Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz weighs in on ESPN's College GameDay previewing Cy-Hawk game in Ames, during a press conference, Sept. 10, 2019. Joseph Cress, Hawk Central
AMES, Ia. — Time after time Saturday, Iowa’s offense found ways to pick up third-down conversions.
Quarterback Nate Stanley used his legs. He used his arm. He used his wide receivers and his running backs. Mainly, he used his experience.
There weren’t many big plays to be had in No. 18 Iowa’s 18-17 win over Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones made the two longest. But the Hawkeyes made them in volume, and that was the difference in the 67th Cy-Hawk contest, a fifth consecutive Iowa victory.
The Hawkeyes were 10-for-18 on third downs, allowing them to own a decisive advantage in time of possession. And that was despite not converting three third-and-1 situations.
Indeed, Iowa seemed more comfortable when staring at longer distances to the first-down marker.
- On the first third down of the game, Stanley needed nine yards and fired a dart to wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 11.
- Facing a third-and-7 in Iowa State territory on the same drive, Stanley, a senior not known for his nimbleness, forged forward for 10 yards. Iowa took a 3-0 lead.
- Trailing 14-6 in the third quarter, Stanley produced his most unlikely magic. Iowa was backed up at its 19-yard line, needing 22 yards to keep a drive alive. Stanley again turned to Smith-Marsette, who cradled a 27-yard catch as he hit the turf. The Hawkeyes cut the deficit to 14-9.
- On third-and-11 in the fourth quarter, Stanley called his own number again, jaunting around the right end for a 14-yard pickup. That drive later resulted in Iowa’s lone touchdown and first lead at 15-14, Stanley plunging over the goal line from 1 yard out.
- The Cyclones regained the lead at 17-15. Stanley quickly faced a third-and-4. He dropped back and saw running back Mekhi Sargent drifting into the right flat. That completion netted 14 yards. Keith Duncan connected on the game-winning 39-yard field goal minutes later.
Iowa was a dismal 2-of-13 on third downs a week ago in an otherwise-spotless 30-0 home win over Rutgers.
To turn things around so dramatically, in a raucous, sold-out stadium, was the most impressive feat in a most impressive Iowa win.
Stanley, a senior quarterback who has now won here twice, deserves much of the credit.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
No one covers the Hawkeyes like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.