The ghost of Steele Jantz has been vanquished. Six years ago, Iowa lost a triple-overtime thriller to Iowa State, 44-41, behind a career-best game from Steele Jantz. This year, Jacob Park played the role of Jantz, going 25/46 for 347 yards and four touchdowns (and one very costly interception). But this year's story had a different ending thanks to Nate Stanley and Akrum Wadley, who led Iowa to a 44-41 win in (single) overtime.
The insanity of this game was somewhat late-arriving. It was 14-10 Iowa at halftime and 21-10 Iowa halfway through the third quarter. If anything, it looked like countless other Iowa wins over Iowa State in the Ferentz Era -- a methodical win with a lopsided margin of victory. We were somewhere around the edge of the third quarter when the drugs began to take hold. Iowa State scored on three straight possessions to turn an 11-point deficit into a 10-point lead with 12 minutes to go. We went from confident to despondent in less time than it takes to heat up a few Hot Pockets. After multiple three-and-outs during Iowa State's scoring binge, though, the Iowa offense awoke in the fourth quarter and ran off 17 points. In all, the fourth quarter featured 31 points; there were some pundits who didn't think these teams would score 31 points total in this game (Vegas was a little more bullish -- the over-under was 49 -- but these teams still crashed through that mark early in the fourth quarter).
Stanley had himself a coming out party to remember in Ames, throwing for 333 yards (!) and five touchdowns (!!!) in the victory. And he could have been an even bigger day -- he had Noah Fant and Ihmir Smith-Marsette running free behind the defense on a few occasions and overthrew them. If he can get his timing down on deep passes... well, we could have something pretty exciting in the passing game. Stanley spread the wealth today, throwing the ball to nine different receivers, with seven guys having at least two catches. Nick Easley scored Iowa's first touchdown of the day and led the way with seven catches, albeit for 48 yards. Matt VandeBerg did what he does best -- score touchdowns against Iowa State -- on the way to a three-catch, 42-yard game.
And Ihmir Smith-Marsette... welcome to the show. He went from fumbling his first touch last week to making multiple key plays today. He had four receptions for 36 yards and two touchdowns, a spectacular diving catch during Iowa's fourth quarter comeback and then, of course, the game-winner in overtime. They even went back to him on the end-around play that busted so badly last week; this time it went for seven yards. Progress! But Smith-Marsette came through in a big way today and it's definitely thrilling to see Iowa getting such a positive contribution from a new face at the wideout position. Coming into this season, we knew Iowa would need to find some answers at that position and through two weeks we've got pretty encouraging signs from Easley and Smith-Marsette -- we'll certainly take that.
Stanley also did a good job of getting the tight ends (and fullback!) involved in the passing game. T.J. Hockenson had two catches for 41 yards, while Noah Fant had three catches for 30 yards. There was the potential for so much more from Stanley and Fant, too; if Stanley can get his timing down on deep passes, Fant is going to be a monster because his speed at the tight end position is too much for most defenders to handle. And the passes to Drake Kulick made our heart sing; tight ends and fullbacks being a part of the Iowa offense again? KOK is definitely back, baby.
If Stanley had a coming out party, Wadley simply reminded everyone that he is the offensive lodestone for Iowa. He ran for 118 yards on 28 carries (4.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown (which brought back echoes of Brandon Wegher's memorable leaping score against Iowa State in Ames in 2009), then added a team-high 72 yards on four receptions and the game-tying touchdown that sent things to overtime. 190 yards of offense? On a day when he (and the offensive line) occasionally struggled to get going? Yeah, that will do just fine.
The good news, obviously, is that Iowa won 44-41 today. The, um, less-good news has to do with that 41 points conceded. The Iowa defense was spectacular last week, especially Josey Jewell, as evidenced by the bushel of Defensive Player of the Week awards he earned. He -- and the defense as a whole -- won't be winning any awards this week. Park, as noted above, went pretty much full-Steele Jantz on Iowa in this game, lighting them up again and again, especially for a stretch in the third and fourth quarter when Iowa State's offense looked unstoppable and Iowa's defense had no answers. They did make a few key plays late, thankfully -- Parker Hesse's stunning interception deep in Iowa State territory was massive, the defense kept Iowa State from even getting close to considering a field goal attempt on the final drive of regulation, and the defense held Iowa State to a field goal in overtime (abetted by Hakeem Butler's surprising drop), which set up the game-winning score -- but overall this was a day to forget for the Iowa defense.
They struggled at all three levels. The defensive line occasionally got pressure on Park (especially when A.J. Epenesa was in the game; he's going to be getting a lot of snaps very very soon at his current pace), but when they didn't, Park had time to shred the defense. The linebackers were so sound against Wyoming a week ago, but there was some woeful tackling on display today. Part of that credit should obviously go to ISU running back David Montgomery, who was incredibly elusive for much of the game, but bad tackling played a role as well. The secondary is always going to have problems when the defensive front can't get enough pressure, but today was definitely a worst-case scenario for Iowa's young secondary. Jake Gervase missed tackles and made mistakes in coverage, but Josh Jackson, Manny Rugamba, Michael Ojemudia, and Amani Hooker made their share of errors as well today. I'm sure everyone will find a lot of things to improve upon in film study this week.
But those are issues to discuss later. Now? We dance, because that game was full of thrills, chills, and spills and holy crap this is why we love college football: