Who knew a single special teamer could save a season? Perhaps only Iowa special teams coach LeVar Woods and one of his aces Henry Marchese.
With 14:22 remaining in the fourth quarter of its annual Heroes Game against Nebraska, Iowa trailed, 21-9. On the day, the Hawkeyes had been limited to just three field goals, offensively.
Then, Marchese blocked a punt off the foot of the Cornhuskers’ William Przystup. After Marchese made contact with the ball, it soared through the air and right into the hands of Hawkeye sophomore Kyler Fisher. Once Fisher had the ball in his hands, he raced into the end zone for a touchdown.
The special teams score gave the Hawkeyes an avalanche of momentum that the Cornhuskers couldn’t halt. Iowa won the game, 28-21, and retained possession of the Heroes Trophy for the seventh consecutive season.
The blocked field goal ultimately started a run that propelled Iowa to the Big Ten Championship Game. Had Marchese never started Iowa’s late-game scoring rally against Nebraska, the Hawkeyes never would’ve made the Big Ten Championship Game.
Yes, Iowa got blown out in the Big Ten Championship, but the win against Nebraska helped push the Hawkeyes to their first outright Big Ten West Division title and conference championship game appearance since 2015.
Even if the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis wasn’t fruitful for the Hawkeyes, it was still quite an achievement for a program that doesn’t get an opportunity to play for a league championship very often.