Recinos delivers Hawkeye win over Nebraska with clutch field goal
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Keith Duncan had one sentence of advice for Miguel Recinos on Friday, one kicker to another.
“After you make it,” Duncan said of the most important field goal of Recinos’s Iowa career, “don’t slide.”
The two are linked in Hawkeye football history now. Recinos did make that kick as time expired to deliver a 31-28 victory over Nebraska before an announced crowd of 65,299 at Kinnick Stadium.
Two years ago, Duncan drilled a 33-yard field goal to beat Michigan, ran toward the north end zone and slid to the ground before his teammates buried him in a jubilant but painful dogpile.
Recinos sailed a 41-yarder through a light rain Friday, then ran and ran and kept running. Into the south end zone. Circling around and back toward his bench, a trail of teammates behind him.
No one was catching Recinos. The senior was the hero on Senior Day, with the Heroes Trophy at stake.
“I was sitting on the bench with my head down. I was pretty nervous,” Hawkeye senior safety Jake Gervase said of the kick that sent his team to 8-4, 5-4 in Big Ten Conference play. “I could tell right away it went in when the crowd erupted. … I get chills just thinking about it.”
Recinos wasn’t nervous at all, he said. He had missed a 37-yard attempt also heading north just 8 minutes earlier, pushing it wide right (“I think I was just a little too open in my hips,” he self-diagnosed).
“After that, it’s a very lonely feeling,” Recinos said.
What calmed him was his ability to read the future. He was sure he would get another chance, with his team leading 28-20 and going for a fourth consecutive win against the rival Cornhuskers (4-8, 3-6). He saw Nebraska driving for a touchdown, converting the two-pointer to knot things up. And he saw his Hawkeye offense, which gained 419 yards without a turnover, moving right back into position for his immediate shot at redemption.
Recinos said he even believed Nebraska coach Scott Frost would be foolish enough to dispense with his final timeout in an effort to “ice” him.
It unfolded exactly that way.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley found tight end T.J. Hockenson for 10 yards on a gutsy fourth-and-8 conversion. Running back Mekhi Sargent plowed forward for 4 yards, giving him a career-best 173, to set up Iowa at the Nebraska 23-yard line on the right hash mark. Recinos wasn’t asked where he preferred the football to be aligned, but no matter. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz let the clock wind down to 3 seconds before stopping it.
“I said something quickly to him as he went on the field,” Ferentz said of Recinos. “At that point, yeah, let him do what he does. I don't know anything about kicking. Keep your eyes down. I know that. Wasn't much I could tell him that was going to help him.”
Colten Rastetter, the holder for Recinos the past two seasons, went over to his best friend.
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“I saw it in his eyes. He was focused, determined,” Rastetter said.
The Hawkeyes lined up. Frost called his timeout. Recinos practically exhaled in gratitude.
“I think old Frost made a big mistake calling timeout on that one,” Recinos said. “Because it gave me an opportunity to kind of get the guys together and I was able to say a few things to them, told them I loved them.”
It also gave long-snapper Jackson Subbert and Rastetter time to test things out. The ball was wet, Rastetter said, and he had decided to remove his gloves at halftime.
The practice snap was slippery. The real one was perfect.
Recinos said he knew he hit the football well. He saw it was on target. He turned and sprinted like a carefree child, windmilling his arms and listening to a stadium erupt.
“I was feeling a little nauseous there for a second,” Recinos joked of his impromptu jaunt.
“I would never tell coach Ferentz this, but I always seem to be better after I miss one. … It just gets easier for me to black everything out because I kind of get angry. But that anger is positive.
“I knew I was going to make the kick.”
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Two years ago, Duncan, then a freshman, was able to walk back to his dorm room in anonymity, amusing himself by chirping at Hawkeye fans who had no idea that he was the little guy at the bottom of that dogpile moments before.
Rastetter didn’t think Friday’s hero would be besieged by autograph hounds either. The seniors were planning a celebratory gathering.
“He doesn’t even have social media,” Rastetter said of Recinos. “So I don’t even know if people know what he looks like.”
He looks like a guy who has scored 171 points for the Hawkeyes, none more momentous than the three he put up with the game on the line Friday.