Bloomington, Ind. — A helpless feeling overcame Jeremiha Hunter as he watched Indiana’s final bid for an upset unfold.
What the Iowa linebacker saw Saturday afternoon made him wince, and then rejoice.
“Oh, my goodness,” Hunter said after the Hawkeyes escaped with an 18-13 football victory. “My heart dropped.”
The Hoosiers’ Damarlo Belcher slipped between Hunter and safety Brett Greenwood, but failed to corral Ben Chappell’s fourth-down pass to the end zone.
Instead, the football bounced free on the Memorial Stadium turf with 28 seconds remaining.
“I thought he had it,” Hunter said. “When he bobbled it and it hit the ground, I was like ‘Yes.’ ”
After a video review upheld the call — drawing cheers from roughly 10,000 black-and-gold-clad fans — Iowa remained in the Big Ten title picture.
The Hawkeyes, ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25 and 16th in the USA Today coaches’ poll, improved to 7-2 and 4-1 in the conference.
Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State also have a single loss in the standings.
“I just felt good about our players showing the grit necessary in that fourth quarter,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It didn’t come easy.”
The Hawkeyes were trailing13-12 until Ricky Stanzi connected with Marvin McNutt on a 52-yard touchdown pass, leaving Indiana with 2 minutes, 50 seconds to answer.
“At some level, you’re like ‘Why couldn’t we have left them 15 seconds?’ ” offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said, “but we have complete and utter confidence in our defense.”
Indiana (4-5, 0-5) put its faith in Chappell, who was 27-of-46 passing for 222 yards.
“We kind of knew what we were getting into,” Chappell said. “We had some good drives. It didn’t come out the way we wanted, but we were close.”
Chappell completed 5-of-7 passes while guiding the Hoosiers to Iowa’s 18-yard line.
He missed his next attempt under a heavy rush from Adrian Clayborn, then overthrew Duwyce Willson.
Another pass bounced off Belcher’s hands near the sideline.
“Our kids really battled,” Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch said. “We just came up a play short.”
With Indiana facing fourth-and-10, Chappell was looking for Belcher to split the Hawkeye defensive backs.
Hunter was supposed to stay close to the 6-foot-5 Belcher, forcing Chappell to put an arc on the ball.
“I didn’t know what they were going to do,” said Hunter, who finished with eight tackles and two pass breakups. “I just tried to play my zone, anything to get (Chappell) to lob it up there a little bit.”
Belcher went airborne and got his hands on the ball, but never seemed to gain control.
“I thought it had a shot,” Chappell said.
Belcher, who made seven catches for 50 yards, was not available for interviews.
“I’m sure he’s pretty beat up, but he needs to forget about it,” Indiana defensive back Mitchell Evans said. “He had so many other great plays in the game.”
Belcher’s drop enabled Iowa to survive, despite failing to get a touchdown on four drives that reached Indiana’s 10-yard line.
Stanzi was 22-of-33 passing for 290 yards, but struggled with his accuracy before finding his rhythm on the last series.
“I’ve had games with Indiana that have been bizarre, to say the least,” said Stanzi, who threw five interceptions against the Hoosiers a year ago. “Just like any other week, there’s a lot of things we need to correct — probably more so this week.”
Two freshmen played key roles in the narrow win. Marcus Coker rushed for 129 yards in his starting debut at tailback. Kicker Mike Meyer was successful on four of five field goals.
But it almost wasn’t enough.
“Sometimes, you just have to have things roll your way,” Hawkeye safety Tyler Sash said. “And it rolled our way by him dropping the pass.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football