CyHawk Reign: Looking Back At Iowa's Current CyHawk Success

By RossWB on September 12, 2020 at 11:58 am

Long ago, back in the before times, when the only masks we had to worry about in regard to football were facemasks and the only spread we were worried about was whether Phil Parker's defense could slow down a spread offense, Iowa was scheduled to play Iowa State this weekend -- today, in fact. Iowa was set to enter that game with a five-game winning streak in the series, their longest over Iowa State since Hayden Fry ran off fifteen straight wins over our little brother out west from 1983 through 1997. Alas, due to, ah, ongoing circumstances -- waves hands frantically in all directions -- we're going to have to wait until 2021 before the Hawkeyes have a chance to make it six in a row over the Cyclones.

But in the absence of a new Iowa game to preview or discuss, let's look back at those last five wins over Iowa State and re-live the good times and may try to figure out which one was the best -- or at least your favorite. 

2015: Iowa 31, Iowa State 17

aka "The Comeback" 


Iowa entered this game with their worst momentum in the Cy-Hawk series since the beginning of Kirk Ferentz's tenure at Iowa, when he lost his first five games against the Cyclones. Iowa had lost three of four to Iowa State prior to 2015, highlighted (lowlighted) by a brutal home loss on a walk-off field goal in 2014. The defining loss of 2014 was probably the come-from-ahead chokejob against Nebraska in the regular season finale, but Iowa screwing around and blowing a game at home to a bad Iowa State team (they went 2-10 that season and 0-9 in the Big 12) was a pretty good embodiment of the frustrations of 2014, too. 

So Iowa -- and Ferentz -- entered the 2015 game with something to prove. Ferentz was under a lot of heat entering that season, especially after going 0-4 in trophy games the prior year. The Iowa State game was the first chance to reverse the bad mojo from 2014 and show that those trophy game struggles were a thing of the past. Iowa didn't get off to a great start, though, and trailed 17-10 at halftime. 

It would be tempting to say that the second half was all Iowa, and there's some truth to that, given that they outscored Iowa State 21-0 after the break and outgained them 229 to 66. Iowa State's seven drives in the second half went: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs. They ran zero plays on the Iowa side of the field. And yet... the game was tied 17-17 with just over two minutes to play. Iowa dominated the second half -- everywhere but on the scoreboard. All it would take was one freak play for Iowa's dominance to be for naught -- and any Iowa fan who has watched enough CyHawk games over the last 20 years can attest to how often it's seemed like those freak plays have gone Iowa State's way. The fact that Iowa had an 11-play, 87-yard drive end with a Jordan Canzeri fumble at the ISU 7-yard line did nothing to exorcise those demons. But...


...then C.J. Beathard threw one of the finest passes of his Iowa career and zipped a ball to Riley McCarron for a 25-yard touchdown that gave Iowa their first lead of the game, with 2:14 to play. Desmond King snatched an interception three plays later and Canzeri tacked on a game-icing touchdown on an 8-yard carry two plays after that. Game, set, CyHawk. 

THE MVP: C.J. Beathard

Shouts to Canzeri (124 yards and that game-icing TD on 24 carries) and Matt VandeBerg (game-high 114 yards and a score on nine catches), but this game was all about Beathard, who had one of his most brilliant overall performances. Despite Iowa's propensity for statue-esque pocket passers over the last 20 years, the offense has always worked best when it had a QB who was a legitimate threat to run the ball, or could at least make a play or two with his feet if necessary. Beathard was no Brad Banks, but he could scoot when he needed to, as evidenced by the 57-yard scramble he had in this game. Injuries slowed Beathard and kept him largely pocket-bound for long stretches of the season after this game (and again in 2016), but this game was always a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been. Beathard was also pretty locked in from a throwing standpoint here, going 15/25 for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns. The quality of some of those throws -- watch those highlights again -- were utterly top-notch as well. He threw some absolute darts in this game. 

2016: #16 Iowa 42, Iowa State 3

"The Beatdown"


Iowa State cut ties with Paul Rhoads after a 3-9 campaign in 2015, his third straight season with three or fewer wins. He finished 3-4 against Iowa, which actually made him the first ISU coach since Jim Walden (0-8) to finish with a losing record against Iowa. (Dan McCarney and Gene Chizik both finished with .500 records against Iowa, 6-6 and 1-1, respectively.) In place of Rhoads Iowa State hired an up-and-comer from the MAC, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell. 

