AMES — Had the weather cooperated, you could almost have driven from Iowa City to Ames to Iowa City to Ames in the time it took to play Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State game.
Iowa’s Hawkeyes scored last on the longest football day in this state’s college football history to secure an 18-17 win over Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. At 9:05 p.m., a little over six hours after the game began and 13 hours after ESPN’s College GameDay opened here, a rivalry trophy was headed back on the highway to Iowa City.
The last meaningful play of this game may have been its defining play. Iowa State’s Datrone Young ran into teammate Deshaunte Jones as Jones was trying to fair-catch a punt with 1:29 left at the ISU 22 and the score 18-17.
The Hawkeyes’ Devonte Young pounced on the ball, effectively ending the game since the Cyclones were out of timeouts.
“Cover the ball,” Devonte Young said when asked what he was thinking in that spot. “Just go down there and cover it.
“I just gave it my all. I play like that every other play and see what happens. I gave it my all.”
Iowa State had two turnovers, Iowa none. The Hawkeyes made special teams plays in virtually every aspect of special teams. They were superior in those, negating ISU’s 105-yard edge in offense.
The Hawkeyes made plays. Nate Stanley made plays, running and passing.
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Iowa State QB Brock Purdy had the better numbers. He’s good, and one day may be great. Stanley made more winning plays. He made a sensational one when he hooked up with Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a 27-yard pass on third-and-22 late in the third quarter on the way to Keith Duncan’s third field goal.
Stanley threaded a needle, putting the ball between three Cyclones.
First-time starting cornerback D.J. Johnson made plays, too. Duncan and punter Michael Sleep-Dalton were impeccable. And Devonte Young, who has changed positions on Iowa’s defense but hasn’t broken through on that unit over his four years, has been Devoted Young when it comes to special teams.
He had his biggest career moment Saturday.
Once Young realized he had recovered that fumble, he said his first thought was “Finally, it’s over.”
This game was start-and-stop, six hours long. That isn’t natural in football. Yet, this became one of the best games in this series’ history.
Iowa led 3-0 during Weather Delay No. 1, a relative first-quarter quickie at 49 minutes. Iowa State led 7-3 when the officials called for Weather Delay No. 2, a doozy that covered two hours and featured hard rain, lightning, thunder and general ugliness.
Hey, Cyclones, when your accompanying soundtrack to your team running onto the playing field before the opening kickoff is a blaring weather siren, you should expect these things.
Residents of Ames reported hail as dime-sized, penny-sized and even quarter-sized. It probably felt like getting hit in the head with a bag of coins to those who so looked forward to this game.
Many of them — and many means many, many, many — got to the Trice parking lots when they opened at 5 a.m. to try to get close to the set of the morning broadcast of GameDay, held just south of the stadium.
When the biggest traffic jam of the day for a 3 p.m. kickoff is 10 hours earlier, it’s not a run-of-the-mill game of any kind. When a game ends six hours after it began, it’s not a run-of-the-mill game of any kind.
When Iowa plays with a depleted defensive secondary and still finds a way to win? Not run-of-the-mill, not a bit.
“We started out bumpy,” said one of the two remaining healthy vets in the secondary, junior safety Geno Stone. “I was frustrated in the beginning.
“Everybody grew up fast coming into an environment like this, coming to a road environment. ... I want to give hat’s off to D.J. and Jack (Koerner). They really grew up a lot in the second half, really turned it around.
“That was one of the key parts to our game.”
At one point during the second weather stoppage, there was a big, beautiful rainbow with bright sun beating down on the Jack Trice Stadium stands while lightning bolts crackled not far in the distance.
But once the deluge ended, a slobberknocker took its place. Back and forth.
Oh, there was a game played after the deluge, after all. Again, it went back and forth.
After having scored on a 51-yard pass from receiver Jones to receiver La’Michael Pettway in the first quarter, Purdy got one of his own in the first minute of the third period. His bomb to Tarique Milton was on the mark, and Milton cruised home after getting behind Stone for a 14-6 lead.
It wasn’t Stone’s fault. The secondary’s coverage was blown. Johnson and Koerner are freshman, and Purdy can be a vulture.
The score could have been 17-3 or even 21-3. Hoever, Purdy fumbled away the ball at the Iowa 19 with five minutes left in the second quarter, and the Hawkeyes came downfield for a field goal that made it 7-6.
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Not that Purdy was anything resembling a goat in the first three quarters. He completed 16 of his first 17 passes.
But another chance to jump on Iowa slipped away in the third frame when it was 14-6. The Cyclones drove from their 13 to Iowa’s 37, then stalled. The Hawkeyes followed with a possession that netted a third Keith Duncan field goal.
Then, ISU’s Johnnie Lang made the costly special-teams error of returning a kickoff rather than taking a touchback, and was stopped at the Cyclones’ 6. A three-and-out and a line drive punt helped Iowa to the ISU 25.
This time, the Hawkeyes finally cashed in with a touchdown. Stanley’s legs tipped the scales. He ran for 14 yards on third-and-11 to the 12. He ran for 6 yards on second-and-8 to the 4. And on first-and-goal at the 1, he didn’t mess around. He plowed in behind his blockers, and Iowa had a 15-14 lead with 12:10 left.
Iowa State answered with a field goal on a drive stymied at the Iowa 9 for a 17-15 edge with 7:46 left. Back and forth.
About three minutes later, Duncan made another field goal and the Hawkeyes led 18-17. Back and forth. And then, for Iowa State, thud.
The Cyclones were stopped without a point after getting as deep as the Iowa 34, stopped Iowa on downs, but didn’t get the ball back because of a botched fair catch in the game’s 59th minute.
On a weird day, Iowa never turned the ball over and made enough plays. Everyone in the Hawkeye locker room surely agreed on this: It was worth the wait.
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