Three cool things:
1. You remember this one.
It was a slog. It was that scene in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” with the peasants out in the field making mud cakes. Why were they making mud cakes? Exactly.
There was one writer on social media who went knife and fork into this game. I’m not going to name the writer because it’s one of those websites that I really don’t give a rip about (no one you’d think of in a first, second and probably a third pass).
I spent the day neck deep in the muck making mud cakes. I wasn’t in the mood. But then I had a moment of clarity. Was I going to go on social media and make an argument for a 19-16, double-overtime game? No, no, I was not.
Kind of dodged a bullet there.
This game had big moments. They just came with a lot of pretty bad offensive football. Iowa’s defense deserved the game ball here. Special teams, too. This was a case of Greg Davis earning his paycheck. The offense had to sort through a lot of what didn’t work to find the one or two calls that hit. There were a few. I want to say three.
Seeing and talking with Greg Castillo, he made the biggest play in his life and it was a beautiful thing. Mike Meyer’s field goals won this. He wasn’t taking any of them back.
I find defensive football amazing. It’s the great struggle. These two programs are brilliant with the old-man football. You saw one of the greatest in the 2015 Big Ten title game. Maybe it’s because they’re easy to write about. The chapters move more obviously and definitively.
This game had some of that, but it had way too much muddy offense. Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz are good with this. You have no choice. You’re on this ride.
2. I’ve seen Ferentz’s older brother, John, show up at games twice. The first time was Michigan. I think it was the 2002 game. As soon as he started talking, you knew he was Kirk’s brother. It might’ve been 2006, but let’s go with 2002. Works better.
John Ferentz was at this one. Sometimes, I get lost in the labyrinth of game notes. I sort of glossed over the fact that this was KF’s 100th win at Iowa.
And it was a pretty KF-ish win.
Ferentz is the second Iowa coach to reach that milestone. His mentor, Hayden Fry (143), is the other.
Iowa sports info quieted the postgame for Ferentz to talk about this. He downplayed it. Players loved it.
“It’s something that I’ll never forget, the feeling of being in that locker room with all these guys who you work so hard with and Coach Ferentz,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “He lives and dies with this. To see his emotion, how much he cares and to be able to do it with (Ferentz’s sons) James and Brian and all these seniors, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
3. I took the concept of “swagger” to the defense after this one. I know, the word is boorish, but I thought it was a perfect descriptor here. The defense let it all hang out and almost literally gouged out victory.
James Morris told me what time it was very quickly with the term “swagger.”
“I don’t like that word, Coach Ferentz doesn’t like that word,” Morris said. “It resonates culturally, I know. I would just say this defense is mentally tough, that’s what I think. I like the word ‘hard’ or ‘mentally tough.’”
Yes, MSU’s Le’Veon Bell broke loose for 140 yards and a TD. Bell was the best running back in the Big Ten. He was going to get his. Outside of Bell, Michigan State couldn’t get out of the blocks.
Iowa forced nine punts, five three-and-outs and sacked Spartans QB Andrew Maxwell twice. The Iowa defense also had the last word. Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat tipped a Maxwell pass that fluttered through receiver Keith Mumphrey’s hands and into cornerback Greg Castillo’s arms to close it out in the second OT.
Trinca-Pasat was relatively unsung, but Castillo became a target for fans the last couple of seasons. He was a corner. There’s nowhere to hide. He stepped in this one and sealed the deal with his second career interception and second in two weeks.
“Hopefully they like me now, huh?” Castillo joked about the scrutiny.
Quote: Greg Castillo on his game-winning interception: “I didn’t know what to do at first. It took a second for it to sink in.”
Note: Iowa was 2-0 in the Big Ten after this one. It didn’t win another game in 2012. It happened.
Why No. 63? — We’ve been over that.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — When the world ends and planet earth is a frozen cue ball in space, there will be cockroaches and there will be Hawkeyes.
Iowa had it when it needed it in a 19-16 double-overtime victory Saturday before 70,211 fans at Spartan Stadium. Michigan State (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) controlled tempo behind monster running back Le’Veon Bell. The Spartans’ defense kept Iowa’s offense crumpled most of the day, allowing just 12 yards on 13 carries in the first half.
On the road, against the Big Ten’s best defense, in the rain, into a decent southerly wind, after sputter city for 3 1/2 quarters, facing a first-and-24 after a clipping penalty and trailing 13-6, the Hawkeyes (4-2, 2-0) found it when they needed it, when they hadn’t had it all day.
Running back Mark Weisman’s right ankle ended up in a walking boot in the postgame, but he scored a 5-yard TD to tie the game 13-13 with 55 seconds left. Mike Meyer’s 42-yard field goal in the second overtime ended up winning it.
“Everything went right,” said Meyer, who went 4-for-4 in a game where every point mattered. “It was a great snap and a great hold.”
It took 60 minutes and two OTs, but everything did finally go right for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes found it when the offense faced a first-and-24 from their own 18, needing a TD to tie the game. They found it on a second-and-26 during the drive. They found it in the end, when defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat stuck his left hand in the air and just flicked an Andrew Maxwell pass that went through Keith Mumphery’s hands and into Iowa cornerback Greg Castillo’s arms.
“I didn’t know what to do at first,” said Castillo, a fifth-year senior who started because junior B.J. Lowery didn’t make the trip. “It took a second for it to sink in.”
Take a second, let this one sink in.
Hawkeyes sprinted onto the field. Hawkeyes skipped over to the corner of Spartan Stadium to celebrate with fans who made the trip. Hawkeyes rattled the rafters of a cramped locker room with a fast and furious rendition of the school fight song.
Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg threw an interception on the game’s first possession. Bell, who rushed 29 times for 140 yards, tromped in from the 14. Dan Conroy kicked a 24-yard field goal and the Spartans led 10-0 early in the second quarter.
Meyer kicked field goals of 23 and 28 yards to keep the Hawkeyes alive. Then finally — in the fourth quarter, after eight punts and seven three-and-outs — a shear of light.
First-and-24, second-and-26, they found it.
Vandenberg completed a 35-yard pass to Keenan Davis for a first down on the second-and-26 play. Vandenberg finished with 134 passing yards, so 26 percent of his total yardage came on this play.
“I felt it turn when it was first-and-25,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said about the set up to the final drive. “Oh boy, that’s not good. Huge play, and we didn’t make many big plays today, but huge play by James and Keenan.”
You know how quarterbacks and receivers always talk about “windows” to describe the moment when a receiver breaks open. This wasn’t a window as much as it was a mail slot.
“It wasn’t really a big window, but it was a window we had to get through,” said Davis, who caught six passes for 65 yards. “It was a play we had to make, something we had to do.”
Then, on third-and-6 from Michigan State’s 45, Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis went all the way back to week 1 and called a zone run to the left. Weisman broke through for a 37-yard gain to MSU’s 8. Then, he suffered an ankle injury on his 5-yard TD run on third down that tied it.
“Maybe it caught them off guard,” Weisman, who finished with 26 carries for 116 yards, said about the 37-yarder on third down. “Maybe not ... I think it was the offensive line. They set the edge out there. They make it easy.”
If the Davis completion and Weisman runs were shears of light, the rest of it was a series of low percussions.
Iowa won the overtime toss and forced MSU into a field goal on its possession in the first OT. Iowa settled for Meyer’s 27-yarder when Vandenberg threw incomplete to running back Greg Garmon on third down, making it 16-16.
Iowa gained 1 yard in the second OT possession. Meyer saved the Hawkeyes with his 42-yarder.