Heroic defense, timely offense spark Iowa against Iowa State

Last year's battle was high-scoring, while this season's win was just the opposite. One things remained the same, however: Iowa is a Hawkeye state.



Iowa center Keegan Render and teammates carry the Cy-Hawk trophy off the field after Iowa's game against Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, September 8, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the cyclones 13-3.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

Make it four in a row.

On Sept. 8, Iowa (2-0) made sure the Cy-Hawk Trophy stayed put in Iowa City, taking down Iowa State (0-1), 13-3.

The win was a complete 180 from last season’s 44-41 overtime thriller. In that game, the teams racked up nearly 1,000 yards combined. This year, the total clocked in at 459 (if you call that clocking in).

“I think that kind of ties in with the history of the series. It’s always unpredictable,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ve had all kinds of games in the history of it. The one common denominator, with a few exceptions — they’ve all been hard-fought right to the end. This certainly was no exception.”

Facing a third-and-4 from the Iowa State 32-yard line, Iowa desperately needed a spark. The Hawkeyes clung to a 6-3 lead, and Iowa’s defense had done its share of the work; it was time for the offense to break through.

If Iowa didn’t make the first down, the Hawkeyes faced a 40-yard-plus field goal, and kicker Miguel Recinos had looked shaky in the game, missing two of his three attempts.

Enter Brandon Smith, who hadn’t seen a ball thrown his way all game. The Hawkeyes dialed up a deep route, and quarterback Nate Stanley, who struggled all game to find any rhythm, lofted a pass to Smith on the money. Smith hauled in the pass for a 30-yard gain, and, one play later, Iowa capitalized for the first time when Mehki Sargent scored a 2-yard touchdown.

“[Iowa State] came down and loaded the box on a running play that we had,” Stanley said. “One thing that we always talk about is not running dead plays. Running the ball against an eight-man box really isn’t the best thing. Brandon did a great job getting open, and he made that play.”

That drive, a 13-play, 83-yard drive, took up 6:30 and essentially positioned the final nail into Iowa State’s coffin.

The defense hammered home that nail. Iowa State drove 66 yards on its opening drive, but the Hawkeyes held the Cyclones to just 122 yards for the remainder of the game.

“They kind of stuck it to us last year on the defensive side of the ball,” defensive lineman Matt Nelson said. “We wanted to go out and make sure we got 11 hats to the ball. Our assignments, our communication was tip-top. It was just kind of an extra emphasis this year.”

A lot of talk in the past week focused on whether Iowa would be able to stop Iowa State’s potent tailback David Montgomery. On Sept. 8, the Hawkeyes held him to just 44 yards, and he averaged 2.6 yards per carry.

Hakeem Butler, Iowa State’s 6-6, 225-pound receiver, torched Iowa in 2017, tallying 5 receptions, 128 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He had only 3 catches for 35 yards this time around.

For the Hawkeye seniors, it means they beat the Cyclones every season they’ve been on the team.

Nelson, a redshirt senior from Cedar Rapids, lost to Iowa State his first season on campus, but from then on, he’s been on the winning side.

“It’s amazing. Whenever you can bring a trophy home, it’s amazing,” he said. “Especially against Iowa State, an in-state rival, it’s just exhilarating, honestly.”

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