Hiring out of the MAC is always a crapshoot; sometimes you hit a home run (Urban Meyer), sometimes you ground into a triple play (Tim Beckman). At Toledo alone, the highs are high (Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel) and the lows are dreadfully low (again: Beckman, Tim). In fact, Iowa has history of its own with a Toledo hire that went awry; Frank Lauterbur went 48-32-2 at Toledo and won three MAC titles while posting two perfect seasons and a 35-game (!) winning streak with the Rockets. He parlayed that into the Iowa job... where he promptly went 4-28-1 and was dismissed after going 0-11 in 1973 (though he actually wasn't fired specifically for going 0-11, but for refusing to fire his defensive coordinator, the incredibly-named Ducky Lewis).

Anyway, four years in I think it's safe to say that Campbell has been more of a stud than a dud at Iowa State. But he took plenty of lumps during his first season in Ames -- and Iowa has more than happy to dish them out that year. Ferentz's tenure at Iowa has been marked by a tightening of the CyHawk rivalry in so many ways -- Iowa is 12-9 against ISU during his 21 years in charge and there have been more close, nervy games than you can shake a stick at -- but this game was a throwback to the one-sided CyHawk routs of yore that characterized so much of Hayden Fry's dominance in the series. 

The 42 points Iowa scored in this game were (at the time) the most Iowa had scored in a CyHawk game under Ferentz (a distinction that lasted all of one season) and the most since Iowa posted 63 over in Hayden's final win over the Cyclones in 1997. The 39-point margin of victory was also Iowa's biggest in the series under Ferentz. And it could have been even worse -- Iowa punted on its first drives of each half and didn't even try particularly hard to score in the fourth quarter of this game (they took a 42-3 lead with 1:33 left in the third quarter). Iowa hasn't had that many "name your score" games against Iowa State over the last two decades, but this was absolutely one of them, an utterly humbling beatemdown performance from start to finish. 


Given that this game was never especially in doubt, it's hard to single out any play in particular as being the most critical. But let's go with Iowa's second touchdown, a 26-yard toss from Beathard to a wide-open Akrum Wadley down the middle. That score gave Iowa a 14-0 lead in the game and was pretty emblematic of the fact that Iowa could -- and did -- do whatever they wanted to against Iowa State on offense in the game. 

THE MVP: AkShun Danley

Likewise, in such a one-sided drubbing, it's hard to find a single player that stood out as the key man in the game. Beathard had another coolly efficient performance passing the ball -- 19/28 for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns -- and VandeBerg continued to terrorize the Iowa State secondary with seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. But Iowa's running backs had a pretty dominant performance, so let's cheat and go with the terrifying hybrid running back monster known as Akshun Danley; Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels combined for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 25 touches in this game, which is a pretty beastly performance. 

2017: Iowa 44, Iowa State 41 (OT)

"The Shootout" 



After one of the least competitive games of the last 20 years of CyHawk games, we got one of the absolute wildest and tightest CyHawk games just a year later. Iowa State entered this game looking for payback after getting humiliated in 2016 and hoping to take a big leap forward in Campbell's second season; Iowa entered trying to shake off the malaise of 2016 and breaking in Nate Stanley at QB. What we got in the end was one of the most purely entertaining (and highest-scoring) CyHawk games ever.

Iowa and Iowa State traded punches from the jump in this game, starting with an Iowa State touchdown six minutes into the game. Iowa answered back with a touchdown pass to Nick Easley five minutes later and the tone for the game was set. ISU went up with a field goal four minutes into the second quarter, before Iowa took their first lead of the game on a touchdown catch from Noted Cyclone Killer Matt VandeBerg right before halftime. 

Iowa opened up their biggest lead of the game -- 21-10 -- halfway through the third quarter after a Wadley touchdown run, but they weren't able to take control of the game. ISU answered that Wadley score with a pair of lightning-fast touchdown drives sandwiched around an Iowa punt and retook the lead at the end of the third quarter. When Iowa State scored a touchdown on their third straight drive and opened up a 31-21 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter, Iowa was definitely on the ropes. 

