Iowa seniors walk off with four-game Cy-Hawk win streak
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The gravity of the moment was not lost on Parker Hesse of Waukon.
Gravity was pushing the Cy-Hawk trophy down onto his shoulders Saturday evening at Kinnick Stadium, as he hoisted the cherished piece of hardware on its second relay leg toward the Iowa Hawkeye locker room.
“It’s pretty heavy, so you need a rotation,” explained Hesse, a senior defensive end who had a key pass breakup in Iowa’s 13-3 victory over Iowa State before a sellout crowd of 69,250.
The rotation was heavy on seniors. Iowa had 12 of them in uniform. And they made history as the first group of players in coach Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons to win four consecutive games in this rivalry.
“There’s 3 million people and 27 million pigs involved in this game,” Hesse said. “So it’s kind of a state holiday. To have four straight, our senior class, it’s kind of like a chip on your shoulder. That’s bragging rights for the rest of our lives.”
The Hawkeyes walked out at the beginning of the game with the Iowa natives out in front. That was a message. Ten of the team’s seniors hail from the state.
The game ended three hours and 12 minutes later with the Hawkeyes swarming to the north end zone and swarming for a trophy they now feel is their birthright.
Junior guard Levi Paulsen of Moville made sure senior center Keegan Render of Indianola got to plant his 307-pound frame beneath the trophy and start lifting.
“In the future it will be, ‘Hey, I never lost to them,’” Render said. “It’s something you can keep coming back to.”
Senior defensive tackle Matt Nelson of Cedar Rapids called the victory “exhilarating.”
He got a hand on the trophy, he said, but didn’t get to carry it.
Not that you had to be from Iowa, or a senior, to appreciate the moment.
Sophomore defensive end A.J. Epenesa grew up in Glen Carbon, Illinois. But his father, Eppy, played for the Hawkeyes in the 1990s. The son is now 2-for-2 in Cy-Hawk games, and he soaked up the atmosphere Saturday.
“There’s nowhere else I would have rather been today other than playing in this game and being able to hold that trophy up at the end,” said Epenesa, a five-star recruit who had his choice of colleges. “I think we deserve what we got.”
Epenesa said the Iowa seniors and coaching staff talked up the importance of the rivalry all week. Not that he needed a reminder.
“You live for these moments. The crowd was electric tonight. We want this to be a Hawkeye state,” Epenesa said.
“The seniors harped on it a lot. It’s just a pride thing to be the team in Iowa.”
Iowa now leads the all-time series 44-22. The 66th version was won by the Hawkeyes because their defense held the Cyclones to 19 yards rushing and kept them out of the end zone after their first drive reached the 1-yard line.
“It’s special for us seniors and it’s just nice at the end of the day,” said Sam Brincks of Carroll, who made his second career start at defensive tackle Saturday. “But I think we have more goals to achieve this season.”
Iowa has won 11 of its past 13 trophy games. The next one, which Brincks was no doubt alluding to, comes in two weeks when Wisconsin comes to town.
Wisconsin is the home state of Iowa tailback Toren Young, a sophomore who was playing in his first CyHawk game Saturday. He has come to appreciate how much the game means in his new state. He made sure to pose for a photo with the Cy-Hawk trophy afterward.
“You come here and, going on my third year now, you really learn the history and you really become part of it,” said Young, who led the Hawkeyes with 68 rushing yards.
Hesse, a four-year starter and team leader, will be part of this rivalry forever. He’ll be able to tell anyone who asks that he never lost.
Not that he plans on going around bragging about it.
“If people come chirping to me, I’ll always have that feather in my cap,” Hesse said.