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Four moments that defined Iowa football in 2019

There are certain moments that define a football team’s season. What are Iowa’s?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska
Keith Duncan’s 48-yard game-winning field goal denied Nebraska at a chance for a bowl.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Every season, football programs will have certain moments that define the season, both positively and negatively.

The Hawkeyes had plenty of moments to choose from.

2019 was a roller-coaster year for Iowa. The Hawkeyes started out 4-0, dropped two games in a row, and then won six of their final seven to boast a 10-win season, one of the best finishes under Kirk Ferentz.

Without further ado, here are the four moments that shaped Iowa football in 2019.

The Penn State loss

NCAA Football: Penn State at Iowa
Iowa moved the ball with ease against Penn State, it just couldn’t produce more than 12 points.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another winnable game against Penn State in which Iowa fell short. But that’s not why this game is on the list.

Iowa out-gained Penn State in total yardage 356-294, but only put up 12 points — a theme for 2019. Complaints regarding the Hawkeyes’ inability to score touchdowns (instead, settling for field goals), stemmed from this game and continued well into the season.

The Hawkeyes scored just one touchdown, and it came in the fourth quarter. Yet, Iowa still had a chance to win the game — another theme for 2019.

Also worth noting: Up until Nate Stanley’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Smith, the Hawkeyes had been held without a touchdown for seven consecutive quarters.

If you’re looking for a game that summed up Iowa’s offensive scoring struggles, look no further than this.

The Iowa defense’s final stop against Minnesota

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
Two sacks and an interception by the Iowa defense highlighted Minnesota’s final drive.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Want to talk about a defensive statement? The final Minnesota drive in Iowa’s 23-19 win on Nov. 16, 2019 is exactly that.

Joe Evans got to Gopher quarterback Tanner Morgan, sacking him for a three-yard loss on Minnesota’s first play of the drive.

The next play, A.J. Epenesa flew into the backfield, sacking Morgan again, this time for an eight-yard loss. After the play, Epenesa stood over the quarterback to express his feelings.

Morgan left the game, and Minnesota backup quarterback Cole Kramer entered in his place. His first pass fell incomplete.

Facing a fourth-and-21, Kramer dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Riley Moss.

That drive was the final gut-punch in Iowa’s win — a Gopher curb-stomp, if you will — capping off another signature win against a top-10 team in Kinnick.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s kickoff-return touchdown vs. USC in the Holiday Bowl

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Southern California vs Iowa
Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s 98-yard kickoff-return touchdown against USC proved to be the answer Iowa needed in the Holiday Bowl.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There were plenty of times this season when Iowa showed incredible resiliency, and this play serves as a prime example.

USC quarterback Kendon Slovis just threw a touchdown pass to Vavae Malepeai to cap off an 11-play, 77-yard drive which took up almost 5:30. The Trojans had found their rhythm offensively.

Then came the kick-six.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was beautiful. But it also was a well-timed answer to USC’s best drive of the game — just when the Trojans seemingly found their stride, the Hawkeyes punched back.

From there, Iowa outscored USC 28-10 en route to its most points in a bowl game under Kirk Ferentz, and one of the most dominating performances of the entire season.

Keith Duncan blows a kiss to Scott Frost and Nebraska

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska
Keith Duncan called game. The Iowa kicker ended Nebraska’s season with a 48-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The picture of Keith Duncan standing in front of the Nebraska bench and raising his arms will live forever.

Throw in the fact that seconds before, he blew a kiss to Husker head coach Scott Frost and Company.

Iowa took over at its own 26-yard line with 32 seconds left in in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Nate Stanley completed two passes for 22 yards each, moving the Hawkeyes into Husker territory.

Nebraska called back-to-back timeouts, attempting to ice Duncan, but to no avail.

Duncan drilled a 48-yard field goal with one second left in regulation.

It was a great sequel to Miguel Recinos’ comments after his game-winning kick last season, where he referred to the coach as “Ol Frost.”

Another year, another game-winning field goal for Iowa against Nebraska. Might as well pencil these in on the calendar every year.