These were the 10 biggest highlights of Iowa football's 2017 season

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Another Iowa football regular season is in the books, one that again produced a slew of monumental plays en route to a 7-5 mark.

Iowa teammates swarm the field before the Hawkeyes' game against Purdue at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

Through a mix of pivotal wins and painful losses, the Hawkeyes delivered countless moments that will forever live in Iowa lore.

Here are the top 10 highlights from the 2017 season; criteria included 'wow' factor, impact on the game's outcome and backstory of the moment:

10. Akrum Wadley puts Penn State on upset alert

The result obviously didn’t hold, but Wadley’s 35-yard TD run with 1:42 to play certainly made the Nittany Lions sweat. The score arrived after Iowa’s offense had been incognito for most of the night — it still finished with only 273 total yards — but the running back’s late scamper handed the Hawkeyes a 19-15 lead. Had Penn State not followed up with a game-winning drive that ended with zeroes on the clock, Wadley’s TD would’ve been long remembered among Hawkeye diehards.

9. Noah Fant burns Nebraska badly

The Iowa tight end and Omaha native brought some extra juice against his home-state squad, torching Nebraska for 116 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the 56-14 blowout. The 68-yard score late in the third quarter punctuated the Hawkeyes' second-half surge, which saw Iowa outscore the Cornhuskers, 42-0, after the break.

8. 'Polecat'

The Hawkeyes were well on their way to their emphatic 55-24 upset of Ohio State when ‘polecat’ was called late in the third quarter, but the boldness and execution of Iowa’s fake field goal are what land this play at No. 8. The 18-yard completion from holder Colten Rastetter to long snapper Tyler Kluver worked to perfection and injected more life into an already buzzing crowd. One play later, the Hawkeyes took a 38-17 lead on the eventual Big Ten champs and closed out an unforgettable day with authority.

More:Hawkeye fans' ultimate travel guide to the Pinstripe Bowl

7. Brandon Snyder delivers storybook return

You couldn’t have scripted a better 2017 debut for Brandon Snyder, who returned to the field against Illinois less than six months removed from ACL surgery. The Iowa safety immediately made his mark, picking off an errant Jeff George Jr. pass and rumbling 89 yards to the house for a memorable pick-six. The defensive touchdown handed the Hawkeyes a 24-13 lead with 6:40 to play in the third and helped set up a strong finish, as Iowa ended with three fourth-quarter touchdowns en route to a 45-16 win.

6. Ihmir Smith-Marsette etches name in Cy-Hawk lore

This play doesn’t necessarily have the flashiness of the others on this list, but in terms of impact on the game, this grab can certainly hold its own. Having just rallied in improbable fashion to force overtime, the Hawkeyes had a chance to steal one after Iowa State opened OT with a field goal. Facing second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Smith-Marsette went in motion, ran a quick out route and got enough separation inside to make a diving TD grab for the walk-off win. Smith-Marsette didn’t score again in the regular season, but a game-winning catch in a rivalry game more than suffices.  

5. Amani Hooker brings the juice on play No. 1

You often must make some instant noise to pull a sizeable upset, and Iowa did just that in routing then-No. 3 Ohio State. The excitement began brewing early — like, really early. J.T. Barrett had completed his previous 16 passes when he dropped back to throw on the Buckeyes’ first offensive snap, but Amani Hooker made sure that streak ended swiftly. The Iowa safety darted in front of Barrett’s intended target and cruised to the end zone for a 30-yard pick six, sending Kinnick Stadium into a frenzy. From there, the rout was on.

More:Relive the top Hawkeye football moments of 2017 captured by Register photographers

4. Akrum Wadley wakes the offense up on a hot night at Kinnick

Iowa’s offense had been stuck in neutral for most of the game when Wadley finally broke lose against Penn State. The Hawkeyes were in a 15-7 hole with 10:19 to go and desperately needed a spark, so who better to go to than Iowa’s dynamic senior? Wadley ran a beautiful wheel route out of the backfield, and quarterback Nate Stanley hit him in stride despite facing serious pressure. Then came the magic, as Wadley broke free from two Penn State defenders, turned another around with a couple cutbacks and finished off the foot-race with an emphatic dive into the end zone.

3. Josh Jackson needs just the one hand

The Ohio State destruction resonated on numerous fronts, but among the most noteworthy was springboarding Jackson into the national spotlight. The Iowa cornerback snatched three interceptions that November day, punctuated by his one-handed, Odell Beckham-esque grab near the end zone that halted an Ohio State drive in the fourth quarter. Jackson has ascended into a unanimous all-American, thanks in no small part to his Buckeye torturing.

2. Akrum Wadley saves the day in Ames

With Iowa staring a Cy-Hawk loss directly in the face, Wadley did his thing again to largely silence a buzzing Jack Trice Stadium. Facing a 38-31 deficit with 1:24 to go, Stanely calmly dumped one off to his prized running back and let Wadley do the rest. The 5-foot-11 senior slashed through two Iowa State defenders, bolted up the sideline and successfully weaved through traffic, then bulldozing through Iowa State defensive back Evrett Edwards to cap the 46-yard TD catch. That knotted things up, and Iowa later won in overtime.

1. Hawkeye Wave transcends sports to grab national headlines 

Call it a cop-out since it wasn't a specific play, but this will stand as the lasting moment of the 2017 Iowa football season. What began as a local phenomenon quickly surged onto the national scene as one of college football’s most noteworthy topics. Fans from every corner of the country eventually tuned in to watch the Hawkeye Wave, and the newfound tradition likely isn’t going anywhere. Social media often has the tendency to blow things out of proportion, but chalk a win up to today’s technology-driven society on this one.

Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.