Welcome to Video Vault, where we take a look back at past games between Iowa and this week's opponent. Iowa has played everyone on this year's schedule previously (and played them multiple times, in most cases), so there are video-assisted memories to look back on for everyone on the slate.
It pretty much had to be this game, right? Iowa's had some closer-than-we'd-like wins over UNI during the Kirk Ferentz Era, but few of them are really that memorable (well, that time David Johnson turned Iowa's linebackers into kindling was memorable, but not in the good way), but no Iowa fan is ever going to forget this game.
A few thoughts:
- Hey, Hayden Fry was there! Always good to see the legend in attendance.
- The game started alright -- Iowa marched down the field and scored on their opening drive with a field goal.
- They forced UNI into a punt on the ensuing drive, but the problems started when Iowa got the ball back. UNI got pressure and Stanzi, uh, briefly lost his mind and ended up fumbling the ball. We didn't know it at the time, but early turnovers would kind of be A Thing for Stanzi in 2009; at least this wasn't one of the many early game Pick-6es that he tossed that year.
- UNI started on the Iowa 28 yard line after that fumble, but had to settle for a field goal because of the Iowa defense. The defense was the saving grace in 2009 and it proved that right from the beginning.
- Miss you, Tyler Sash.
- Iowa's offense did a whole lot of nothing after that opening scoring drive, going fumble, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs the rest of the half and picking up just three first downs. Not great!
- It wasn't all good news for the Iowa defense, either, as they gave up a 15-play, 91-yard drive that lasted over eight minutes. Suffice to say that going into halftime down 10-3 was Not The Plan to start the 2009 campaign.
- The second half started a bit more promisingly, with UNI fumbling the kickoff to start the half... but Iowa fumbled it right back almost immediately. That was pretty much the end of "Paki O'Meara, featured running back."
- After going down 13-3, the Iowa offense finally put together a decent-looking drive, which you can see starting at the 4:50 mark. Tony Moeaki, in better, healthier days! The blocking on Adam Robinson's 11-yard touchdown run was absolutely outstanding, too -- that was some "...and then the seas parted" blocking right there.
- Back-to-back sacks by Karl Klug and Christian Ballard on the drive after Iowa's touchdown. That defensive line in 2009 was none too shabby; we haven't even gotten to any Adrian Clayborn highlights yet.
- At 6:37: Stanzi-to-DJK. That was such a money connection for Iowa from 2008-2010 and that pass was an example of Stanzi at his best, threading the needle to get the ball to DJK.
- Stanzi-to-Moeaki gave Iowa their second touchdown of the day and their second lead of the day, 17-13. At this point things looked pretty good for the good guys. They had a chance to extend their lead on the next drive, but on fourth and one from the UNI 31, they opted to go for it -- and Robinson got stuffed. That was kind of no-man's-land in terms of go for it or kick the field goal, especially since Daniel Murray had missed a 48-yard kick in the third quarter. A pair of field goals in those situations (or even just another first down to allow Iowa to bleed some more clock) would have come in very handy, alas.
- UNI put together a scoring drive on their next possession, thanks to some big-time throws on third down from QB Pat Grace. They got the ball down to the Iowa 15-yard line with just over five minutes to go, but ended up having to settle for a field goal after an offensive pass interference call pushed them back to the Iowa 30-yard line. Going for a field goal when you're down four with 4:26 to go is an interesting choice, but considering it was 4th and 17, it was also the right one. UNI's defense had done well enough against Iowa's offense that day that Mark Farley could feel like his team would get the ball back and have another chance to score -- and they'd only need a field goal to win as well.
- Sure enough, Iowa wasn't able to run out the clock on their ensuing possession. A two-yard pass on 3rd and 6 is some good old-fashioned Iowa offense for sure. (Sigh.)
- Iowa got a good punt, though, and managed to pin UNI back on their own 8-yard line. The very first play of the UNI drive (7:56) could have been disastrous for the Panthers, though, as both Broderick Binns and Christian Ballard come close to getting their hands on Grace for a sack, but come up short; he ends up throwing a bit of a duck into the middle of the field, but there was no Iowa guy there to intercept it or knock it down and it goes for an improbable first down instead.
