Iowa running back Akrum Wadley breaks free for a touchdown run during Iowa's game against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 23, 2017. Penn State defeated Iowa 21-19 on a last-second touchdown pass. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Baumann: Night-game magic still alive at Kinnick Stadium

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Even though Iowa didn’t win, it proved itself against a top-5 team.

By Courtney Baumann

courtney-baumann@uiowa.edu

When I woke up on the morning of Sept. 23, I had an intuition that the football game was going to be a little more interesting than I had previously thought it would be.

Boy, was I right.

It was one of those night games at Kinnick that people always talk about — where there’s this feeling that anything could happen. Although Iowa did not come away victorious over No. 4 Penn State, a few things were confirmed. The first being: What kind of team is Iowa?

That night, under the lights at Kinnick, the Hawkeyes proved to be a resilient, bend but don’t break team that believes in itself enough to hold the Nittany Lions to just 21 points and come within 4 seconds of a victory over a top-5 team.

RELATED: Hawkeyes react to last-second fall to Penn State

The Hawkeyes proved to be a defense, that although it could not stop Saquon Barkley from racking up yards on the ground and through the air, it could stop the powerful offense when it mattered. Iowa held the Nittany Lions in the red zone twice to field goals. Both times, they were within the 10-yard line, but Iowa would not allow them past the goal line.

Iowa once again proved to be an offense that can put together scoring drives in the fourth quarter to keep the team in the game.

Nate Stanley proved once again that he is a leader, staying poised through three quarters of dropped passes, a failed rushing game, and very few opportunities to make a play. When he did get the chance, he dropped the ball into the hands of Nick Easley in the end zone and found Akrum Wadley, who came back with a vengeance in the fourth quarter.

On the flip side, there were a few unanswered questions, but those were mainly “what ifs.”

What if Iowa’s receivers didn’t have so many drops in the first half? What if another one of those 8 pass breakups had stayed in the hands of Iowa’s defense? What if Penn State hadn’t blocked that field goal in the third quarter? What if Iowa had run a little bit more time off the clock on its last drive? What if Amani Hooker had 2 more inches on the last play and got his hands on the ball?

What if, what if, what if.

What if Iowa had won? Would it have proved anything else or answered any other questions?

I don’t think it would have.

Yes, the last play was a heartbreaker for Iowa fans. Yes, Iowa was within seconds, inches of pulling off yet another one of those Kinnick night-game upsets. But no, I don’t think losing took away anything from solid defensive performance or the incredible turnaround from the offense late in the game.

Iowa was not expected to win. In fact, the Hawkeyes were the underdog expected by most to lose by at least a couple of scores. The way Iowa continued to fight, both offensively and defensively, was proof enough that this team is a force when it clicks.

Maybe the intuition I had didn’t mean an Iowa win, but it was an interesting game that won’t soon be forgotten.

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