‘I can’t believe I even did that:’ Riley Moss posts career game in Iowa’s Week 1 win

The senior cornerback ran two interceptions back for touchdowns on Saturday.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa defensive back Riley Moss returns an interception for his second pick six of the day during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Riley Moss rested on a bench along the Iowa football team’s sideline, listening to the crowd’s I-O-W-A chant when he realized he was the reason fans were on their feet.

Only minutes into No. 18 Iowa’s season-opening 34-6 victory over No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium, the senior cornerback was playing cover two when Hoosier quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw a quick pass to the left flat.

The ball deflected off of wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr.’s hands and right into Moss’. The former Ankeny Centennial standout, who said he was playing in a cover two on the play, then galloped 30 yards into the end zone for his first of two pick sixes against the Hoosiers on Saturday.

“[Penix] threw the ball, I was ready to break on it and tackle [the receiver], and then I see the ball pop up and I got super excited,” Moss said. “I was foaming from the mouth. It happened quick and I didn’t realize I scored a touchdown until I was on the bench and I was like, ‘Holy cow that just happened.’”

With 12:45 still remaining in the first quarter, Iowa was already up 14-0 after Moss’ first scoring play of the afternoon.

Hawkeye running back Tyler Goodson ran almost untouched for a 56-yard touchdown on Iowa’s fourth offensive play of the season. Then Moss ended Indiana’s first offensive possession by extending his team’s lead.

“I’ve had a chance in my years at Iowa to see a lot of really great [defensive backs],” Petras said. “I don’t know if there’s one that has been as talented as he is in terms of playmaking. His ball skills are pretty lethal for a corner.”

Moss, entering his fourth year with the Hawkeyes, recorded two interceptions each in his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons. He matched his previous season-high total during the second quarter against the Hoosiers. 

Iowa was already up 21-3 — with a Spencer Petras quarterback draw serving as the team’s third touchdown of the game — when Goodson fumbled the ball over to the Hoosiers with 1:41 remaining in the first half. Indiana’s momentum didn’t last long, though.

The next play, Moss provided another highlight.

Penix tried to throw a quick pass far to the left side of the field. Moss, playing off the ball in a cover three, saw the play develop, snatched the pass, and went 55 yards for another score.

“I just read the quarterback,” Moss said after noting how important studying film was to pick up on Indiana’s tendencies. “He was staring him down the whole time. I didn’t back up. I played the ball and a good thing came of it. I think it was just my eyes and being patient.”

“I’ve always seen Riley as a playmaker,” defensive end John Waggoner added. “… I was just turning my head and there’s another Riley Moss pick six.”

Moss’ second pick six of the game and the third of his career pushed Iowa’s lead to 28-3. Moss is the first Hawkeye defensive back to score twice in one game since Josh Jackson — whom Moss said he used to idolize — did so in 2017.

Indiana’s offense scored 28.9 points per game last season, and returns Penix, a preseason member of the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien watch lists, and Ty Fryfogle, the reigning Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year.

But the Hawkeyes held the Hoosiers to six points, their lowest total since 2013, and forced three turnovers.

“I don’t want to say I’m surprised, but just really pleased,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Iowa’s Week 1 winning streak extended its winning streak to seven games. In that stretch, with every game coming against a Big Ten opponent, the Hawkeyes have outscored their opposition 248-89.

Moss said earlier this week that Iowa’s strategy was oriented on preventing the big play. So instead, he made the big plays himself.

“Our game plan coming in was to stop the big plays and that’s what we did. We made them work for their yards and for their points. It was praised to stay on top, do your job, read your keys, knowing your responsibilities, and I think everyone throughout the defense did that well.

“I can’t believe I even did that today,” Moss said.