Sept. 20, 2009
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by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — One running play of 58 yards may very well have been a game-changer, but the University of Iowa football team took a stand Saturday inside a sold-out Kinnick Stadium and went on to win 27-17 against the University of Arizona.
The Wildcats (2-1 overall) came in with one of the nation’s premier rushing attacks, averaging 305.5 yards on the ground, ranking fifth best in NCAA through two games. That came on the heels of running back Nic Grigsby, who entered the game averaging 162.5 yards a game, ranking second-best in NCAA.
Late in the first quarter, with the score tied 7-7, Grigsby took off and dodged tackles all the way from the left side of the field to the right, gaining 58 yards before UI cornerback Amari Spievey pushed him out of bounds. The play would have been a game-changer against most defenses, but not against the Hawkeyes. They know that every once and awhile they are going to bend, but rarely do they break.
“That (run) hurt,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We have great respect for their whole team. Any time you look like you’re in a bad situation or the ball is down inside the two or whatever, if you can hold them to a field goal, especially early in the game, that’s a real positive. I think our guys had a lot of confidence. At halftime we had given up a field goal and gave up a touchdown on offense (off of the interception).”
“That was big. If we didn’t get there it probably would have been a different game, different outcome,” Spievey said. “You have to go every play like it’s your last — you never know what is going to happen the rest of the game.”
With the Grigsby run, Arizona was on Iowa’s 1-yard line. The Wildcats went right back to Grigsby and David Cato stuffed him for a two-yard loss. Two incomplete passes later and Arizona had to settle for a field goal to take a temporary 10-7 lead.
The Wildcats may have taken the lead, but the Hawkeyes (3-0 overall) could feel the momentum turn in their favor. They used that momentum on the next possession, going on a six-play drive for 70 yards that was capped by an Adam Robinson touchdown and a 14-10 Hawkeye advantage.
“That (stop) changed the momentum quite a bit,” defensive lineman Karl Klug said. “They were feeling good and marched the ball down the field and as soon as we held them on the goal line, it kind of stopped their momentum and picked our momentum up.”
“That was big. If we didn’t get there it probably would have been a different game, different outcome, You have to go every play like it’s your last — you never know what is going to happen the rest of the game.”
Amari Spievey on his hustling touchdown-saving tackle and the importance of Iowa’s goal-line stand.
“That was huge,” defensive end Broderick Binns said. “Anytime we can keep the opposing team out of the end zone and make them kick a field goal is big for us. It showed them that we are going to be here all game for 60 minutes.”
The first touchdown given up by the Hawkeyes came off of an interception that the Wildcats returned for a score. Besides the long play, Iowa’s defense silenced Arizona’s offense and narrowed-in on the running game. Despite the 58-yard play from Grigsby, the Hawkeyes shut him down the rest of the way and limited the running back to 75 yards on 11 carries. Arizona was finally able to break through for a touchdown with 1:53 left in the game, but the Hawkeyes already owned a commanding three-possession lead at the time.
The Hawkeye defense gets stronger with every game it plays and will need to continue that trend when Iowa heads to Happy Valley next Saturday to take on No. 5 Penn State in the first Big Ten Conference game of the season. Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m. (Iowa time) inside Beaver Stadium.