The Iowa offense awoke from its second half slumber and churned out an 11-play, 92-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to three before the Iowa defense came up with a critical turnover courtesy of an interception by Parker Hesse (!), which led to an Iowa field goal to tie the game with five minutes to play. This game was nowhere near over, though, as ISU retook the lead moments later on a 74-yard touchdown bomb to Hakeem Butler. After the Iowa offense went three and out, the Iowa defense forced an ISU punt for the first time since early in the third quarter, giving Iowa one final chance to tie the game with three minutes remaining. They only needed two, courtesy of Akrum Wadley and one of the best runs after the catch in recent Iowa history. 

Wadley's incredible touchdown tied the game and took it to overtime and after the Iowa defense produced another strong series and held Iowa State to a field goal, the Iowa offense took the field with a chance to win the game -- and did not disappoint. Five plays later, Nate Stanley threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game (to Ihmir Smith-Marsette) and Iowa had won one of the wildest CyHawk games ever played. It's tied with the 2011 CyHawk game (another OT game, although that one was won by the bad guys, sadly) as the highest-scoring game in the series (85 points). 


In a game as tightly-contested and back-and-forth as this one, there were no shortage of critical plays to choose from, and you can make arguments for Smith-Marsette's game-winning touchdown catch or Hesse's interception that led to Iowa tying the game late in the fourth quarter, but the call here has to be Wadley's incredible catch-and-run touchdown to tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter. That's the play everyone will remember from this game; that's a play Iowa fans will still be remembering decades from now. Wadley had a stunning number of big plays and huge touchdowns in his Iowa career -- but arguably none bigger than this one. 

THE MVP: Akrum Wadley

It's hard not to go with Nate Stanley here, given how utterly brilliant he was in going 27/41 for 333 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions. Iowa needed a huge game out of Stanley to win this game and he absolutely delivered. If you wanted to name him the MVP, I would understand. But Wadley was utterly next level in this game: 28 carries, 118 yards, and a touchdown on the ground, plus four catches for 72 yards and that aforementioned touchdown reception for the ages. That touchdown gives Wadley the edge here. 

2018: Iowa 13, Iowa State 3

"The Slugfest"


A year after the highest-scoring CyHawk game ever, Iowa and Iowa State produced the exact opposite, a defensive slugfest that featured just one touchdown. Iowa and Iowa State combined for 16 points in this game, making it the third lowest-scoring CyHawk game since the resumption of the series in 1977; only Iowa State's 9-6 win in 2012 (sigh) and Iowa's 10-3 win in 1988 featured fewer points than this one. 

Iowa entered this game trying to win their fourth straight CyHawk game, something they'd never done under Ferentz, while Iowa State was trying to get their third win in Kinnick Stadium in their last four tries, as well as Matt Campbell's first win over Iowa as they tried to build off an 8-5 performance in 2017 that featured wins over two Top 5 teams. What we got was... a slog. 

Neither team cracked 300 yards of offense; Iowa State didn't even top 200. Iowa State went 4/14 on third down; Iowa managed just 6/17. Iowa State averaged 0.8 yards per carry; Iowa ground out 2.9 yards per carry. Iowa State had almost as many punts (8) as first downs (11). (Iowa was a little better, with 5 punts against 14 first downs.) 

Iowa State got on the board first with a field goal halfway through the first quarter, though in hindsight even the story of that scoring drive was the defense. Iowa State had first and goal from the Iowa 2-yard line, but was unable to punch in a touchdown. They never got closer than that to the Iowa end zone the rest of the game and ran just two plays on the Iowa side of the field in the remaining 52 minutes. 

After a missed field goal in the first quarter, Iowa took advantage of a disastrous 13-yard punt that gave Iowa the ball at the ISU 28-yard line to score a game-tying field goal. The defense kept ISU's offense bottled up, but the Iowa offense couldn't do much either and didn't take a lead until another Miguel Recinos field goal halfway through the third quarter. Iowa finally got breathing room in the game with the game's only touchdown after a 13-play, 83-yard drive that ate up half of the fourth quarter. That drive featured the offensive highlight of the game... 


...a beautiful 30-yard over-the-shoulder catch from Brandon Smith from a Nate Stanley pass that set up Iowa at first and goal from the ISU 2-yard line. One play later Mekhi Sargent made it 13-3 Iowa and Iowa fans could finally exhale. {Honorable mention on "key play" goes to the defensive stand to hold ISU to a field goal in the first quarter, as well as A.J. Epenesa's strip-sack fumble to ice the game in the fourth quarter.)

