Interception halts Iowa’s late comeback attempt
IOWA CITY — Steele Jantz saw the play unfolding like a quarterback.
All 6-foot-7, 265 pounds of C.J. Fiedorowicz was running open, and if Jantz could see how open Fiedorowicz was, he knew Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg couldn’t miss him.
But as 70,585 fans inside Kinnick Stadium collectively rose to their feet anticipating a huge play, something else caught Jantz’s eye — Jake Knott.
The rest is history.
Knott’s interception at the Iowa State 24 with 1 minute, 11 seconds left helped preserve the Cyclones’ 9-6 victory over the Hawkeyes Saturday in the 60th meeting of the in-state rivals.
It also kept the Cy-Hawk Trophy in Ames as Iowa State won for the second consecutive time in the series and for the first time inside Kinnick since 2002.
“Well, I’m a quarterback so I was looking at the pass play and I saw 86 (Fiedorowicz),” Jantz said. “Then I immediately saw Jake, and it happened so fast.”
As Vandenberg unleashed his throw for what most likely would’ve given Iowa the ball inside the Iowa State 20 with a chance to send the game into overtime or win it, Knott leaped high into the air, tipped the ball and then hauled it in to a collective groan from the Hawkeye faithful and glee from the Cyclone nation.
“I don’t where that ranks, but that is one of the best plays I’ve seen and been a part of in my whole life,” added Jantz.
In a game full of big defensive plays, Knott’s interception will be talked about for years to come.
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads recalled a Dave Wannstedt saying when the two coached together at Pittsburgh in a game against West Viriginia, a Pitt win.
“These are the games that legends are made in,” Rhoads recalled Wannstedt saying.
“We had a guy by the name of Darrelle Revis who had a punt return in that game and that was a phenomenal football play,” Rhoads added. “Jake Knott made that kind of play in a series that will have him go down in history.
“Who knows how high he was in the air or what the level of the ball was when he made the play, but to do that after 59 minutes of football with our backs against the wall ... the momentum clearly in their favor, and he had the presence of mind to settle it and find it and then intercept it. You do not make better plays than that in this game,” continued Rhoads.
It had been a defensive war all day long after both teams scored on their opening possessions.
Iowa State (2-0) took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in 10 plays with Jantz going 5-for-5 and capping it with a 5-yard scoring strike to Aaron Horne.
Iowa responded with a 77-yard drive that stalled inside the Cyclone 5-yard line and had to settle for a 22-yard Mike Meyer field goal.
So, it was 6-3 after two offensive possessions.
But Iowa (1-1) never consistently got going offensively, accumulating just 302 total yards of offense and going 5-for-17 on third downs.
Iowa State had multiple chances to put the game away, but three times the Cyclones turned the ball over inside the Hawkeye 20-yard line.
Shontrelle Johnson fumbled on the Iowa 10 in the first quarter, and in the third quarter Jantz and running back James White had a miscommunication that led to a fumble recovered by the Hawkeyes’ James Morris at the 20.
With a chance for Iowa State to seal the game with 3:23 left, Morris made another huge play on a third-and-goal from the Iowa 7 by stepping in front of a Jantz pass and returning it to midfield.
“I thought for sure in the second half they really grew up a bit,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of his defense, which limited Iowa State to 342 yards. “We were more decisive, more confident and it certainly didn’t hurt that a couple of guys made some plays.”
After the Morris interception, Iowa saw a fourth-and-10 pass to Don Shumpert go in and out of his hands with 3:02 left, seemingly ending the Hawkeyes’ hopes.
But Iowa’s defense rose up again and forced the Cyclones to go three-and-out, and by using its remaining two timeouts, Iowa got the ball back on its 10 with 1:56 remaining.
Vandenberg hit Keenan Davis for a 29-yard gain on a fourth-and-3 to get Iowa to midfield. Back-to-back completions of 10 and 12 yards to Damon Bullock got the Hawkeyes to the Iowa State 32.
On the next play, Fiedorowicz ran open.
“You know, maybe the throw wasn’t perfect,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know, but it was a great effort by Knott. He is an outstanding football player. It looked like he went up there and got it.”
Knott and fellow all-Big 12 linebacker A.J. Klein talked prior to the play about what they expected the Hawkeyes to run.
“It was a play they ran earlier and we kind of knew that it might come if they ran a certain way,” Knott said. “It just came with film study. Me and A.J. were talking before the play and kind of got lucky he didn’t get a little more air on it because it would’ve been a big play for them.”
“It’s a great victory,” Rhoads said. “I’m very proud of our kids. Two teams that hung around and persevered and then jumped at the opportunity to win a football game.
“Number 20 decided to go win a football game.”
©2012 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)
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