- 3rd and 9 from midfield with 29 seconds to go -- Iowa just needs a stop (well, and another stop on fourth down) to end the game. No dice. UNI gets a 6-yard completion and a 6-yard run to get down to the Iowa 23 with seven seconds to go. And then... madness. Just watch from the 8:51 mark on.
- Binns and his freaky long arms got the first block but right after that is when Iowa screwed up. You can see Tyler Sash and then Jeremiha Hunter waving the Iowa players away from recovering the blocked kick. If an Iowa player had just fallen on the ball and recovered it, it would have been Iowa ball with a second to go and Stanzi could have just taken a knee to end the game. Instead UNI recovered the live ball and since they had kicked it on first down, they still had three downs remaining in their possession, which meant they had another chance to attempt that game-winning kick. Thankfully Hunter got some immediate redemption and blocked the second attempt. This time an Iowa player did recover it (A.J. Edds, I believe), although it was also a moot point, since there was no time remaining on the clock.
- Iowa players seemed to think that the play was dead as soon as the first kick was blocked, but that was... wrong. The ball remains live after a block until it rolls out of bounds, into the end zone, or stops (and the official blows the play dead). Normally it doesn't matter if the kicking team recovers the blocked kick because they're usually kicking the ball on fourth down, so most recoveries would result in a turnover on downs anyway. Not so when you're kicking the ball on first down as UNI was here. This was a brain fart by the Iowa defense that would have resulted in one of the most embarrassing losses imaginable; instead this became one of the most improbable Iowa wins ever.
Seriously: you will never ever ever see an ending like this again. You will see game-winning kicks as time expires; hell, Iowa has had two of those in the last three seasons (Pitt 2015, Michigan 2016). It's less common to get a walk-off touchdown, but they still happen now and again (especially with overtime sessions). But winning a game on consecutive blocked kicks? No. Never. Winning a game on a single blocked kick is pretty rare in its own right, but blocking two straight kicks to hold on to a victory? You can watch football for the rest of your life and you'll never see something like this again.
Though we didn't know it at the time, this great escape victory set up what would be a theme for Iowa in 2009, with several comebacks and heart-stopping wins. The first nine wins of the 2009 season probably took five years off the lives of most Iowa fans. (Worth it.)
This win also seems like one of the bigger "What if" moments of the Kirk Ferentz Era. Because without this win the entire 2009 season probably doesn't happen and that season was the linchpin to the second half of Ferentz's tenure at Iowa. The upset over PSU and the subsequent winning streak over the rest of 2008 had turned things around somewhat for Ferentz, but he wasn't too far removed from the 6-7 win campaigns of 2005-07 and the off-field ugliness of City Boyz, Inc. and the Everson/Satterfield sexual assault investigation. The magical run in 2009 and the Orange Bowl win that it culminated in swept a lot of that aside. That run also did more than restore good vibes for the Iowa program; on a more tangible level, it also resulted in Ferentz getting a very lucrative extension with a very costly buyout, which effectively locked in him for the next several seasons.
None of that happens if Iowa loses this game to UNI. Granted, 2009 was such a high-wire act that you can say the same about a lot of the wins that year, but UNI was the first of the season and it was a tone-setter. An Iowa loss here erases the goodwill and positive momentum that had been built up after the PSU win and the dominant run to end the season. It's virtually impossible to see Iowa rebounding from a loss here and winning their next eight games as they did in reality after escaping with a win. If they drop a few more games during the regular season all of a sudden we're staring at another 7-5ish season and (obviously) no Orange Bowl win. There's probably no big contract extension waiting for Ferentz after that.
Without that extension it's hard to envision Ferentz surviving until now. Maybe we would have pulled another great season out of nowhere in 2010 or 2011 and gotten an extension then, but... probably not. There's a very good chance that Iowa would have found themselves looking for a new coach in the early 2010s if not for the two blocked kicks to salvage an ugly win over UNI. Maybe that results in a better run, maybe a worse run, but it would have been different for sure. But thanks to the most improbable ending to an Iowa game we can ever recall, that timeline is only an alternate reality. Go Blocked Kicks Awesome.