By Pete Ruden
Hawkeye football doesn’t care for your point spreads.
Coming in as 20.5-point underdogs, Iowa pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history. In beat-down fashion, the Hawkeyes smacked then-No. 3 Ohio State, 55-24, essentially smothering any playoff hopes for the Buckeyes while fueling a late-season run for themselves.
The game started off with a bang.
Before the first snap, very few would have correctly predicted what would happen to Ohio State at the hands of Iowa. But when Amani Hooker picked off a pass from J.T. Barrett and took it back to the house on the very first play, a real sense of hope entered Kinnick.
The Hawkeyes used that spark to dominate third-ranked Ohio State, 55-24, and hand the Buckeyes their second loss of the season, essentially knocking them out of playoff contention.
That play, however, was just the beginning of what became a wild night in Kinnick.
“I think [the pick-6] certainly helped,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. ”It certainly helped and got our fans even more juiced up.”
Iowa used the momentum from that interception to thoroughly outplay Ohio State in every aspect of the game, from offense to defense to special teams.
The Hawkeye defense handed Barrett, one of college football’s most electric quarterbacks, the worst game that he has had all season, possibly in his career.
Barrett entered the contest with 25 touchdown passes and just 1 interception, but came out of Kinnick with 4 more picks in 2017.
A big reason for that was the play of Josh Jackson. The junior from Corinth, Texas, lit it up, grabbing a school record-tying 3 interceptions. Jackson was a big threat before the game started, leading the country with 15 pass breakups, but Barrett kept testing him and kept losing.
Jackson’s night culminated with an Odell Beckham-like one-handed interception in front of the end zone to put the cherry on top of a tremendous game.
“Everybody in our locker room believed,” Jackson said. “I think that’s just the main thing, what’s important. We came out, we wanted to execute, and we just came out and just tried to play with confidence.”
The offense was quick to find its groove as well.
Quarterback Nate Stanley tossed 5 touchdown passes in the victory, with 4 of them going to tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson. Stanley used his big blocking receivers for much of the night, slicing up the Buckeye defense all game with constant strikes to both Fant and Hockenson. The two tight ends combined for 125 yards and 4 touchdowns on 9 receptions.
The rest of the offense stepped up its game as well. The offensive line played a great game against Ohio State’s tremendous defensive line to open up the ground attack that had been lost earlier in the season.
Akrum Wadley and Company ran to the tune of 243 yards and a touchdown. Toren Young punched a score in late, while Wadley had 118 yards and James Butler added 74.
The offensive explosion is definitely a step in the right direction, because the team has had its struggles before the big upset.
However, now with a 6-3 record and bowl eligibility reached, the Hawkeyes have changed their fortune, at least for a while, and they’ve had a good time doing it.
“I think you play best when you’re having fun,” Stanley said. “I’ve had a great time all year. When you can just go out and play and not worry about the pressure or the circumstances around you, that’s really when you can come out and excel.”