Iowa Football

Iowa got the 'look' on 4th-and-8 and got the game against Nebraska

The Hawkeyes saw what they needed to see and converted a key fourth down

Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) gestures for a first down in the final moments of the fourth quarter at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. The Hawkeyes won the game, 31-28. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) gestures for a first down in the final moments of the fourth quarter at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. The Hawkeyes won the game, 31-28. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Nate Stanley stood under center with 42 seconds left. The Hawkeyes tried to draw Nebraska offsides. It wasn’t going to work.

Before Iowa’s sideline called timeout, Stanley thought the Hawkeyes would take the delay of game, punt and go into overtime.

“I didn’t know we were going to go for it,” Stanley said. “Coach (Kirk) Ferentz called a timeout and that was a play that we knew we had a shot at getting.”

The offsides thing didn’t work. The play the Hawkeyes called out of the timeout worked. Like really, really worked.

On fourth-and-8 from Nebraska’s 37, Stanley hit tight end T.J. Hockenson for 10 yards and a first down. Two plays later, kicker Miguel Recinos hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired and the Hawkeyes celebrated a 31-28 victory Friday.

The Hawkeyes were looking for a “look,” meaning Stanley needed to see the Huskers in a certain defense or he was going to call another timeout.

They got the “look.” Nebraska was in single-high safety. Safety Antonio Reed lined up over Hockenson, who was in the slot. The open door was Reed lining up 14 yards off the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-8.

Iowa got the “look,” and managed to poker face it.

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“Before the snap ... you’re pretty excited,” Hockenson said. “He was 15 yards deep and I just tried to stare him down so he wouldn’t move.”

Nebraska did everything Iowa thought it would do. It was Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz hitting the right button in the perfect moment against former Iowa teammate Huskers defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.

It’s good when you get the look you want, but obviously, it’s even better when it works.

“And it works? It’s awesome,” Ferentz said. “That’s what you work hard for. There’s so much precision, so much detail that goes into a play like that. The guys have done a good job. Then sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. We got it, pulled the trigger.

“Those guys did a great job. That’s the difference between winning and losing.”

It might’ve been. Iowa probably would’ve come out of that with overtime, but no one wants to spend a minute in that alternative reality. They don’t have to.

“We saw how far their safety was playing back,” tight end Noah Fant said. “Our coaches held that in their pocket if we ever needed it and it ended up working out for us.”

Nebraska did everything right to get to that point in the fourth quarter. The Huskers drove 80 yards in 13 plays and scored a TD and a 2-point conversion with 3:22 left in the game.

Huskers head coach Scott Frost thought Iowa was going punt, too.

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“That’s a gutsy decision by them,” Frost said. “I give coach Ferentz credit. ... They rolled the dice there, and I think we had the right defense on. We gave a little too much ground in one spot.”

The Hawkeyes knew the Huskers would blitz. They got the look they wanted.

“When they told us the play, I kind of knew it was coming to me,” Hockenson said. “Coach Brian and coach Ferentz went with their gut and it worked out.”

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

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