How's That For a Finish?
Oct. 26, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter was stopped for the 18th --and final -- time Saturday in overtime, nine yards short of a first down and 23 yards from the end zone, the University of Iowa football team could party like it was 2012.
There weren't a ton of highlights for the Hawkeyes in 2012. "We didn't do well," UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said during his postgame news conference in Kinnick Stadium.
But among the four victories last season was one in double overtime at Michigan State. The Hawkeyes stormed the field to celebrate. They hadn't been in overtime -- or stormed the field -- since that October day more than a year ago.
"We haven't celebrated like that since the Michigan State win (in 2012)," said Hawkeye linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who had nine tackles and a forced fumble. "We're happy and thankful for every win, but this one was so close and crazy, and I will give it all back to do it all over again."
All season, all week, all day, the Hawkeyes received a sermon to play 60 minutes and finish the game. This one went 60 minutes and eight bonus plays with Iowa improving to 5-3 overall (2-2 in the Big Ten) after a 17-10 overtime win against pesky Northwestern (4-4, 0-4).
The Hawkeyes hit the equivalent of a game-winning home run in extra innings when quarterback Jake Rudock (19-of-27, 169 yards) read a Northwestern blitz, bought time, and hooked up with 6-foot-7 tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz in the east corner of the south end zone in front of heartbroken fans wearing purple.
"I just had to get it up and out to C.J. in a spot I knew he would be in," Rudock said. "He did a great job getting there and the line did a great job sorting it out so I had time to make the pass."
"We have been running that play all week against man-to-man coverage," Fiedorowicz said. "I could tell the safety was matching me and it's our job as a group to win in man-to-man. Jake had guys in his face and he got hit pretty hard; it was a great throw by him and we have to make that catch."
For Fiedorowicz, the 8-yard scoring play wasn't his longest reception of the game. He caught one for 18 yards in the fourth quarter, but the one in overtime will be remembered most.
"It's always fun scoring touchdowns and you have those big guys jumping all over you," Fiedorowicz said. "(Offensive tackle Brandon) Scherff tackled me, and I will probably feel that tomorrow. It's always fun to get in the end zone and help the team out, this one was probably the biggest of my career."
But there was work to be done before a celebration could ensue. When Ferentz needed to call on a closer to finish the game, his defense rose to the occasion. The challenge was to strike out Colter who, entering overtime, had completed 11-of-13 passes for 104 yards and rushed 15 times for 59 more.
On first down, Colter was sacked by Drew Ott for a 1-yard loss. Ott made the stop on second down as well after Colter picked up three yards with his feet. On third down Desmond King broke up a pass. Facing fourth-and-8 from Iowa's 23, Colter was sacked by Louis Trinca-Pasat for a loss of a yard.
The Kinnick Stadium turf became a sea of black and gold.
"It's been a while since we have had one of those," Fiedorowicz said. "It feels good to let all that air out. It gives us confidence and it's a huge win."
"We're always mentally ready to go 60 minutes and if we have to go further that's what we have to do," said UI linebacker James Morris, who finished with eight tackles and a second-quarter fumble recovery. "Overtimes are exciting, especially when the weather is nice like this you feel like you could play all day."
If Ferentz has said it once, he has said it eight times this season: When the Hawkeyes solve this finishing games riddle, watch out.
"We preach finishing every day in the weight room, in the offseason -- once we learn how to finish we could be a dangerous team," Hitchens said. "We took a step forward this week."