Tyler Kluver enters Hawkeye lore with 'polecat' play that surprised everyone
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Tyler Kluver’s chance for Hawkeye immortality began with Keegan Render running onto the field at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday and uttering one fateful word.
“Polecat,” Render whispered to Kluver, who was preparing to snap the football for what he assumed was a 38-yard field goal attempt.
“Polecat” let him know that Iowa’s coaches had something else in mind entirely.
“I was like, ‘Really, we’re running it?’” Kluver said. “And then I double-checked and triple-checked with my holder.”
Iowa was leading No. 3 Ohio State 31-17, so a field goal to make it a three-score game late in the third quarter would have been a reasonable decision. But the Hawkeyes have been doing funky things on special teams all season and had been practicing for weeks a fake field goal with Kluver, a senior from Marshalltown, on the receiving end.
“In a game like this, we knew we were going to need stuff like that to compete and I was just ready to go make a play,” Kluver said.
Miguel Recinos, the kicker, was also stunned to find out that he would be lining up as a wide receiver instead. He hasn’t done that since his freshman year at Mason City High.
He jogged toward the Ohio State sideline, reminding himself that his sole job was to be on the line of scrimmage and not jump offside.
“Literally as I was running you could hear the noise elevating in the stadium,” Recinos said.
The fans knew Iowa was up to something. So did Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who stood next to an official as if preparing to call a timeout.
Colten Rastetter, the holder on field goals who was now lined up at quarterback, also saw Meyer and waited for the inevitable timeout, which would have foiled the Hawkeyes’ plans.
Meyer never called it.
A.J. Epenesa came in motion from left to right. Kluver snapped the ball, waited one second, then put his head down and ran toward the end zone. The Buckeyes let him go.
Kluver was surprised again, this time about being so open.
“My heart fluttered a little bit, then I turned and the ball was already in the air,” Kluver said.
Rastetter was pressured by Ohio State pass-rushers and had to throw quickly. It was not a perfect pass and Kluver had to wait for it. But he did catch it as Kinnick Stadium roared.
“I displayed some really great athleticism and I fell on the 1-yard line,” Kluver joked.
Actually, it was the 2, but that was good enough for an 18-yard gain and a first down. Iowa scored on the next play and the rout was on in an eventual 55-24 victory.
“The goal was to start the game with it,” Kluver said of the fake field goal the Hawkeyes have been working on for five weeks. “But third quarter works, too, in a big situation.”
Rastetter had completed a pass to Epenesa in Iowa’s loss at Michigan State on another fake. That, too, was a little underthrown, but he is 2-for-2. Not bad for a punter.
Rastetter said he’d been joking with Kluver that Iowa was saving the fake field goal for its matchup with mighty Ohio State, with the team wearing alternate uniforms and the eyes of the football-watching nation on Iowa City.
Rastetter said his only option on the play is to throw to Kluver. If that’s not open, he was instructed to just go down and not risk a turnover.
“I underthrew (Kluver) more (than Epenesa) because he was so wide-open. I felt the pressure coming and I just put it for him to try to make a play on it,” Rastetter said.
“I kind of screwed him from a touchdown.”
Kluver believed he still should have scored and knew he was going to hear about it.
“I don’t know if I can turn on my phone right now, because I’m going to get crap about that for probably ever,” Kluver said.
“I could have scored a touchdown, but on the other side of it I could have very well not caught it,” Kluver reasoned. “I’ll kick myself about it. I’m sure the guys will just eat me up on it.
“I’m just glad I had a chance to do something cool.”
In the heat of another historic Iowa upset, with the crowd in a frenzy, Kluver kept his cool.
“Polecat” will be his Hawkeye legacy.