AMES, Iowa – The Iowa football players honored Tyler Sash on Saturday by seizing the moment against Iowa State like he often did as a Hawkeye.
The Hawkeyes scored two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to escape with a 31-17 victory before a sellout crowd of 61,500 at Jack Trice Stadium.
Junior quarterback C.J. Beathard threw what proved to be the game-winning touchdown pass to receiver Riley McCarron with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left to play. McCarron faked as if he was running a short route near the sideline before breaking free in the end zone and catching Beathard’s 25-yard scoring strike.
"C.J. threw a great ball, I just finished the play," McCarron said. "He’s such a great quarterback, he threw a great ball. I can’t give C.J. and the offensive line enough credit."
Junior cornerback Desmond King helped set up the touchdown by returning a punt 37 yards to midfield.
King also intercepted a pass thrown by Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson in the final minutes and returned it to the Cyclone 25-yard line.
Senior running back Jordan Canzeri gained 17 yards on first down and then scored from 8 yards on second down to secure Iowa’s second victory in its last five games against Iowa State. Canzeri rushed for 124 yards and played the entire second half because starting running back LeShun Daniels was unavailable after injuring his ankle in the first half
The Hawkeyes, who improved to 2-0, prevailed on Saturday despite not having Daniels for the entire second half and despite losing all-Big Ten defensive end Drew Ott to an injury in the first quarter.
Saturday’s victory came five days after Sash, a former Hawkeye defensive back, was found dead on Tuesday at the age of 27.
"Today’s victory was really a rewarding end to a challenging week for everybody," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "I told the football team (Friday) night, we would have to earn this. We knew coming in here it was going to be a very tough environment and a tough football team and well-coached football team. And I’m really proud of our guys the way they hung in there."
Trailing 17-10 at halftime, the Hawkeyes took the opening kick of the third quarter and drove 62 yards for a touchdown on six plays. Senior tight end Henry Krieger Coble caught a pass from Beathard and was trying to break tackles near the Iowa State end zone when he fumbled.
However, the ball bounced into the hands of Iowa receiver Matt VandeBerg, who then leaped into the end zone for a touchdown.
"The coaches always preach hustle," said VandeBerg, who led Iowa with nine catches for a career-high 114 receiving yards. "Make sure you chase the ball in case anything crazy happens, which something crazy happened.
"I tried to throw a block for (Krieger-Coble), he stretched out for the end zone and the ball came up and I was fortunate enough to be chasing it down and I got the touchdown."
Both defenses then stiffened for the rest of the third quarter, which ended with the score knotted at 17-17.
After going three-plays and out on its first possession of the game, Iowa drove 51 yards to the Cyclone 31-yard line on its second offensive possession. The drive stalled, though, after Beathard threw three consecutive incomplete passes.
Iowa settled for three points with Koehen making a 49-yard field goal with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
Iowa State answered with its own field goal as Cole Netten converted from 37 yards with 2:07 left in the first quarter.
Iowa’s next offensive possession unraveled quickly as Beathard was tackled for a 6-yard loss on second down before being sacked for a loss of 10 yards on third down at the Iowa 15.
Iowa State took possession at its own 25-yard line after Dillon Kidd’s punt had traveled 50 yards. Richardson scrambled for 19 yards on first down to end the first quarter. He then completed a 37-yard pass to Jauan Wesley who was tackled at the Iowa 19.
King was called for a personal foul on the play, moving the ball to the Hawkeye 9-yard line.
After being sacked for a 2-yard loss on second down, Richardson completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Quenton Brundage with 13:12 left in the second quarter.
Both teams then exchanged punts before Iowa regained possession at its own 7-yard line with 8:34 left in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes drove 93 yards on nine plays for the game-tying touchdown.
Beathard connected with senior receiver Tevaun Smith for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter. Smith made the catch in the corner of the end zone despite being blanketed by his defender.
Beathard helped keep the drive alive by running for 44 yards on 2nd-and-16 from the Iowa 1-yard line. He also had a 57 yard run in the second quarter that shifted field position.
Iowa rushed for 187 yards in the first half, but 101 of the yards came on Beathard’s two long runs.
Richardson completed 12-of-15 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
The first half ended with Iowa failing to convert on a fake field from the Cyclone 22-yard line. Koehn took the snap and raced around left end, but was tackled at the Iowa State 5-yard line as with no time left on the clock.