Three cool things:
1. I saw it happen live and I didn’t know what happened. Sometimes, when that happens in life, I like to turn to Jesus.
And there he was on this day, a Halloween game in Kinnick Stadium. Jesus sat low in the south end zone bleachers (Jesus just wanted to scalp and get in the place).
He might’ve had the best view of the “Immaculate Interception.” Yep, that’s what I named Tyler Sash’s crazy, nutty interception against Indiana this day. Yeah, it didn’t take, so I don’t blame you for booing.
You’ve probably already figured out in this that ranking the Iowa part is tougher for me than recognizing football lighting. You know, the weird plays in football games that rarely happen. Illinois not kicking off against the Hawkeyes in an entire game in 2016. Back-to-back blocked field goals to win a game. A running back carrying the ball a school-record 43 times to win the game.
I love football. This is a guileless statement. I love football. When I see weird things happen in the game, I love it.
This was weird.
Linebacker A.J. Edds had backside pressure and got a hand on the ball before it left Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell’s hand. Then Iowa D-tackle Christian Ballard got a hand on it. It bounced off an IU lineman and then off Chappell’s forearm.
It took another glance off Edds’ shoulder before it ended up in safety Tyler Sash’s hands.
I slowed it down. Like 50 times. Still, not sure about the IU linemen, but it sure looked like it hit him.
Sash was free and clear for an 86-yard TD that turned an Indiana lead into an amazing Iowa comeback.
”I’ve probably seen it 10 times and about five times the day after the game,” Sash said. “The ball was parallel with my face and I just reached up and took off with it. It was a crazy play.”
Back when it happened, there was a picture of the play outside the defensive backs meeting room at the Hayden Fry Football Complex. The game was played on Halloween. Someone wearing a Jesus costume is visible in the background, just over Sash’s shoulder.
“Coach (Kirk Ferentz) said it’s a miracle,” Sash said.
”Someone dressed up like Jesus is in the background. It’s hilarious. Coach says it’s a miracle and the picture of me returning it, Jesus is right in the background. It’s kind of funny.”
During Iowa’s bowl trip to the Orange Bowl, Ferentz brought up the play when asked about the season’s memorable moments.
“I just saw it this morning, coincidentally,” he said. “When you have a good season, you need some moments like that. Guys hustling around and the ball comes to him and, boom, he just takes off. We certainly needed it at that time. Things weren’t looking good.”
2. Ricky Stanzi’s numbers in this game were something.
This was when Ricky Stanzi was still more Ricky Vaughn (you know, the Charlie Sheen pitcher from “Major League”). And this was the quintessential Ricky Stanzi Vaughn game.
Stanzi threw four interceptions in the third quarter and Indiana was 2 yards from a 21-point lead in the second half. Yes, four interceptions in the third quarter.
This was a big wind game. I knew there were a lot of picks in this one. I forgot they all happened in the same quarter.
Stanzi only completed 13 of 26 passes. 19.2 percent of his passes were picked off, while 7.7 percent went for TDs.
This is 12.9 yards per attempt. 7.0 yards is usually winning by two scores. Two TDs and five picks and Stanzi’s pass efficiency was a respectable 145.8.
You never know how these things are going to come out.
3. In the follow-up post to the game story, Iowa flashed attitude. Mostly, it was Stanzi telling national media to eat a bucket of worms.
Iowa was a national contender. Some people didn’t agree.
”I don’t want to pour water on Iowa’s parade, they’ve had a great year,” said former coach Lou Holtz, who regularly mangled metaphors on ESPN’s College Football Final on Saturday nights, “but let’s be realistic ...”
And Stanzi’s bucket of worms was basically a “U MAD BRO” meme. That was very big at the time.
”It doesn’t get to you, but you hear it so much, you just kind of laugh about it,” Stanzi said. “Anybody can say what they want, but all we’re trying to do ... We’re not trying to make people mad, we’re just trying to win games.”
U guys have to love playing the “U MAD BRO” game with a 9-0 record.
Quote: Ricky knew how to make a point. Iowa’s status among the college football elite in 2009 was, uh, in question with national media. And then in 2015, it happened again.
When a non-blueblood gets on a run, I want to get to know those audacious marauders. I want to know how Iowa or Mississippi State or Utah punched its way in.
But all the people who get paid real money in mass sports journalism want to rip, because they don’t “need” Iowa like they “need” Alabama, Ohio State or Michigan. There’s a certain amount of pandering.
I think I tweeted in 2015 that Iowa was the alien spaceship in everyone’s backyard. Some people want to know if the aliens are friendly and if they have flying cars or the cure for baldness. Some people grab the torches and pitchforks.
