Nov. 23, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's hard to imagine University of Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens writing a better script as he rode into the sunset of Kinnick Stadium.
The senior from Lorain, Ohio, compiled eight tackles, three for a loss. For icing on Senior Day, Hitchens forced a fumble on Michigan's final offensive play, then recovered the ball, preserving a 24-21 victory for the Hawkeyes.
"I could, but not by much," a smiling Hitchens said, when asked if his final game in Kinnick could have ended better. "Maybe like a 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown or something like that that everyone dreams of. Every night you go to sleep you dream of plays like that, but I am thankful."
Hawkeye fans are thankful for Hitchens and the other seniors who played -- and won -- a final game in Kinnick on Saturday. During the final four seasons, Iowa has gone 17-11 at home, including victories in two of their final three.
Senior defensive lineman Dominic Alvis, who battled injuries, but returned in time for his senior send-off, calls it a symbiotic relationship between the players and fans which makes the Kinnick experience unique.
"There is a combination of when we make a spark on the field and the fans catch it and the whole place becomes electric," Alvis said. "You won't feel that in other places. It's the energy the crowd gives us and we give them."
"The whole place was rocking," he said.
So where does this game figure in the pecking order of memorable moments for the senior class? Their careers included home wins against No. 5 Michigan State, No. 20 Penn State, No. 13 Michigan. There was a comeback from 21 points to knock off Pittsburgh, 31-27.
"There were a lot of great games in Kinnick but this one will be in the memory bank," UI senior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "We beat a very good Michigan team. This is your last game in Kinnick, and to have an outcome like this. This will be one of those games you will remember forever."
This unforgettable 24-21 Hawkeye win against the Wolverines joins ones in 2009 (30-28) and 2011 (24-16), making it three in a row in Iowa City. The hero of the 2011 victory, senior cornerback B.J. Lowery, wanted to go out with a bang, and his wish was granted.
"That is exactly what we did today, went out with a bang," Lowery said. "It was a good win. This is our last time in Kinnick, playing with the guys I know -- that is pretty big."
Senior return specialist Jordan Cotton remembers his true freshman season at the back of pack, swarming onto Kinnick. Five years and two bowl victories later, he is at the front. In his final home game he returned four kicks for 110 yards and a long of 60.
"I'm going to remember this one forever," Cotton said. "Playing the Michigan Wolverines on Senior Day, your last game at Kinnick, playing in front of (65,708) fans -- it's amazing."
James Morris had eight tackles, 1 ½ for a loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
"I have always loved playing here, whether it was the first snap or the last," Morris said. "This game ranks up there, it might be No. 1. I'm happy right now and that's all I know."
Morris isn't the only happy Hawkeye. Iowa improved to 7-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten Conference.
With a temperature of 18 degrees and winds of 19 miles per hour at kickoff, one thing is certain: the final game for this senior class will be played in a much warmer climate.