Iowa escapes Bloomington with 18-13 win


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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Demarlo Belcher had a touchdown in his grasp — and with it, Iowa’s championship hopes faded all too quickly. It would all end here — a conference title, the Rose Bowl, a repeat of the magic from a season ago — in a crimson-painted end zone against the lowly Indiana Hoosiers.

But then, just as quickly as the play unfolded — an 18-yard strike from Ben Chappell on a post route with seconds remaining — the ball bobbled out of Belcher’s hands.

Back judge Terry Anderson waved his hands and shook his head.


And with that, the No. 15 Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-1) escaped Indiana (4-5, 0-5) Saturday with a 18-13 win, keeping their Big Ten title hopes alive and handing head coach Kirk Ferentz his 100th career victory.

“I saw the official say it was incomplete,” Ferentz said of Belcher’s drop. “You know, it was a great relief.”

Safety Tyler Sash added, “I don’t know how he dropped it.”

In a game defined by failed red zone attempts, inconsistent special-teams play, and untimely penalties, Iowa’s crowning achievement might have been to simply have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

Down 13-12 entering the game’s waning minutes, quarterback Ricky Stanzi manufactured a three-play, 52-second drive that ended with the Hawkeyes’ only touchdown of the game. Stanzi connected with Marvin McNutt on a double-move that left the receiver streaking wide-open down the middle of the field.

It was the big play Iowa needed on a day when quick-strike drives were limited.

“They had been leaving it for us all game, and then we ran the double-cut off of it,” Stanzi said of the route. “It worked out for us.”

McNutt added, “When I came out of my route, I felt like I was going to be open. … Rick put it in a perfect spot.”

The Hawkeye offense racked up nearly 450 yards in total offense, gained 22 first downs, and only punted twice — and yet the unit only had nine points through three quarters. Iowa didn’t score a touchdown in any of its four red zone trips.

Stanzi had nearly 300 yards passing, and true freshman running back Marcus Coker gained another 129 in his first career start, but the Hawkeyes still couldn’t find the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.

True freshman kicker Michael Meyer made three kicks inside of 30 yards — and missed another 22-yarder. This allowed Indiana to hang around, even as Iowa’s defense limited the Hoosiers to similar ineffectiveness.

“They’re a much better team than people give them credit for,” offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said. “If we gave them hope and let them hang around all game, then we were going to be in trouble at the end. Which we did and we were.”

With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Ben Chappell, Indiana’s senior quarterback, led a 12-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. For the first time all afternoon, the Hoosiers had the lead. Chappell completed 27-of-46 passes for 222 yards against Iowa’s defense.

On Iowa’s second drive of the fourth quarter, offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe called for a heavy dose of Coker. The true freshman — who was filling in for starter Adam Robinson (concussion) — gained 24 yards on four carries, setting up Meyer’s fourth and final field goal make, a 42-yarder.

Stanzi’s touchdown to McNutt on the following drive would prove to be the game-winning play.

“That was not a routine chip-shot,” Ferentz said of Meyer’s 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. “He really came up big there. I know he missed one earlier in the game, so he showed some resiliency there coming back and getting a critical field goal for us.”

A week after beating then-undefeated and fifth-ranked Michigan State by 31 points, the Hawkeyes came into Memorial Stadium with one conference loss. They still had a chance — albeit with some help from Wisconsin — to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl.

For a second, that all disappeared. Demarlo Belcher had a touchdown. And then he didn’t.

As the Hawkeyes begin to prepare for next week’s contest at Northwestern, a prevailing thought carries this team forward.

“It’s how you handle these kinds of games,” Ferentz said. “Can you come out on the right side? If you do, you have a chance to have a good season. If you don’t, that’s the ‘what if?’ game. That’s what it shakes out to in conference play.”

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