IOWA CITY, Iowa – The best way for the Iowa football players to honor Tyler Sash is to be just like him on the playing field.
Sash was a master at seizing the moment. The former Iowa defensive back, who died on Tuesday at the age of 27, had an uncanny knack for making game-changing plays in spectacular fashion.
From his interception in which he lateraled to Micah Hyde for a touchdown against Michigan State in 2010 to his three interceptions against Iowa State in 2009, Sash always seemed to rise to the occasion.
His former team will honor Sash for Saturday’s game at Iowa State by replacing one tiger hawk logo from the Iowa helmets with Sash’s jersey No. 9.
That’s a fitting gesture, but it wouldn’t mean as much as winning the game would.
It’s probably no coincidence that Iowa was undefeated in three games against Iowa State from 2008-10 with Sash starting at strong safety for the Hawkeyes. Those three Iowa teams also combined for a 28-11 record over three seasons, including 3-0 in bowl games, and did so mostly because they had playmakers like Sash, who more times than not, met the challenge.
Some players wilt under pressure because the moment is just too big for them.
But with Sash, it was just the opposite. He played on teams that won the Outback Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Insight Bowl and the Super Bowl in a four-year span.
The bigger the moment, the more likely Sash would respond to it.
That’s what the Iowa players have to do on Saturday in order defeat Iowa State for just the second time in the last five games. They have to seize the moment and make plays like Sash did.
The theory that the game means more to Iowa State is not only a stale argument, but it’s unfair to both teams. It suggests that Iowa State only lives to defeat Iowa because the Cyclones have an inferiority complex, while Iowa treats it as just another game because it has bigger fish to fry.
Sash didn’t treat Iowa State like just another game, evidenced by his glowing statistics against the Cyclones. In three games, Sash had four interceptions and 26 tackles, including three for loss and one sack.
The Oskaloosa native cherished having in-state bragging rights and did everything within his power to make it happen.
It’s hard to know what to expect in Saturday’s game because it’ll only be the second game for both teams. But if both team’s season opener was an indication, Saturday’s game should provide some quality entertainment to go along with the hype.
Iowa is now led by strong-armed junior quarterback C.J. Beathard, the one-two punch at running back in LeShun Daniels and Jordan Canzeri and all Big Ten defensive end Drew Ott, while Iowa State will counter with a talented group of receivers, including 6-5 budding star Allen Lazard, a healthy Sam Richardson at quarterback and what appears to be a quicker and more aggressive defense.
The so-called big game rarely lives up to the hype, but something tells me it will on Saturday.
None of the current Iowa players were teammates of Sash in college, but if they weren’t aware of his exploits, they are now.
They’ve probably been told about his 13 career interceptions, that he twice made first-team all-Big Ten and that he helped the New York Giants win the 2012 Super Bowl as a rookie.
Tyler Sash was an extraordinary playmaker. And it’s games like Saturday’s showdown in Ames that usually brought out the best in him.