IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa’s 8-4 season was filled with several key games and big moments, both in non-conference play and in Big Ten action.
Today, Bobby La Gesse and Scott Dochterman offer their top five Iowa moments in descending order.
No. 5 moment
Scott Dochterman: Final TD vs Nebraska
Ultimately, it was a 1-yard touchdown run in a 40-10 blowout against Nebraska, but LeShun Daniels’ blast was the cumulative effect of a 10-minute drive. The left side of Iowa’s offensive line crushed the Cornhuskers’ defense and seven defenders were on the ground by the end of the play. It capped a big win in a game that propelled the Hawkeyes to the Outback Bowl and enabled Iowa to retain three of its four rivalry trophies.
La Gesse: Akrum Wadley TD catch vs. Iowa State
It seemed like nothing more than a nifty play in September. Akrum Wadley turned a fake handoff into a go route for a 26-yard touchdown reception against Iowa State. It turned out to be a glimpse of the future. Wadley emerged as a much-needed passing game threat — he is second on the team with 32 receptions — after wide receiver Matt VandeBerg was lost for the season with a broken foot.
No. 4 moment
Dochterman: McCarron’s punt return
Iowa’s offense was floundering in a tie game on a windy day at Illinois. The Hawkeyes needed a spark, and wide receiver Riley McCarron gave them one with a 55-yard punt return late in the second quarter. Illini punter David Reisner outkicked his coverage and McCarron fielded the ball near the sideline. Fellow Iowa returner Desmond King paced the touchdown with a key block, then McCarron zoomed up the field for the game’s first score. Iowa won, 28-0.
La Gesse: Josey Jewell’s goal-line stand vs. Rutgers
One of the best individual efforts of the season came against the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers had reached the Iowa 2-yard line for second-and-goal. Josey Jewell made three straight tackles, including fourth-and-goal, to keep Rutgers off the scoreboard. The tackles not only played a huge role in the 14-7 victory, but highlighted how important Jewell, a Butkus Award finalist, is to the defense.
No. 3 moment
Dochterman: Desmond King’s pick-6 vs. Purdue
Iowa cornerback Desmond King won the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back. But teams stayed away from King for much of the 2016 season. Against Purdue this year, it was more of the same until late in the game. King undercut a passing route late in the fourth quarter and returned it for 41 yards for the score. It was his first interception in 12 games.
La Gesse: Akrum Wadley TD run vs. Minnesota
Iowa rediscovered its identity of winning with its defense and rushing attack late in the season. The 54-yard Akrum Wadley touchdown run against Minnesota foreshadowed what would come in the second season with Iowa relying on his playmaking ability to find the end zone. Wadley is 34 yards short of joining fellow running back LeShun Daniels in the 1,000-yard rushing club.
No. 2 moment
Dochterman: Akrum Wadley’s run against Minnesota
In a slugfest against rival Minnesota, the Hawkeyes trailed 7-6 just past the fourth quarter’s midpoint. On first down at Iowa’s 46, Wadley took the handoff and sprinted left. He juked one defender about 8 yards from the line of scrimmage and raced untouched into the end zone for the game-winning score. The Hawkeyes retained possession of the Floyd of Rosedale trophy and Wadley registered one of his many big plays of the season.
La Gesse: George Kittle running off with the Heroes Trophy
Iowa tight end George Kittle snagged the Heroes Trophy from defensive tackles Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson after a 40-10 win over Nebraska on Black Friday. Kittle ran around, stuck his tongue out and hoisted the trophy in the air. He was going to make the most of the postgame celebration after suffering through an injury-riddled second half of the season. Every Iowa player enjoyed the festivities on the field after the dominating victory. No one had a better time than Kittle, though.
No. 1 moment
Dochterman: When Iowa ruled college football
The euphoria that ensued following Keith Duncan’s 33-yard, game-winning field goal against No. 3 Michigan might go down as the greatest play in the greatest win in Kirk Ferentz’s 18 years at Iowa. The result was surprising because of Michigan’s prowess and Iowa’s ineptness during the previous week. This play changed Iowa’s narrative after a season in which it had floundered and appeared to have flatlined. It was a victory — and a moment — for the ages.
La Gesse: Keith Duncan game-winning kick against Michigan
All that stood between Iowa and arguably the biggest upset of the Kirk Ferentz era was a 33-yard field goal from kicker Keith Duncan. The freshman was up for the moment. Once the ball went through the uprights, he took off toward midfield. His teammates tackled him and Duncan worried for a moment he’d be suffocated. Instead, he was carried off the field in a night of celebration the team will never forget and which few saw coming. Seven days earlier, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley questioned Iowa’s effort in a 41-14 defeat to the Nittany Lions. No one again questioned the Hawkeyes after this 14-13 victory.