THE MVP: A.J. Epenesa

The story of this game for Iowa was the defense and the best player on that defense was -- surprise! -- Epenesa. Two games into his sophomore season Epenesa was already showing how much of a monster he could be, as he finished with five tackles, two sacks, a pass deflection, and that aforementioned forced fumble that clinched the victory for Iowa. When Iowa needed plays out of the pass rush the last two seasons, Epenesa delivered more often than not and this game was one of his first big breakout performances.  

2019: #19 Iowa 18, Iowa State 17

"The Doink" 


There are a lot of potential nicknames for this game. The Weather Delay Game, given that there was a nearly three-hour weather delay in the middle of the game. The Comeback II, given that Iowa overturned a 14-6 deficit in the second half to win. The GameDay Game, given that ESPN's College GameDay made their first-ever trip to Ames for this game. Or the Carson King Game, given his Venmo plea that went viral. But this game is going to be remembered for one thing: the doink. The beautiful, beautiful doink. 

But before we get to the doink, let's set the stage. GameDay was in Ames for this game because this was supposed to be the biggest CyHawk game ever, or at least the most hyped. In fact, it was supposed to be the first-ever CyHawk game pitting two ranked teams, as both teams entered the 2019 season ranked in the Top 25. ISU's near-miss against UNI in their opener killed that possibility as the pollsters dropped them out of the Top 25. But the game still had a mountain of hype and build-up before either team took the field. 

The game itself didn't exactly live up to that hype -- even before the weather made things messy, the game was a bit of a grind, though probably moreso for Iowa than Iowa State. ISU finished with over 400 yards of offense, including 300+ through the air and averaged almost 5.0 yards per carry on the ground. So how did that translate into just 17 points? Both of their touchdown drives were lengthy (75+ yards), but they also had five drives ended that ended without points on the Iowa side of the field, including four (!) punts and a fumble right before halftime. Those missed opportunities cost ISU dearly. 

Iowa, meanwhile, adopted the tortoise approach to scoring: slow and steady. They ran the field goal play early and often, opening up the scoring with a Keith Duncan 3-spot and then adding another triple in each quarter. They deviated from the Duncan field goal model approach to scoring just once, with a Nate Stanley QB sneak for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give them a 15-14 lead. ISU marched right down the field for a field goal to regain the lead. That left Iowa down 17-15 with just under 8 minutes to play. Trailing late in the fourth quarter in Ames? Nate Stanley's been there, done that and he engineered another fourth quarter scoring drive here, with back-to-back passes to Mekhi Sargent and Brandon Smith chewing up 40+ yards and getting Iowa into field goal position. Keith Duncan took care of business from there and the only thing left was to hold on. 

"Holding on" was easier said than done, of course -- Iowa forced ISU into a turnover on downs in the next series, but wasn't able to run out the clock and end the game, as a three-and-out led to them needing to punt the ball back to Iowa State with 90 seconds to go. And then... 


...magic happened. There were a lot of pivotal plays in this game, which Adam skillfully documented in his recap of the game last year. Geno Stone's forced fumble when Iowa State was driving for a possible two-score lead late in the first half? Huge. A stunning conversion from Stanley to Smith-Marsette on 3rd and 22 in the third quarter? Massive. A Stanley first down scamper on 3rd and 11 in the fourth quarter? Enormous. Iowa needed all of those plays to win the game, without question. But there's a different play that people are going to remember from this game... the doink. The beautiful, beautiful doink. 

12 months later and it's just as delightful as it was that September evening. 

THE MVP: Keith Duncan

Shouts to Devonte Young for one of the all-time great "right place, right time" plays in Iowa history and props to Geno Stone, who led Iowa with eight tackles (one TFL) and made some massive stops in this game, but the choice here is pretty obvious. Keith Duncan was Iowa's most reliable offensive weapon in this game and he delivered again and again -- in field and weather conditions that were far from ideal. Duncan was 4/4 from the spot, with three of those kicks coming from at least 39 yards out. He had a season for the ages in 2019 and it really began with this game. 

So which of these five wonderful Iowa wins over Iowa State was your favorite? Hit up the comments and let us know -- and vote in the poll, too. 

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