Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley threw five TD passes in a 55-24 rout of Ohio State. Chad Leistikow/The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Joshua Jackson was so good Saturday night that a topic of postgame conversation was: Which of his three fantastic interceptions against Ohio State was most impressive?
“That's a good question,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That last one was kind of a B.J. Lowery moment, right?”
Hawkeye fans with good memories know Ferentz was referring to the one-handed grab by Lowery that secured a 2013 win at Iowa State.
And that’s what Jackson replicated in tying Iowa’s school record with his third interception with his back to the goal line in the fourth quarter.
That’s the one that’ll be shown on the highlight shows, and probably on his NFL Draft clips if the junior declares early — which now seems like a no-brainer with the way he’s patrolling the Iowa secondary.
But Ferentz voted for a different interception of Jackson’s as No. 1. He liked a pickoff earlier in the fourth quarter of J.T. Barrett, in which Jackson wrestled the ball away from an Ohio State receiver to set Iowa up in excellent field position.
Iowa was already up 45-17 at the time. But on this afternoon, Jackson and the Hawkeyes were relentless.
“You know, it probably represented the kind of effort we're going to need to win this game tonight,” Ferentz said after the 55-24 beatdown of the third-ranked Buckeyes before 67,669 at Kinnick Stadium. “We knew we had to compete, and it was a great effort by him. But all three of those, you come up with four turnovers like that ... four picks, that's pretty good.”
Jackson’s first pick might’ve been the most important, though. With Iowa ahead 24-17 late in the first half, he leaped high for a two-handed grab, then ran it back 19 yards to the Ohio State 22.
Three plays later, Nate Stanley connected with Noah Fant for a 3-yard touchdown and a 31-17 halftime lead.
Jackson was humble after tying Tyler Sash and Grant Steen for the school record of interceptions in a game.
“I give credit to God and all my teammates for pushing me,” said Jackson, who deserves to be in contention for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. “Everybody pushed each other in practice. Just coming in to really enjoy the moment and try to execute today.”
Teammate Josey Jewell marveled at Jackson’s performance, which certainly has to be worth of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week — especially with the highlight-reel finishing pick.
“I don’t know if you can do much better,” Jewell said. “He had a great game.”
What about Nate?
Speaking of amazing performances, let’s talk about the Nate Stanley.
The sophomore quarterback threw his fourth touchdown pass of five with stud Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard draped around his leg. He side-armed a ball to T.J. Hockenson for a 2-yard score and a 38-17 lead, one play after the Hawkeyes successfully faked a field goal.
“That’s just part of being a quarterback,” Stanley said. “You just have to make plays when necessary.”
He’s been doing that. He now has 22 touchdown passes this season; the school record is 27, set by Chuck Long in his Heisman Trophy runner-up 1985 season. Stanley and Long are the only quarterbacks to have two five-touchdown games in a single season.
“He's done a lot of good things this year and had some tough plays, which anybody that plays quarterback is going to,” Ferentz said. “… He did a lot of really good things today against really good competition, so that was impressive."
Stanley also drew a big penalty — a targeting call against Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa on a third-and-8 incompletion in the second quarter. Bosa’s helmet struck Stanley’s, resulting in a 15-yard walkoff and an ejection. One play later, Stanley hit Fant for a 25-yard touchdown to break a 17-all tie.
“I didn’t really notice it all, I guess. I thought it was just another football play,” Stanley said. “The refs have a tough job.”
Sean Welsh on Nate Stanley’s night: ‘It really doesn’t surprise me’ Matt Bain / The Register
Iowa picked off Barrett four times Saturday, probably ruining the record-setting quarterback's Heisman Trophy hopes. Barrett came into the game with 25 touchdowns and one interception this season.
Amani Hooker got the first theft, eight seconds into the game.
He undercut Barrett’s throw across the middle and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, diving into the end zone for a shocking Iowa start.
“It got the team going,” said Hooker, a true sophomore who has blossomed since taking over the strong-safety role from Miles Taylor. “I just read the quarterback, made a play. The team was tight from then on.”
On Iowa’s first running play from scrimmage, Akrum Wadley raced upfield for a 30-yard gain.
Where did this come from?
Iowa hadn’t been running the football well all season. But on Saturday, it racked up 243 yards on the ground at a remarkable 6.4 yards per carry against a defense that was previously allowing 2.9.
“It’s a punch to the gut when a team runs for that many yards,” Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis said.
Iowa enjoyed delivering the blows.
Wadley rushed 20 times for 118 yards. James Butler uncorked a 53-yard run on the way to 74 yards on 10 carries. Even Toren Young picked up 47 yards on five rushes as Iowa closed out the win.
“Just dominating,” Wadley said. “And consistently scoring.”
Kirk Ferentz yukked it up this week, sarcastically saying how excited he was to see Iowa’s “awesome” alternative uniforms on Saturday night.
The head coach relented after the win: We’ll do alternate uniforms next year, too.
“We probably can't wear those on the road, right?” Ferentz said, wishfully wondering if his team could take these to Wisconsin next week. “But it's funny, I asked the former players, Jaleel (Johnson) is back here, Desmond (King), all those guys. I said, ‘What do you guys think?’ They all loved them. Our players loved them, our former players love them.”