IOWA CITY, Iowa – The realization of what he’d just accomplished hadn’t sunk in yet. Marshall Koehn appeared to be in a haze of sorts answering questions Saturday night here at Kinnick Stadium.
The senior kicker from Solon (IA) High joined the legacy of Rob Houghtlin and Daniel Murray with a game-winning, 57-yard field goal as time expired in a 27-24 win against Pittsburgh. He was mobbed by his teammates as he ran towards the south end zone with the crowd erupting.
Koehn’s kick capped an emotional night that saw former safety Brett Greenwood lead The Swarm out onto the field before the game. The Bettendorf native was placed in a coma after after being struck by an anoxic brain injury caused by heart arrhythmia, doctors said.
Athletes grow up dreaming about hitting the walk-off home run, the basketball buzzer beater or the winning play as time expires in football. Koehn, who said all off-season that he welcomed the opportunity for pressure kicks, lived what he had only previously imagined. It was surreal.
"I felt confident," he said. "We practiced this kick so many times in the offseason, obviously not with the crowd, but we felt confident as a unit. It left my foot and it felt good and the rest his history, I guess."
Houghtlin booted his way into Hawkeye lore with a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 1 Iowa a 12-10 victory against No. 2 Michigan in 1985 at Kinnick Stadium. Murray joined him in the "I’ll -never-have-to-buy-another-meal-in-Iowa-City" club in ’08 when the local kid connected on his 31-yard try with a second left to lift his squad to a 24-23 win against unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Penn State at Kinnick.
It would be hard to argue that Houghtlin and Murray topped Koehn when it came to the magnitude of their teams’ victories as Pitt was unranked. But Koehn’s Kinnick record-tying 57-yarder bested his predecessors in individual accomplishment.
"Marshall has shown that he has the strength and we were all just so confident," Hawkeye Running Back Jordan Canzeri said. "All of us were on the sideline and we were like, we know he can make this. You could see that Marshall was confident. For a guy like Marshall, a great guy who works so hard, to see it pay off for him to win a game for us like that is so awesome."
Koehn’s kick capped a seven-play, 31-yard, game-winning drive that took 52 seconds. Quarterback C.J. Beathard scrambled eight yards on a third-and-10, scooting out of bounds with :02 on the clock.
During the drive, Koehn, holder Dillon Kidd and long snapper Tyler Kluver were strategizing. Pitt retained a timeout and the Hawkeye trio drew up a plan.
Sure enough, as Koehn lined up for his attempt, the Panthers called time out. Before they could, Kluver snapped it, Kidd held it and Koehn hit it. The ball fell about five yards short.
"We said we’re going to practice it no matter what. We knew they had a timeout and we heard it and just kicked it. It was short but felt like I was dialed in. It was a good snap and a good hold and we executed on the second one," Koehn said.
Said Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi: "I kicked myself in the butt at the end but all our coaches in the locker room said (Koehn) pulled off of it. He missed the field goal but he didn’t follow through on it when he heard the whistle. But, that’s what everybody does. You have a timeout sitting up on that board you’re going to use it and try to freeze him a little bit. Obviously, he has ice in his veins, I guess."
Koehn remained confident during the break and avoided letting the timeout tactic disrupt his concentration.
"I was just thinking, you know, I want this kick," he said. "It was just positive self talk to myself and I had the confidence of Dillon and Kluver. I’d gone through this so many times with them that I have so much trust in them that I was just excited for the kick mainly."
Koehn began the night with his first-ever college punt. He should have known then that it might be a special night when his 64-yarder pinned Pitt inside its own five-yard line.
Koehn has come a long way from the first-year starter who missed three of his first four field goal attempts last fall. Since then, he’s now connected on 15 of his last 16 tries and his kickoffs routinely result in touchbacks, including four of five on Saturday, which neutralized Pitt’s dangerous return man, Tyler Boyd.
Koehn has shown time and time again that he’s able.
"(The Pitt timeout) didn’t seem to faze him at all," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It looked like a Rob Houghtlin moment, quite frankly, out there when he looked over at our bench. It looked like he was pretty confident."