Like many of you, with more time in front of a screen recently, I’ve taken some time to go back and watch well known Hawkeye games and moments from the past. Today, we will be taking a look at the final drive from Iowa’s 15-13 victory over Michigan State in East Lancing in 2009. Everyone remembers the famous “7 got 6” call, but how much do you remember from the drive leading up to that moment?
Iowa is about to receive the ball on a kickoff down 9-13 with 1:37 remaining in the game and only one timeout. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returns the short kick to the 30 yard line taking just five seconds off the clock. Up pops this horrifying graphic.
Is it even possible?
Iowa needs to nearly double their total passing yards to this point in just 92 seconds with one timeout against a super physical MSU defense to win? Not looking good.
Iowa has no time to waste and gets exactly what they need here. Michigan State lines up with three down lineman, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. The outside corners are pressed up with two safeties deep. The slot corner bails prior to the snap giving the defense a 3-deep zone look.
The far left (from the offensive perspective) linebacker follows the slot receiver, Trey Stross, for just long enough on his crossing route (before attempting to pass him off) to leave space for Marvin McNutt to find space between the corner and inside defensive back who bailed deep. Sixteen yards. First down and the clock stops.
The next play is great coverage downfield forcing Stanzi to step up in the pocket and scramble for three yards. The clock is ticking off precious seconds at this point.
With less time to communicate, Michigan State has a more traditional setup with two deep safeties, but none are outside of the far hash. Stanzi takes a shot deep to McNutt but it is pretty well defended and knocked away. McNutt used a nice move to get off of the press coverage (we will come back to that later) but Stanzi isn’t able to put enough air under the pass to give him a realistic shot at a reception.
Iowa now faces 3rd and 7 with 54 seconds remaining. Knowing that they are in four-down territory, Iowa doesn’t worry about taking a big shot downfield, but ends up connecting on a 22 yard pass to Trey Stross. Once again we see Michigan State playing zone, but Iowa takes advantage of the linebackers on a simple drag route by Stross. The far-side linebacker attempts to chuck Tony Moeaki off his route, but in doing so gets off balance and isn’t able to get back to Stross who is coming across underneath the talented tight end. Adding to this is the middle linebacker ends up backpedaling over 15 yards downfield leaving the middle of the field completely clear. In another baffling turn, the nearside backer follows fullback Brett Morse out of the backfield after he chips one of the three pass rushers. All of these leads to all sorts of room for Stross to catch and run upfield. Iowa is back in business now down to the MSU 31 with 47 seconds and the clock stopping momentarily to move the chains.
With the defense not having time to fully communicate, Stanzi decides to take another shot down field on first down. Facing press coverage and no safety help, Iowa has Johnson-Koulianos run a double move. He has a step and makes the cornerback do a full-360, but Stanzi holds on to the ball a little too long and the pass ends up falling incomplete outside of the end zone. I remember jumping up and yelling, “HE’S GOT HIM!” right after DJK breaks from his move and thinking Iowa missed their chance to steal this game.
Following the incomplete pass, Michigan State decides they aren’t going to just sit back with only three pass rushers. On second down, the defense brings two linebackers and the slot corner on a blitz. Iowa picks it up and Stanzi makes a great read to find DJK for the first down. Credit to Johnson-Koulianos for going up and making the catch knowing he is exposing his body to a defense that was looking to take your head off any chance they could.
In a common theme from this drive, Iowa looks to take a shot downfield following the first down. This time it results in an interception. NOOOO! Just kidding, it is an obvious defensive holding penalty. In a classic Michigan State move the defender acts confused as to why there would be a flag when he has two fistfuls of jersey while nearly tackling the receiver during the route. First and goal from the seven with fifteen seconds remaining.
Seven Yards Away
You know it’s an important play for Iowa when they dig into the misdirection pass back to the tight end play, or as many of us know it...the Dallas Clark play. That’s where Iowa goes on first down, and it is the perfect call for the defense they faced. Michigan State brought pressure and was man-to-man on each receiver. Moeaki’s defender does a pretty good job of no abandoning him, but the play is made by the MSU corner who comes off of DJK to help over the top.
Once again MSU brings pressure in attempt to disrupt the passing game. At the top of the field, MSU is three on two against McNutt and Moeaki leaving Stross and DJK one-on-one to the field. The blocking is good, but it appears Stanzi and Stross are not on the same page. Incomplete pass. Third down and goal with five seconds remaining.
Iowa goes back to the same formation and MSU appears to have the same defense. This time however the linebacker over Moeaki comes on a delayed blitz. Stross runs a slant inside, but it is well defended and falls to the ground. Forth down. Two seconds. Iowa calls its final timeout.
It all comes down to this
Leading up to this, Michigan State has played press coverage on the outside receivers (McNutt and DJK) nearly every play. Iowa has looked to attack with a few double moves and misdirection. Because of this, McNutt has been using a stutter move at the line of scrimmage to try to shake the defender and get a clean release. He is constantly faking by stepping and giving a shoulder in one direction and breaking back in the opposite direction.
Iowa comes out with McNutt split to the boundary with Moeaki lined up at tight end on his side. Stross and DJK are split to the field side. Presnap, Iowa motions Moeaki across the formation dragging his defending linebacker with him. Because of the new formation, McNutt is forced to step up on the line of scrimmage. This leaves little room between him and his defending cornerback. Usually, this is an advantage to the defense because it is easier for the defender to jam. McNutt has been trying to shake the corner before getting into his route all game, so this time he takes advantage of that and doesn’t use any misdirection. He immediately steps inside gaining leverage on the defender who I’m sure was expecting the second move to go back outside for a fade pattern.
At this point, the 6’4” McNutt has won. It’s just a matter Stanzi delivering. Iowa’s offensive line does an outstanding job of splitting the defense in the middle and providing Stanzi with a clear throwing lane. TOUCHDOWN IOWA!!!
It’s a game I’ll never forget watching and moment where in jubilation I nearly put my hand through our ceiling fan. What were you doing when 7 got 6?