By RICK BROWN
Leading up to the 2016 season opener against Miami of Ohio on Sept. 3 at Kinnick Stadium, hawkeyesports.com’s Rick Brown is taking a game-by-game look back at the University of Iowa’s historic 2015 season.
With perspective from Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, his staff and players, we hope to give you some insight into a season that will never be forgotten.
Iowa 27, Pittsburgh 24
Sept. 19, 2015, Kinnick Stadium
Iowa City, Iowa
A single, solitary second. One thousand one.
Had one more second ticked off the clock two plays before Marshall Koehn rocked Kinnick Stadum with a walkoff 57-yard field goal to beat Pittsburgh, one of the most electric moments in stadium history might not have taken place.
On a second-and-10 play from the Pittsburgh 47, with 15 seconds remaining, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard took the snap and threw a 9-yard pass to Tevaun Smith that was ruled incomplete after a review. The clock read :08. If it had been :07 instead?
“At :07, believe it or not, we would have we would have kicked a field goal,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks Coach Greg Davis said. “But at :08, we felt we had time to execute a play and get our timeout.”
A 65-yard field goal attempt? That would have been the challenge for Koehn had the clock read :07.
“That would have been pushing it a little bit,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “So, to have a chance to move it up a little bit was advantageous.”
There was time for one more play, and Iowa was in “Alert Timeout” mode. That tells every receiver that if they make a reception, hit the ground immediately to stop the clock.
With :08 to go, a pass play was called. Beathard saw no one open, tucked the ball under his arm and headed upfield.
“My heart drops immediately to the floor of the press box,” Davis said. “Then he slides and calls timeout. It was a huge, smart play.”
Beathard, who slid and called timeout, gained 8 yards on the scramble to the Pittsburgh 39. Just :02 remained.
“Being a quarterback, that’s one of your jobs, to know how much time is on the clock and know where you need to get to to give your team a chance to kick a field goal in that situation,” Beathard said. “I knew I’d be able to get some yards there and still call timeout.”
Beathard’s heads-up play caught the attention of his head coach, too.
“He had every step calculated,” Ferentz said. “That’s the key part. The clock could have run out with someone who is not in tune with that. He was a one-game starter coming into the season. It wasn’t like he was a veteran guy. So it really is a credit to him.”
While Koehn lined up to try his 57-yarder, the minds of Davis and Ferentz were already working overtime. As in strategy for the overtime if Koehn missed.
“We were already talking about that,” Davis said. “Everybody on our staff knew Marshall had the leg to do what he did. That wasn’t a question. But we were already talking, ‘If this is no good, we’d like to play defense first if possible.’ We were talking through the overtime scenarios.”
Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi called timeout just before the ball was snapped. Time for everyone in Kinnick Stadium to take a collective deep breath. And then long snapper Tyler Kluver delivered a strike to holder Dillon Kidd, who put the ball down and saw Koehn deliver a kick for the ages. Pandemonium ensued. For most, anyway.
A television replay showed Ferentz at his nonchalant best. The coach watched Koehn’s field goal split the uprights, took off his headset with a straight face and walked onto the field to shake Narduzzi’s hand.
“That was a façade, all the way,” Ferentz admitted. “I was feeling pretty good. It was just a great moment in Kinnick. It capped a special night, starting with Brett (Greenwood) being introduced right on through Marshall’s kick.”
Greenwood a former Hawkeye defensive back, collapsed during a routine workout and suffered a brain injury in 2011. His progress has been the source of inspiration for many. He was Iowa’s honorary captain against Pittsburgh. Using a walker, he led the Hawkeyes onto the field before the game. He was flanked by strength coach Chris Doyle and former Iowa and NFL linebacker Pat Angerer, who wore Greenwood’s No. 30 jersey.
It was a moment as memorable as Koehn’s kick, bookend moments that anyone who was in Kinnick Stadium that night will never forget.
“The environment was just electric and special,” Ferentz recalled. “We had a lot of respect for Pitt. They came in here playing to win the game. There was nothing easy about it.”
The Panthers rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to tie the game twice, at 17-17 and 24-24. Their final touchdown, an 8-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Boyd with :52 remaining in regulation, came two plays after converting a do-or-die fourth-and-15.
Boyd was put into the game to return Koehn’s field-goal attempt if it came up short. Instead, he stood under the goal posts, hands on hips, and watched it sail over his head.
“What a great way to end the night,” Ferentz said, “I was happy for Marshall.”
And happy that Beathard turned in a heads-up play at a crucial time.
“That play was kind of a snapshot moment for C.J., too,” Ferentz said. “Just his awareness, the ability to know where the clock was and to get down so we had a chance to execute the field goal.”
Beathard had a lot of scrapbook moments during Iowa’s 12-0 regular season. But this night in Kinnick Stadium is No. 1 on his list.
“This is the most memorable,” Beathard said. “That was one of the most exciting feelings I’ve ever had, when that kick went through the uprights.”
Fans stayed in their seats and celebrated after Koehn kicked his way into Iowa football history with one swing of his powerful right leg.
About the Author
Rick Brown is a native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and a University of Iowa graduate. He covered Iowa athletics for the past four decades for the Des Moines Register prior to his retirement in December.