Koehn on winning kick: 'Holy crap, that just happened'
IOWA CITY, Ia. – The party bus for his cousin's wedding stopped at a bar in Cedar Rapids.
Marshall Koehn was 16. Old enough to remember and too young to legally down adult beverages with the rest of the group.
He watched that day in 2008 when the bus pulled over just in time to see Daniel Murray become a permanent part of Iowa kicking lore with a last-second field goal that dropped third-ranked Penn State from the ranks of the unbeaten.
"I wasn't drinking," Koehn emphasized Saturday night with a laugh. "I was just a part of it."
Koehn wears Murray's old No. 1 jersey. He recently pulled up the YouTube clip of the Penn State kick and watched it again, wondering how it might feel to be on the kicking end of one of those remember-where-you-were moments for Iowa football.
At 10:18 p.m. Saturday night, the senior from Solon drilled a 57-yard field goal – the second-longest in school history – that helped the Hawkeyes sink Pittsburgh 27-24 in front of 63,636 at Kinnick Stadium.
"I was standing out there," Koehn said, "and I was like, 'Holy crap, that just happened.'"
It happened on Koehn's second try at the game-winner. Pittsburgh voided the first try when the Panthers called for a timeout just before the Hawkeyes snapped the ball.
It was a good thing for Koehn, whose kick fell well short.
It happened after the Hawkeyes (3-0) and Panthers (2-1) traded punches for 59 minutes, neither looking wobbly as overtime appeared imminent.
It happened after Desmond King scooped up a tumbling kickoff near the Iowa goal line and ran it out to the 30. From there, C.J. Beathard orchestrated a seven-play, 31-yard drive, scrambling three times for 27 yards.
"Our two-minute drill this week in practice was awful," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We were three downs and out. … But fortunately we saved it for tonight. It was a little better execution."
Iowa had opportunities to close it out in regulation, none better than when the Hawkeyes had the Panthers backed into 4th-and-15 with a little more than a minute remaining. Then Pittsburgh quarterback Nate Peterman connected with tight end J.P. Holtz for a gain of 19 to the Iowa 8. Two plays later, Peterman hit Tyler Boyd for an 8-yard touchdown.
Boyd was a 6-foot-2, 200-pound thorn in Iowa's side throughout the night. Although Desmond King picked off a pair of passes intended for Boyd, the junior caught 10 balls for 131 yards and bailed out the Panthers time and again when their running game failed.
The Hawkeyes held the Panthers to just 55 yards on the ground, but Iowa couldn't pull away.
A Beathard 9-yard touchdown run gave the Hawkeyes a 10-0 lead a minute into the second quarter. The Panthers countered with an interception on the next Iowa drive and a 15-yard touchdown strike from Peterman to tight end Scott Orndoff.
The Hawkeyes punched back with a 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive that culminated in a Jordan Canzeri 4-yard touchdown run just before half.
Pitt swung back with a drive for a field goal on the opening possession of the second half and tied the game minutes later when Iowa's lone special-teams mistake of the night opened the door for Pat Amara to scoop up a blocked punt and take it back 28 yards for a score.
For the second straight week, though, the Hawkeyes found a way to victory in the closing minutes. Two touchdowns in the final three minutes launched Iowa to a 31-17 win last week at Iowa State.
"I can't say enough about the fight of our guys," Ferentz said.
Beathard hobbled off the field after his second-quarter touchdown run and picked himself up one play after another as the Panthers hit him with a barrage of first-half blitzes. He finished the night with career highs in completions (27), attempts (40) and passing yards (258).
"He's a nice young man," Ferentz said. "But I'll tell you, he's hard as nails."
Beathard's last play might have been the most pivotal on Iowa's final possession. He escaped a pass rush and ran eight yards, diving for Iowa's sideline at the Pitt 39 with two seconds left on the clock.
Ferentz's first bowl win came in 2001 when Nate Kaeding drilled a field goal in the closing seconds to beat Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl. A couple minutes before Koehn's kick, Kaeding tweeted: "MK can hit this from anywhere inside 65."
Koehn said he figured the Panthers would call a timeout to ice him. He said he let up on the first kick and hit the ball off his toe after he heard officials blow the play dead.
"The second one," he said, "I got all of that kick."
Koehn watched the kick draw through the uprights and into the net beyond the stadium's north end zone and then took off on a sprint in the opposite direction as teammates gave chase.
"I wasn't letting anyone touch me," he said. "I know I knocked over about three of four cheerleaders. I heard a couple were on the bottom of the dogpile, but I didn't get touched, other than a couple chest-bumps."