Last year popcorn bowls were spilled, furniture was knocked over, and heart conditions were tested when Iowa ended the Michigan State game with a fourth-and-goal touchdown throw from Ricky Stanzi to Marvin McNutt with no time left in East Lansing, Mich.
The cardiac Hawkeyes had struck again, defying the odds.
But was that catch the biggest catch in Iowa history?
There have been a lot of big grabs in the decades since the invention of the forward pass. Here are the five we at Hawk Central think are the biggest.
5. Brad Banks to Dallas Clark, a seven-yard touchdown pass with 1:07 to play against Purdue on Oct. 5, 2002, in Iowa City.
Why it’s No. 5. The 2002 season was a magic one, with Iowa going 8-0 in Big Ten play, earning a share of the Big Ten title, and playing in its first BCS Bowl. That would not have happened without this catch.
Purdue scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and had a 28-24 lead when Iowa got the ball on its own 13 with 2:16 remaining.
Moving quickly downfield, Iowa was stymied inside the 10. Banks and Fred Russell couldn’t get much going on first- and second-down runs, and Banks was almost intercepted trying to target Clark on third down.
Lester Erb suggested the play where the receivers all run to one side, while Clark isolates himself to the opposite side.
“Once I saw one side was overloaded, I knew things were going to open up,” Banks said that day. “I said to myself, ‘This is going to be a good play.’”
Why it’s not higher. Well, it can be argued this catch may not have even been the best hook-up between Banks and Clark in the game.
Iowa went up 24-14 when Banks hit Clark in the flat, and the tight end eluded one tackle and hurdled another before sprinting 95 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest pass play in Iowa history.
In addition, even after the dramatic score, the Boilermakers also had a minute to win or tie the game, and drove to the Iowa 25. Defensive back Adolphus Shelton rescued Iowa with an interception.
4. Ricky Stanzi to Marvin McNutt, a seven-yard touchdown pass with no time left against Michigan State on Oct. 24, 2009, in East Lansing, Mich.
Why it’s No. 4. The win made Iowa 8-0 for the first time in program history, and the Hawkeyes would get to 9-0 before Stanzi got hurt.
Michigan State had taken the lead with 1:37 left when Kirk Cousins hit Blair White for a 30-yard touchdown. It came on the heels of a 38-yard hook-and-ladder play on third-and-18.
“Once I caught it, I still didn’t believe I caught it until I was in the end zone and everybody jumped on me and I couldn’t breathe,” McNutt said that day. “That’s when I realized we won the game.”
The drive was somewhat improbable for a team that didn’t move the ball all game. Going into the final drive, Stanzi was 7-of-18 for 78 yards.
Iowa got the Michigan State 7 with 15 seconds left. The first three quick incompletions — two to Trey Stross and one to Moeaki — and Iowa called a final time out. McNutt told O’Keefe the slant was open.
Stanzi hit McNutt on the slant to win 15-13.
Why it’s not higher. Its hard to downgrade a big catch because of losses to Northwestern and Ohio State, but had Iowa ended up in the Rose Bowl, or national title game, this catch rises up the chart, maybe to No. 1.
The play also made up for a somewhat lackluster offensive game against a team No. 7 Iowa was favored to beat.
3. Chuck Hartlieb to Marv Cook for a 28-yard touchdown pass with seconds left against Ohio State on Nov. 14, 1987, at Columbus, Ohio.
Why it’s No. 3. Well, its not every catch that can get a coach fired, but the next day the Buckeyes dismissed Earl Bruce.
What people remember most is how Cook, who caught the ball near the 9-yard-line, powered through two Buckeyes players to get into the end zone.
“I wasn’t really thinking much of anything,” Cook said. “I knew it was going to be close, and worked a little geometry, more or less just try to split the two defenders and get in there.”
It was fourth-and-23 with 16 seconds left in the game.
Up in the radio both, Iowa play-by-play announcer Jim Zabel was going nuts, getting kisses from Ed Podolak and screaming “I love it! I love it! I love it!”
Why it’s not higher. Mostly because of the impact. A win over Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, is nothing to sneeze at. It was the first win at the Horseshoe for Fry, and first for Iowa since 1959.
But the Hawkeyes ended up 10-3 and in the Holiday Bowl.
2. Ken Ploen to Jim Gibbons for a 17-yard touchdown in the second half against Ohio State on Nov. 17, 1956, in Iowa City.
Why it’s No. 2. It’s known as the touchdown pass that took the Hawkeyes from Iowa City to Pasadena, Calif. Iowa finished 9-1 and went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in program history.
Ohio State and Woody Hayes had won 17 straight in the Big Ten, a Big Ten record at the time. If the Buckeyes beat Iowa, it would be their third outright Big Ten title.
Iowa had not won a Big Ten title in 34 years.
It was a big enough win University of Iowa President Virgil Hancher may have had what appeared to be a heart attack, and had to be hospitalized.
Why it’s not higher. No one can deny the historical impact. But the play didn’t happen in the closing minutes, so it lacks some drama.
The Iowa defense also shares the laurels that day, holding Ohio State to 53 yards of offense in the second half.
1. Drew Tate to Warren Holloway for a 56-yard bomb on the final play against LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1, 2005, in Orlando, Fla.
Why it’s No. 1. Former UI sports information director George Wine put it best: “I asked Ken O’Keefe if you run that play 100 times, how many times would it work. O’Keefe said none.”
It was kind of a bizarre situation. Iowa got the ball back with 46 seconds left at their own 29, and had two time outs.
Iowa was whistled for a false start with 14 seconds to play, but Tate and the Iowa coaches didn’t realize the clock started ticking after the penalty was assessed.
Wine said his son, Steven, who covers the Miami Dolphins, said former LSU coach Nick Saban told him they were caught off guard.
“’We thought they were going to call time out,’” George Wine related. “‘We were in a broken down defense.’ That’s how Hollaway got behind the safety.”
It was clock mismanagement at its finest, but it paid off.
Tate snapped it with nine seconds left, and it was going to be Iowa’s final play. His primary targets were covered, but Holloway, who had never caught a touchdown pass, hauled in the bomb in stride at the 17 and stayed a step ahead of the LSU defenders into the end zone. Iowa won 30-25.
– Chuck Long hit Dave Mortiz with a 73-yard touchdown to put Iowa up 20-7 against Ohio State on Sept. 24, 1983. Iowa won 20-14, the first win over OSU since 1962.
– Matt Rodgers to Tony Stewart down to the 1-yard line against Michigan on Oct. 20, 1990. Iowa scored on the next play with about a minute left in the game. It helped put Iowa into the Rose Bowl.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football