At the end of the first half of Saturday afternoon's Cy-Hawk game, Iowa was down by seven points and had the ball at the Iowa State 22. Kirk Ferentz brought on his field goal unit with enough time left on the clock to run another play or two, let the clock run down to the final seconds, then ran a fake field goal. Marshall Koehn ran for 17 yards, five fewer than were needed. Iowa was stopped short. Paul Rhoads went crazy. And everyone Iowa fan scratched his head. On the halftime show, Dave Wannstedt observed that Ferentz must be expecting his team would get plenty of opportunities to score.
Ferentz's gambit came just a few minutes after Rhoads, up 10-3 at the time, opted to punt on 4th and 1 on Iowa's side of the field, another surprising move that conveyed confidence in his team's ability to stop Iowa's offense and score more points under better circumstances. At the time Rhoads made that decision, he had good reason to believe: Iowa State had dominated the first quarter on both sides of the ball, and Iowa's offense looked discombobulated.
One coach's confidence was well-placed. This year, it was Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa shut out Iowa State in the second half and added three touchdowns during the final 30 minutes in a 31-17 win. The Cyclones managed just 66 yards of offense in the second half, with quarterback Sam B. Richardson completing just 7 of 18 pass attempts with a crippling fourth-quarter interception, and the Iowa State running backs combining for four carries and two yards. It was as complete a defensive rout as Iowa has pitched in this game, made even more impressive by the fact that the Hawkeyes' best defensive player, defensive end Drew Ott, left in the first half with a left wrist injury. The go-ahead touchdown was set up by a Desmond King punt return, and the win was sealed by a Desmond King interception, as Iowa's best cornerback atoned for some early mistakes.
Iowa's offense leaned on ISU for the first half, and the Cyclones eventually broke. Despite an injury to Leshun Daniels, the Hawkeyes took full advantage of holes in the Iowa State front seven, with Jordan Canzeri running for 124 yards on 24 carries and a late touchdown that gave the Hawkeyes a double-digit margin of victory. C.J. Beathard did almost as much with his feet (77 yards on 10 carries) as he did with his arm (15/25, 215 yards, 3 touchdowns), and it was Beathard's running and ability to create that got the Iowa offense out of its early doldrums.
Ferentz was clearly emotional after the win, an acknowledgment of just how difficult this week has been around the program. And the team, which had hung a locker for Tyler Sash before the game and walked hand-in-hand across the field to reclaim the Cy-Hawk Trophy, had a perfect place for its prize afterward.
And while the injuries to Ott and Daniels are certainly cause for concern, Iowa leaves Ames undefeated for the first time since 2009, the year Sash picked off three passes in a blowout win. The possibility of a special season remains. Iowa has survived this most difficult of weeks, and a rare Kinnick Stadium night game lies ahead.