Iowa football’s Henry Marchese blocks punt for touchdown against Nebraska

The fifth-year senior recorded his second pivotal special teams play in two weeks as he blocked a Husker punt at the 27-yard line.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa special teams coach Levar Woods hugs defensive back Henry Marchese after Marchese blocked a punt during a football game between No. 16 Iowa and Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Iowa punter Tory Taylor and long snapper Austin Spiewak joined in the celebration.The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 28-21.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

LINCOLN, Neb. — Henry Marchese has been surrounded by Big Ten football his entire life.

His father, John, played football at Iowa from 1982-86. His older brothers, Joe and Jimmy, played football at Maryland and Illinois, respectively. His twin brother, Michael, is in his senior year with the Illinois football program.

So, Marchese felt drawn to Iowa football over offers to play professional baseball out of high school.

“I grew up an Iowa football fan, my dad played football [at Iowa],” Marchese said. “Big Ten football is engraved in my family. All three of my brothers played at separate Big Ten programs and my cousins as well. I just love the game, love my teammates. My college career I’ve been switching positions, wide receiver, defensive back, it doesn’t matter. I’m just staying true to myself.”

The fifth-year Hawkeye senior out of Vernon Hills, Illinois, has played his way through the Iowa football program since 2017, primarily on special teams. After five years, Marchese got his chance to shine on Friday as the No. 16 Hawkeyes took down the Huskers, 28-21, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

“I want to give back to all my teammates and I never want to let my teammates down in any situation, and you’ve got to be great on special teams,” Marchese said. “It’s a three-phase game for a reason: Offense, defense, special teams.”

Iowa was down, 21-9, going into the final 15 minutes of the contest. After the Huskers went 3-and-out in the first drive of the quarter, Marchese blocked a punt from punter William Przystup at the Nebraska 27-yard line.

The ball sailed 13 yards behind Przystup, and Hawkeye sophomore Kyler Fisher caught the ball in the air to bring it into the end zone for Iowa’s first touchdown of the game.

“What a great example of a kid who is in his fifth year,” junior linebacker Jack Campbell said. “I mean, he doesn’t have to come back. I mean, nowadays people are just gonna decide, ‘Oh, this isn’t working, I’m gonna leave.’ Or, maybe, ‘I’m not the starter so I’m gonna leave,’ or something. So when you talk to him, it’s just gonna be that he embodies a Hawkeye football player.”

Marchese said the blocked punt play was something the Hawkeye special teams unit worked on all week. The Hawkeyes saw that the Huskers typically punt off the left hash, and imitated the play in practice to get a feel for Nebraska’s cadence.

Then, during the game, Marchese said he knew the Huskers wouldn’t pinpoint him as a punt-blocker.

Iowa defensive back Henry Marchese blocks a punt during a football game between No. 16 Iowa and Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 28-21. (Jerod Ringwald)

“I don’t know if the timing of it was off, if we were late, if someone missed an assignment, I didn’t see it,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said postgame. “… The blocked punt was the game.”

Frost added that after the blocked punt was returned for the touchdown, the Huskers started to make mistakes, including the safety that brought the Hawkeyes within three points, and the 55-yard run from Tyler Goodson that led to Iowa’s go-ahead touchdown.

The blocked punt was Marchese’s second pivotal special teams play in two weeks.

Marchese threw a block for kick returner Charlie Jones in the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ 33-23 victory over Illinois on Nov. 20, and Jones returned the kick for Iowa’s first touchdown of the game.

Iowa’s specials teams unit was crucial in multiple areas against Nebraska. Along with the punt block, kicker Caleb Shudak connected on all four of his field goals, and punter Tory Taylor downed a punt at Nebraska’s 7-yard line that eventually led to a safety.

“[Marchese’s] not playing on offense, not playing on defense, and you can maybe find a role on special teams and take pride and help the team win, and this is two straight weeks for him,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “… You just never know how a guy’s going to help you.”

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