Sept. 17, 2011
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- Iowa Football Wallpaper
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Some unlikely heroes helped solidify what University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz calls a “bunch of moving parts” and lifted the Hawkeyes to their biggest comeback victory in school history.
Trailing 24-3 with 3-minutes, 11-seconds left in the third period, Iowa ran 26 plays during the next 15:20, resulting in 261 yards and 28 points for a 31-27 win over previously undefeated Pittsburgh on Saturday inside a sold-out Kinnick Stadium.
The first name mentioned when talking gigantic efforts?
“One of the biggest moments was on a kickoff when Joe Audelhelm came out and had a big tackle,” said Hawkeye junior wide receiver Keenan Davis. “That was the first time he was ever in there; that really fires you up when you see somebody like that come out and make a play.”
Ferentz called it a `team win’ that followed self-inflicted wounds during the first three quarters. One of the keys to that team win was kickoff coverage…and guess who?
“Joe Audelhelm coming up with a big play and then Tommy Donatell following up with a really big play sparked us. They definitely sparked the crowd.”
Audelhelm is a 5-foot-8, 182-pound senior wide receiver from Van Wert, Iowa. The Hawkeyes cut Pittsburgh’s lead to three at 27-24 following a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Vandenberg to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley with 6:19 left in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, the Panther returner, Corey Davis was cut down by Audelhelm and Jordan Bernstine at the Panther 20.
Donatell is a 6-2, 205-pound senior outside linebacker from Atlanta. Iowa took its first lead of the game, 31-27, on a 22-yard touchdown from Vandenberg to Martin-Manley with 2:51 left in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Davis was smacked by Donatell at the Panther 9.
Those huge special teams plays complemented Vandenberg’s 399 passing yards on a day when the Hawkeye signal-caller said it took the better part of three quarters to comprehend Pittsburgh’s defensive scheme.
“We finally put our finger on exactly what they were doing from a coverage standpoint and what they were doing behind some of their blitzes,” said Vandenberg, who completed 31 of 48 passes with three touchdowns. “We attacked it differently in the fourth quarter and it all came down to there being such good protection and I was able to find guys open.”
Davis had the biggest game of his career with 10 catches for 129 yards and a 14-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. Marvin McNutt, Jr., had eight grabs for 112 yards, making it the first time the Hawkeyes had two receivers with more than 100 yards receiving in the same game since a 42-24 win against Indiana on Oct. 31, 2009. In that game McNutt had four catches for 155 yards and a touchdown and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had three receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown.
“Those guys were making insane plays on the outside,” Vandenberg said of the UI receivers.
Not to be forgotten is the production on Martin-Manley (four receptions, 76 yards, two touchdowns).
“That’s a young guy right there and he’s family,” Davis said of Martin-Manley. “To see somebody do that and grow up is phenomenal.”
None of Iowa’s 31 completions were more crucial than the 22-yard game-winner.
“Vandy saw that the linebacker was over me man-to-man,” Martin-Manley said. “He told me to get a good release; I got a good release, he hit me, I scored and it was a big play for us.”
Iowa never surrendered, even when the Hawkeyes slipped behind by three touchdowns. That goes for the coaches, players…and fans.
“The coaches said we could do it, just go out there and make the plays you can make,” Davis said. “That happened, and we made the best of it.”
“The whole time (Vandenberg) kept us composed,” McNutt said. “He’s our leader and he makes plays when it counts. Last week we couldn’t finish the game like we wanted to and this week to come back like we did was an emotional experience. It was awesome.”
“We feed off it a lot when Kinnick’s rocking,” Martin-Manley said of the 70,585 fans. “That makes us proud and we want to go harder and make bigger plays.”
The Hawkeyes return to Kinnick on Sept. 24 against Louisiana-Monroe, beginning at 11:01 a.m. It didn’t take long for the veteran McNutt to put the Pittsburgh win into perspective.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” McNutt said. “Our main goal is to improve.”