Comment by the judge: “Writer did an excellent job in pointing out not only was it an upset, but the surprising number of points Iowa scored on Ohio State. Good historical facts on most points Iowa scored in the series and how long it had been since Hawkeyes scored so many points. Also Iowa’s recent history of upsets at Kinnick Stadium. Very good quotes to back up the facts.”
By John Bohnenkamp
The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)
IOWA CITY — It was over in eight seconds.
The first offensive play of the game, Iowa safety Amani Hooker roared in front of a pass from Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett for a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, the first points in the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 win over the third-ranked Buckeyes…
Wait, wait, wait.
Against Ohio State?
“We were having fun out there,” running back Akrum Wadley said. “You’re doing the right thing when you’re having fun.”
But 55 points, from an team that had scored just 27 in its last two games — 10 in a loss at Northwestern, 17 in a home win over Minnesota?
Wadley remembered when he was interviewed about the game earlier in the week, when he was confident that something big was coming..
“You guys were looking at me like I was (crazy),” he said. “We believe in this.”
Saturday’s win was another one of those November shockers by the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium, who have knocked off four top-five teams here in their last five tries.
Magic in autumn’s gloom is in the eyes of the ones pulling off the upset.
“What stands out,” said Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, who threw for 226 yards and five touchdowns, “is how well we played as a team.”
“When we execute in every phase of the game, we’re going to play a game like this,” linebacker Josey Jewell said.
“It’s got the Kinnick curse, or whatever you want to call it,” Ohio State center Billy Price said.
It was only the fourth win for the Hawkeyes (6-3 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) over the Buckeyes (7-2, 5-1) in the last 30 years — they don’t play each other much, though, this was the first matchup since 2013.
It’s the most points scored by an Iowa team ever in the series, the most points scored by the Hawkeyes against a ranked team since a 55-17 win over Texas in the 1984 Freedom Bowl.
Ohio State was favored by double digits — the line had pushed to 20 in the hours before the game.
“We came into this game heavy underdogs, and for good reason,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Ohio State is a tremendous football team. But the big thing is our guys really believed in themselves all week long. They had a good week of preparation, and then most importantly came out and really played with great energy, great effort, a lot of grit, and played opportunistic football, and that’s important in a game like this.”
“We didn’t care who they were,” said Wadley, who rushed for 118 yards. “From my point of view, if you keep thinking about stuff like that, if you overrespect somebody, you get nervous. I try to think everybody is the same.”
It’s a defeat that will prove fatal to the Buckeyes’ national championship hopes.
It was only the second road loss for coach Urban Meyer since he came to Ohio State.
Someone asked him if there were any signs that a defeat like this was coming.
“No,” he said.
The sign came eight seconds in. The Hooker interception was the first of four for Barrett — he had only one all season coming in — with the other three going to cornerback Josh Jackson.
“I definitely think it set the tone,” Jewell said. “Sometimes you start off slow and you don’t want to do that. But in this game, it started off right.”
“All eyes are on J.T. Barrett,” Wadley said. “He’s the QB, first play, they think it’s supposed to be easy money for Ohio State. Then, boom, Amani Hooker.”
The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes traded scoring drives — it was 17-17 before Iowa finally took control with 31 unanswered points.
Barrett, a Heisman Trophy candidate coming in, was rattled at times, thanks mostly to an ever-changing Iowa defense.
“It was a little bit of everything,” Jackson said.
“They just played very well against us,” Meyer said.
Someone asked Meyer if he was stunned.
“Yeah,” he said.
He wasn’t the only one.
Stanley, a sophomore making his ninth start, was as poised as ever. He threw two touchdown passes each to tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, and added another to fullback Drake Kulick. Eight different Hawkeyes caught at least one pass.
“A lot of big throws for him,” Ferentz said.
On the last touchdown pass to Hockenson, Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard had grabbed Stanley’s foot, but he still made the play.
“I think probably my favorite play is the one where he’s got the guy bringing him down and he finds a way to get the ball in the end zone there for a touchdown,” Ferentz said.
It was a game that, really, was over in eight seconds, but the party lasted for 3 hours, 33 minutes, ending with a field storming by most of the 67,669 in attendance.
The Hawkeyes are bowl-eligible again, the 16th time in the last 17 seasons, with another November victory notched.
Hooker was asked about that first play.
“I couldn’t draw it up any better than that,” he said.
There was no question about it. The same could be said for the whole day.
Background: John Bohnenkamp is sports editor/colleges writer at The Hawk Eye newspaper in Burlington, Iowa. He is a 1988 graduate of the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He worked at the Daily Gate City (Keokuk, Iowa) from 1988 to 1991 before moving to The Hawk Eye, where he was a preps reporter for two years before becoming assistant sports editor from 1993 to 1999. He has covered University of Iowa basketball, along with Western Illinois University football and basketball, since 1993. He added the Iowa football beat in 2014 after the death of long-time beat writer Susan Denk. He added the minor-league baseball beat this season, covering the Burlington Bees, the Class A Midwest League affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. He has won 16 APSE top-10 writing awards, along with seven United States Basketball Writers Association top-5 awards. This is his second FWAA honor.