Over the 20 years of Kirk Ferentz's tenure as Iowa's head coach, we've been fortunate enough to witness several game-winning kicks at the buzzer. Four to be precise, beginning with Daniel Murray's epic kick to knock off #3 Penn State in 2008 and most recently with Miguel Recinos' game-winner to earn a win over Nebraska last Friday. So let's take a look back at all of 'em.
2008: Daniel Murray vs #3 Penn State*
SCORE BEFORE THE KICK: Penn State 23, Iowa 21
SCORE AFTER THE KICK: Iowa 24, Penn State 23
DISTANCE: 31 yards
STAKES: Iowa entered the game at 5-4 and fresh off a loss at *checks notes* a loss to Juice Williams and Ron Zook at Illinois. Put mildly, the Iowa program was not in a particularly good place heading into this game. The glories of the 2002-04 period were fading; Iowa was just 24-22 since the magic of Tate-to-Holloway. Penn State entered this game at 9-0, ranked #3 overall, and visions of possibly playing for a national championship dancing through their heads.
AFTERMATH: Iowa before this game and Iowa after this game felt like entirely different entities. Starting with this game Iowa ran off a program-record 12 straight wins, including the 55-0 annihilation of Minnesota in the Metrodome's swan song, a dominating performance over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, and that dazzling, high wire act 9-0 start to the 2009 season. This win kickstarted that incredible season and paved the way for the entire second half of Kirk Ferentz's career at Iowa. Pretty important kick!
*Strictly speaking, this wasn't a 100% walk-off kick -- there was actually one second remaining in the game and Iowa did have to kick the ball off. But that kickoff was a formality and for all intents and purposes this was a walk-off kick, so we're going to treat it like one.
2015: Marshall Koehn vs Pitt
SCORE BEFORE THE KICK: Iowa 24, Pitt 24
SCORE AFTER THE KICK: Iowa 27, Pitt 24
DISTANCE: 47 yards
STAKES: Iowa entered the game at 2-0 off a solid win over Iowa State in Ames. Pitt entered the game 2-0 off wins over Akron and Youngstown State. There was not much buzz about this game outside of the fact that it was a night game at Kinnick, which is always adds a little extra pep to everyone's step.
AFTERMATH: This is one of those kicks that became much, much more important as the season progressed. At the time, this just seemed like a thrilling win for an Iowa team that looked pretty good. Two months later it was the closest win in Iowa's remarkable 12-0 regular season. That memorable campaign could have ended early if Iowa didn't get a win in this game. That said, Iowa wouldn't have lost this game if Koehn had failed to make it -- the game was tied at 24 apiece, so it would have gone to overtime if his kick had been missed. This kick probably deserves a few bonus points for the fact that it was 57 damn yards, making it one of the longest kicks in Iowa history; converting a kick like that at any point would be impressive, but doing so in a pressure-packed end-of-game scenario was even more impressive.
2016: Keith Duncan vs #2 Michigan
SCORE BEFORE THE KICK: Michigan 13, Iowa 11
SCORE AFTER THE KICK: Iowa 14, Michigan 13
DISTANCE: 33 yards
STAKES: Just like in 2008, Iowa entered a game against a top-3 ranked team at 5-4 and coming off a dispiriting road loss. In fact, in 2016 Iowa entered the game off back-to-back demoralizing losses, a 17-9 home defeat to Wisconsin in which the offense looked hapless and a 41-14 road loss to Penn State in which the entire team looked hapless. The magic of that 2015 season seemed well and truly gone. And then Josey told the offense to get 14 points and, well, you know what happened next. Michigan entered this game at 9-0 and ranked #2 in the AP Poll; visions of a College Football Playoff berth were dancing through their heads.
AFTERMATH: There was a nice immediate bump after this win -- Iowa trounced Illinois 28-0 and thumped Nebraska 40-10 to end the regular season -- but unlike 2008, it didn't trigger a lengthy run of success, but Iowa got shellacked 31-3 in the bowl game and the carry-over effect to 2017 was negligible. The images from this kick will last a lifetime, though, and personally, it will always hold a special place in my heart since I got to witness it live.
2018: Miguel Recinos vs Nebraska
SCORE BEFORE THE KICK: Iowa 28, Nebraska 28
SCORE AFTER THE KICK: Iowa 31, Nebraska 28
DISTANCE: 41 yards
STAKES: Iowa entered the game at 7-4 and off a 63-0 dismantling of Illinois that set or tied Iowa records under Ferentz for most points scored and biggest margin of victory. Of course, that blowout win came after a dismal three-game losing streak to Penn State, Purdue, and Northwestern that had killed Iowa's hopes of a Big Ten West title and any chances of a truly special season. A win over Nebraska meant that Iowa's senior class would go 4-0 against the Cornhuskers and also prevented Iowa's season from ending on a deeply sour note. Nebraska, at 4-7 entering the game, was playing only for pride and the chance to rub some added salt in Iowa's wounds. Like the 2015 Pitt kick, Iowa wouldn't have lost the game if Recinos had missed the kick, since it was tied. But it would have been almost impossible to feel good about Iowa's chances of winning considering that they had blown a 15-point lead and this would have been Recinos' second missed kick of the fourth quarter.
AFTERMATH: TBD, right? This kick just happened a few days ago. We don't even know what bowl game Iowa will be playing in this year, let alone if this win will have any sort of carry-on effect.
For me, personally, I'd rank the kicks accordingly:
1) Murray 2008
2) Duncan 2016
3) Koehn 2015
4) Recinos 2018
The Murray kick was such a special moment and, sure, my feelings about it are colored by all the incredible moments that came after it, but that's just part of the deal. I'd rank the Duncan kick behind it by only the slenderest of margins. I'd put the Koehn kick ahead of the Recinos kick because of the length (57 yards!) although even at 41 yards Recinos' kick may have had a slightly higher degree of difficulty thanks to the wind and rain at the end of the game. The Koehn kick also ended up meaning a lot more thanks to the rest of the 2015 season.
But what about you? Which kick was your favorite? How would you rank the game-winners? Let me know in the comments.