Nov. 8, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The monkey is off the University of Iowa football team’s back – the Hawkeyes won a close game late: Daniel Murray’s 31-yard field goal with one tick left on the game clock inside historic Kinnick Stadium gave the Hawkeyes a hard-earned 24-23 victory over No. 2 ranked Penn State.
The heroes were many: Iowa’s quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 15 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. He also engineered the game-winning drive, converting on three different third down situations to keep the Hawkeyes marching.
Running back Shonn Greene hammered the Nittany Lion defense for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one from 14 to open the game’s scoring and another with nine minutes left to play and the Hawkeyes trailing 23-14.
Wide out Derrell Johnson-Koulianos with seven catches for 89 yards, totals that included a 27-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter.
Iowa’s defense…which spent almost 25 minutes on the field in the first half, but still found the strength and determination to stymie three different PSU drives into field goals instead of touchdowns.
However – under the circumstances…cold, windy, nationally ranked opponent, national television – the hero among the heroes is Murray. It probably surprised the 35th straight sellout crowd inside Kinnick when Iowa’s kickoff specialist took the field for the game-winning attempt. Most fans of the Hawkeyes probably expected freshman Trent Mossbrucker to try to make the Hawkeyes bowl eligible with two games left to play.
“I can only thank Coach (Kirk) Ferentz for the opportunity. I was confident I would make it…before and after Penn State’s timeout,” the sophomore from Iowa City told Gary Dolphin and Ed Podolak of the Hawkeye Radio Network.
Asked if the ball was where he wanted on the field, Murray chuckled. “I actually told the coaches left middle. So I got the exact opposite…a little off the right hash,” he said.
“We told the team last week that this team would be judged by its performance in its final three games of the regular season. We’re off to a very good start. Two more to go.”
“The decision was made today. We made the decision right there at the end,” Ferentz said of the call to give the nod to Murray.
“Bottom line, we leaned towards experience. We’re not down on Trent. He’s going to have a great career here. We just leaned toward experience. We told them both to be warm and ready. Fortunately, Daniel responded in just a positive fashion.
The field goal completed a 15-play that started on Iowa’s 29 after Tyler Sash picked an errant pass from Penn State’s Daryll Clark with 3:47 left to play.
Ferentz was impressed with Iowa’s ability to fight and scratch, stay focused, overcome mistakes, convert on third downs and win a big game. He also likes the fact that his field general has a short memory.
“For the second straight week he’s fought through some adversity and put us in a position to win. That speaks volumes about him,” said Ferentz, who improved to 5-3 in games against a man he admires tremendously, Joe Paterno.
“We’ve been resilient. We’ve bounced back. We’ve worked hard all year. I’m happy for our guys to win a game like this because they’ve earned it,” he added.
The victory pushed Iowa to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten Conference play. Iowa entertains Purdue next week at Kinnick in a game that kicks at 11 a.m. Iowa time and will be televised live by the Big Ten Network. The Hawkeyes complete their regular season at Minnesota on the night of Nov. 22 in the last college football game to be played in the Metrodome.
“We told the team last week that this team would be judged by its performance in its final three games of the regular season. We’re off to a very good start. Two more to go,” Ferentz said.