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Iowa 27, Missouri 24: Did That Really Just Happen?

In case you need a refresher... 

Uh... wow.  

* Micah Hyde, your place in Hawkeye history is secure.  The MSU pick was memorable enough, but that was also a tandem affair -- without Sash's catch and lateral, that play doesn't exist.  The pick tonight was 100% Hyde -- and roughly 1000x more meaningful since it, oh, won the game.  It was just a beautiful play -- a great read of Gabbert, an excellent catch, and a spectacular runback.  So two of the most incredible interceptions in recent Iowa history and arguably the most amazing touchdown in a bowl game outside of Tate-to-Holloway?  Yeah, that'll do just fine, Hyde -- no pressure trying to top that over the next two years.  Hyde's had some struggles over the course of the season, but he's also shown definite improvement -- and the playmaking ability he's flashed makes it pretty clear why the coaches were willing to hand him the keys to the other starting cornerback spot at the start of the season.

* Welcome to the show, Marcus Coker.  Midway through the fourth quarter, I was convinced that Coker would be the lead story of the game from an Iowa perspective, win or lose.  Then Hyde pulled that bit of magic out of his ass and, well, you know.  But that shouldn't overshadow the fact that Coker was absolutely, undeniably fantastic tonight -- and unquestionably the Man of the Match (though Hyde had the play of the game).  He was the total package -- utterly punishing defenders who tried to stop him (Jarrell Harrison got absolutely fucking Duong'd on one play and if anyone can provide a .gif of that, I will love them forever), showing impressive speed (like that breakaway 62-yard touchdown run in the first half), and even getting a few good blitz pick-ups in. About the only thing he didn't do is catch a pass and that's only because Stanzi didn't throw any checkdowns his way.  Coker set Iowa bowl records for attempts (33) and yards (219) andohyeah he's a true freshman.  Regardless of what happens to A-Rob in light of his most recent transgression, Coker's performance over the last month of the season is going to make it damn hard to name anyone but him the starter. (Please oh please keep your filthy paws off him, AIRBHG.)  And, by the way... totally called it.

* So, yeah, that play... Not gonna lie: I was kinda stunned that the officials overturned it.  Ultimately, I think it was the right call -- the more replays ESPN showed the more it really did seem like the ball was bobbling around in Moe's grasp and touching the ground -- but if the officials had decided that the evidence wasn't conclusive and they were sticking with the original call on the field... well, I wouldn't exactly have been surprised.  Was it a gift?  Maybe a little. But I'll take it -- it might be the first bit of good luck the Iowa defense has had since Damarlo Belcher dropped that pass in the endzone.

* Maybe happy endings do (sort of) exist.  For three quarters, Iowa's two most prominent seniors, Ricky Stanzi and Adrian Clayborn, were having farewell performances to forget.  Stanzi had been uneven in the first half and then did a full-on regression into his STANZIBALL flingin' self in the second half with two unconscionably bad interceptions (and a few more that were near-misses)... but he was able to make the game-icing pass to Reisner.  It wasn't a difficult pass (at all), but it was one that needed to be made and one that made an otherwise miserable performance a little more palatable.  It was also an example of the Iowa offense finally doing the one thing it couldn't do in so many of those late-season collapses: get a first down on offense to ice the game.  As for Clayborn, he was mostly invisible for the first three quarters (although he was hardly alone: Christian Ballard, Broderick Binns, and Mike Daniels were every bit as incognito in the game -- only Karl Klug made an impact from the defensive line) -- but he finally made a few key plays in the fourth quarter.  His pass rush on a third-down play early in the quarter forced a rare incompletion from Gabbert and a Mizzou punt.  And on Hyde's fateful interception, Clayborn's pass rush flushed Gabbert out of the pocket and into his horrendous decision.  Those plays won't erase a season's worth of disappointment by any means, but it was nice to see two players so integral to Iowa's success over the past three years able to end their Iowa careers on relative high notes.

* The future is now.  Despite being a senior-loaded team (25 to be precise, not counting the persona non grata that is DJK), almost all of the best players on the field for Iowa were freshmen or sophomores.  Marcus Coker, as already noted, is just a true freshman.  Two of Iowa's starting offensive linemen are sophomores (James Ferentz and Riley Reiff) and one of its regular contributors this year is a freshman (Nolan MacMillan).   And two other starters/regular contributors -- Adam Gettis and Marcus Zusevics -- are just juniors.  Most of an offensive line that spent all night opening big holes for Coker and keeping Stanzi's jersey clean (he was never sacked and rarely under pressure) should return next year.  Micah Hyde is a sophomore.  James Morris, who had a couple of clutch sacks (ZOMG IOWA BLITZED), is another true freshman.  Mike Meyer, who made two field goals and did a pretty solid job of getting his kickoffs deeper (he had at least one touchback), is yet another true freshman.  Losing so many seniors will still be a big blow, but there are definitely some very promising young players to build around, too.

And, sure, there are still things about this game to fret about -- for one, the obstinate stubbornness in sticking with the base 4-3 despite Gabbert shredding it right, left, and center (I think TJ Moe just caught another pass against poor Troy Johnson) was damn near fatal -- but for now it's probably best just to relax in the good feelings of this improbable, incredible win.  It's been a long time since we've been able to feel this way -- and it feels gooood.