I don’t get that. Choose your clicks accordingly.
Quote: ”I guess that’s some of our ‘luck’ that we’ve been having all season.” — Stanzi
Note: For the first time since 2000, Iowa had a 300-yard passer (Stanzi 337 yards), 100-yard rusher (Brandon Wegher 118) and two 100-yard receivers (Marvin McNutt 155 and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos 117).
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that hasn’t happened since 2009.
Why No. 89? — Hopefully, we reorder this one. I have it way too low. There was a lot going on and, man, 2009 was fun. Yes, even for me.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2009
IOWA CITY — Ricky Stanzi is nuts. He has to be.
In the third quarter, he was the king of Interception City. He threw four interceptions and the No. 7 Hawkeyes seemed to be headed to their first loss of the season. The Iowa quarterback actually passed Interception City and looked for the exit to Goat Town.
And not the good kind of “Goat town.”
The dream seemed resigned to die, at Kinnick, against Indiana. A painful death, to be sure.
It’s a good thing Ricky Stanzi is nuts.
“Nah, man, Ricky’s a great guy,” wide receiver Marvin McNutt said. “I wouldn’t call him schizophrenic.”
You certainly could call his performance that in the Hawkeyes’ crazy, nutty, schizo 42-24 victory over Indiana before 70,585 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
In the end, Stanzi had his first 300-yard, five-interception day. Freshman running back Brandon Wegher had career highs of 118 yards and three touchdowns. And the Hawkeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) had their first 9-0 record and ran their winning streak to 13 games.
It looked like the dream was dead. Indiana (4-5, 1-4) had leads of 14-0, 21-7 and 24-14, which it carried into the fourth quarter. Then the teams changed direction.
Going into a 17-mph wind in the third quarter that grabbed passes like Dorothy’s house, Stanzi threw four consecutive interceptions. The north end of Kinnick was the Pit of Ultimate Darkness. Stanzi was 4 of 11 for 48 yards with the four picks in the third.
Only the fourth-quarter direction switch and stellar defense saved the Hawkeyes.
Stanzi’s first pass attempt of the fourth quarter was a play-action rollout to McNutt. It went 92 yards for a TD and pulled Iowa to 24-21. Stanzi’s second pass was another hard play fake to a rollout. He found wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for a 66-yard TD pass and a 28-24 lead.
Stanzi’s third pass was another hard fake, play-action rollout to tight end Tony Moeaki for 19 yards. The drive ended with Wegher’s 6-yard TD run for a 35-24 lead with 7:34 left. Wegher added a 27-yard TD run at 1:12.
“It’s like Rick’s setting people up,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “It’s incredible. The way he’s able to stay calm and keep his composure, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Yeah, not outside of Hannibal Lecter and “Silence of the Lambs.”
”No, he’s not crazy. I don’t think he’s crazy,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He is mentally tough. He is definitely mentally tough. You talk about pushing it to the limit.”
He’s mentally something.
Stanzi always seems to find solace or comfort or strength or whatever somewhere inside. When he does something wrong, he knows what went wrong. By the time he’s back on the sideline, he’s done with it, as crazy as that sounds. He doesn’t get frustrated with himself, as crazy as that sounds.
”I know what the play was, I know what the coverage was and I know how I threw it,” said Stanzi, who finished 13 of 26 for 337 yards, five interceptions and two TDs. “No one (else) knows that. I’m not frustrated with anything. I would’ve made those same throws, because those are the right reads.”
Stanzi wouldn’t take the wind for an excuse. But it’s a good thing Iowa had the wind to its back in the fourth quarter when Stanzi went 3-for-3 for 177 yards and two TDs.
The most interceptions by an Iowa quarterback at Kinnick was Gary Snook’s seven against North Carolina State in 1965. Iowa lost that game, by the way. Instead, Stanzi spearheaded a 28-0 run in the fourth quarter.
“There were some crazy plays in this football game,” IU Coach Bill Lynch said.
There’s that word again. Stanzi’s performance was crazy, but the Prozac play of the day goes to Iowa safety Tyler Sash’s 86-yard interception return for a TD.
Indiana was going in for the kill, with third-and-goal from Iowa’s 2 and a 21-7 lead.
Next thing you know, linebacker A.J. Edds bashed quarterback Ben Chappell’s arm, the ball hit off Sash’s helmet, off Iowa D-tackle Christian Ballard’s hand, off IU tackle James Brewer and back to Sash, who had a clear shot to pull Iowa within 21-14 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
“It was crazy,” said Sash, who leads the Big Ten with six interceptions. “The ball bounced around and all of a sudden it was in my hands and I took off running.”
There’s that word again. But really, that was a three-hour straitjacket.