The stadium swarm at Kinnick

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Iowa’s 23-20 win over Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 9 in what was, at the time, a matchup between top-five teams is undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments in Hawkeye football history. It most certainly is the highlight of the 2021 season for the Hawkeyes.

It was Iowa’s first top-five matchup at Kinnick in 36 years. The atmosphere was so intense that Penn State was called for back-to-back-to-back false start penalties. The rowdy environment was so impressive that it helped eventually sway five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa to commit to Iowa. Oh, and then there was the game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Spencer Petras to wide receiver Nico Ragaini. Fans were just waiting for Iowa to hold onto the win from that moment on so they could spill onto the field.

The field storming that night was surreal. It’s the best atmosphere I’ve ever been in for a sporting event, for whatever that’s worth. The implications of that entire game were surreal, too.

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson hurdles MTSU’s Gregory Grate, Jr. during a football game between Iowa and Middle Tennessee State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, September 28, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Blue Raiders, 48-3. (Shivansh Ahuja)

Iowa just moved to 6-0 on the season (and No. 2 in the country) after beating a team everyone seemed to think could be College Football Playoff bound. Everything seemed so possible for the Hawkeyes at that point. Quick trigger warning, Hawkeye fans: I’m about to mention a game that included Purdue wide receiver David Bell.

A week after this game, Iowa’s perfect season ended. The Hawkeyes lost to Purdue for the start of their two-game losing stretch. And yes, Iowa still won 10 games this season and represented the Big Ten West in the conference championship game. But after beating Penn State, even more than that seemed possible.

Between the stakes of the game, the celebration, and the surrealness of the whole situation, Iowa’s win over Penn State stands out above all else from the 2021 season. Not that there was any doubt about that.

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