charge after he struck a cabdriver in 2009. Racial slurs triggered that incident.

So Tracie Clayborn lives in an Iowa City apartment just a few minutes from Adrian’s place on Van Buren.

“When you’re miles away and something is going on with your child in another state and you can’t just hop in a car and get there, you panic,” she said. “When I hear stories, I’m calling him every five minutes. I just want to make sure he’s OK.

“That’s part of the reason why I came here, the incident (the harassment) that happened. I just wanted to be here to make sure everything was OK with him and he had a smooth senior year.”

Truth is, it’s always been like this with Tracie Clayborn.

If you follow Iowa football at all, you know the story behind Adrian Clayborn’s birth. He was an 11.5-pound baby. Being so large, he suffered from a mild case of Erb’s palsy with some nerve damage in his neck and right side.

Adrian was lucky. He had a mild case that never needed surgery. He went through physical therapy, none of which he would describe as “grueling.”

Because of the nerve damage, Tracie wouldn’t let Adrian play football until seventh grade. But he was on lockdown long before that.

The family’s path changed about 12 years ago when Anthony, Tracie and Richard Clayborn’s oldest son, was murdered in North City, a hard neighborhood in St. Louis. Tracie and Adrian readily admit Anthony ran with the wrong crowd. It happened in a group setting, with people who, Tracie said, Anthony thought were his friends.

“They set up him, robbed him and shot him,” she said. “These were his buddies he hung around with every day. He probably didn’t expect it. He had some money on him. They took his tennis shoes. He had some tennis shoes that only two people in the neighborhood had. They took his shoes and left him there. It’s hard to see that people can be that cruel.”

Adrian was 10, an age when you remember just about everything. He vividly remembers the funeral. He remembered being awakened in the middle of the night and not being told about his brother’s death until the family arrived at his grandma’s house.

“I don’t want to relive that night,” he said. “I feel like when I got older, it really, I don’t know, think about not living that life, not getting caught up in it. It made me want to be involved in sports.”

Tracie called it a “wake-up call to reality.”

“After that, I basically promised myself I wouldn’t lose another child to something that tragic,” she said.

At this point, Adrian lightened the mood in the office lounge of the head football coach of the University of Iowa, which includes a glass case stuffed with bowl watches and a Big Ten championship trophy in the corner.

Adrian smiled and said, “We were in lockdown.” That “lockdown” included constant cellphone surveillance.

“Once I got that cellphone, just checking in at certain times, all the time,” Adrian said with a laugh. “Stuff like that. Just checking in and having her know where I was at all the time.”

Tracie begged to differ on the term “lockdown.” She thought it was more guidance and, really, love.

“It’s hard for them to understand, when you lose a child, that’s something you never get past,” she said. “It made me overprotective of the other three (James, 26, and Crystal, 25). I always wanted to make sure they were OK. They were looking at it like, my mom is trying to keep up with me. I just wanted to make sure they were in the right place doing the right things and everything was OK.”

Tracie Clayborn had some help here via St. Louis public schools. As part of a desegregation program, Adrian Clayborn bused 15 minutes from his South City neighborhood to Webster Groves in suburban St. Louis. This is where Adrian went to school from first grade through high school graduation. Webster Groves also was where he did all of his socializing and spent nearly all of his time, either in sports or with friends.

“They didn’t have too many friends in the city,” Tracie said. “They were out there (Webster Groves). As long as I knew where they were, I was fine. I could rest. Like I said, losing a child is something that you’ll never get over. With them losing a brother, that’s something they’ll never get over. I think that kind of bonded us after that happened.”

It’s probably too much of a sweeping generalization to say the “lockdown” period worked, but here are some of the results:

James Clayborn, who played quarterback at Webster Groves, is studying for a master’s degree in Christian ministries in St. Louis. Tracie describes him as a “big kid’s kid.” Crystal works at Macy’s also in St. Louis.

You know Adrian the football player. They don’t keep a stat for the outreach portion of the program. If they did, Clayborn and quarterback Ricky Stanzi would likely be neck and neck.

In May, a friend of Clayborn’s asked him to visit an elementary school field day — in Albia, which is west of Ottumwa in Monroe County and more known for deer hunting than anything else. He met up with a whole grade of kids, spent the day there and had fun. Ferentz said he got a thank-you note from a teacher in Albia and really didn’t know why until he talked to Clayborn about the trip.

“MapQuest, directions and phone calls,” Clayborn said of the two-hour drive from Iowa City. “Yes, I got lost.”

Clayborn opened an email from a stranger last month. He ended up visiting a 16-year-old boy who was in the UI hospital facing a painful hip procedure and probably two months of being off his feet. There’s another story where a young dude downtown bothered a couple women. Clayborn asked him to stop and then apologized to the ladies.

“Albia’s just not around the corner, I’m not sure what got him there,” Ferentz said. “That was a little random, but he does so many things. Loves kids, loves dogs. He’s got his dog, Ace. He’s a tremendous human being. I see the impact he has on our football team and the care that he has. He’s a stellar guy.”

Stories of engaging grade school visits ring out in eastern Iowa.

“It’s good to know that he’s respected and he gives respect,” Tracie said. “All three of my kids are the same way in that aspect. They’re people persons. They love kids. I’m proud of everything they do.”

Tracie’s move to Iowa City was perfect timing. Adrian really needs her now. He needs her to block for him, almost literally.

Agents have been a hot topic all summer with the NCAA taking a look at North Carolina and a few SEC schools. Don’t kid yourself, with six players in the NFL draft last April and at least another six next year, agent activity in Iowa City is like bees to a dropped lollipop.

Clayborn, who might’ve been a first rounder last season, is in the crosshairs.

Adrian knows all the rules. Meet, listen, learn and don’t accept anything, not even a complimentary pen. Clayborn has taken his cues from former Iowa running back and New York Jet Shonn Greene.

“You get people trying to be your friend, people you’ve never talked to and all of the sudden you’re buddy-buddy,” he said. “That’s kind of weird. You have to be realistic about it. You know they’re not trying to be your buddy, so you keep it on the professional level and tell them you’re not looking for a buddy, you’re looking for someone to represent you.”

Adrian, who’ll graduate in December with degrees in recreation management and entrepreneurship in business, has steered a lot of the agent activity toward mom. Good luck to even the slickest agent or runner trying to get past Tracie Clayborn.

“At the beginning of July, it was getting kind of hectic. I just typed up a letter and sent it to all of them, telling them to back off,” she said with a laugh.

Did it work?

“It did, but just the ones who had been calling. Now, there are new ones calling,” she said. “I think I’ve got it under control.

“At first, I was a little nervous. I don’t like to just ignore people, so I was answering every call. But now, it’s like you have to play hardball with them. You can’t be nice to them because they won’t respect you. If you tell them to call only on Monday, they call on Wednesday and Friday. So, that means they don’t have respect. That means you have to be firm.”

That means you have to be firm. Tracie Clayborn knows firm, right Adrian?

“She can be very firm.”