He called it a basketball move, a Euro-step.
What a ludicrous play Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon made to cap off Saturday’s 41-21 win at Penn State. That’s ludicrous, as in good.
No, ludicrously great.
With about two minutes to go, Nixon perfectly read a pass in the flat from Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford, reached his hands up and snagged the football at the Iowa 29. But that was just the beginning of the awesomeness here.
Nixon ran down the sideline. Clifford met him as he got near midfield.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder began to high step with the football in his left hand, then suddenly cut to his right, switching the ball to his right hand. Clifford helplessly slid past him, and Nixon raced to the end zone for quite possibly the best pick-6 from a defensive tackle you’ll ever see.
“My first (thought) was to run through the quarterback,” Nixon said. “But I saw that the right tackle was closer to me, so I was like ‘I’ve got to go score.’ When I get the ball in my hands, my first thing is I want to put it in the end zone. So that’s what I did.
“My first career touchdown ever, so it was just an amazing feeling to get that done.”
First ever TD? After showing off skills like that?
“Yeah,” Nixon said, with his characteristic big, wide smile. “When I was younger, I used to play for the North Chicago Flames in Lake County, Illinois. I had the ball one time when I was like 5 or 6. But I only had, like, a 5-yard gain.”
“I was on the sideline staying ready in case we needed to go back out there and finish it off,” said Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras. “At first, I was yelling (at Nixon) ‘Get down! Get down!’ Then I saw him running down the sideline, saw him Euro-step or whatever it was, and at that point my jaw dropped. I was in awe ... What an amazing play.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was asked is he would consider moving Nixon to the offensive side after a play like that.
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“The bad news is we’re probably going to be hearing about this probably for the next month, if not longer. That’s going to be very difficult,” Ferentz deadpanned. “Impressive play by an impressive player ... Daviyon has been playing really well. We talk about the line, the improvement they’ve been making, and Daviyon is a big part of that. He’s playing really well, has a great energy out there on the field. Just really proud of his growth and development.”
Nixon, of course, was a highly-rated recruit out of Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs who Alabama offered. He didn’t play at all in 2018, sitting out to work on getting his academics in order. He entered the transfer portal that following offseason.
But Nixon returned to Iowa, played part time up front last season for the Hawkeyes and has turned into one of the Big Ten’s best D-linemen this season. Not only was his interception and return humongous, but so was the tip of a Clifford pass early in the fourth quarter that fellow lineman Chauncey Golston ended up picking, leading to a short Keith Duncan field goal and a 34-21 Iowa lead.
Penn State had closed the gap from 31-7 to 31-21 at the time of Golston’s interception and had all the momentum.
“This team feeds off our energy. Everything we do starts up front, whether it’s the O-line or the D-line,” Nixon said. “It starts up front with us. We know we’ve got to go out every game, every snap, every series and try to make a difference in the game. We’ve been able to do that for the last couple of weeks here. That’s what we’ve got to try to keep doing.”
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