East Lansing, Mich. – Once Greg Castillo secured the biggest interception of his life, he didn’t know what to do.
“Actually, I just started running, like you always do when you pick off a pass,” the cornerback said. “But when I saw everyone on the sidelines running onto the field – that’s when it hit me.”
Castillo’s second interception this season secured Iowa’s 19-16 double overtime victory against Michigan State Saturday at Spartan Stadium on a day the Hawkeyes’ offense showed only occasional flashes of consistency.
Quarterback James Vandenberg wasn’t great, nonetheless he improved his record as a starter in games outside Kinnick Stadium to 3-6.
“The defense kept us in the game the whole time,” Vandenberg said, “and then made a play at the end.”
Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell did what he does, rushing 29 times for 140 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s obviously a good back,” linebacker James Morris said, “(but) I’m not going to sit here and spill my heart out to him. He’s very good.”
But the bottom line is the conference standings: Iowa continues to share with Michigan first place in the Big Ten Conference’s Legends Division heading into Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes are 2-0 in the division, 4-2 overall, and two victories from claiming bowl eligibility.
“Greatest feeling in the world, running over to celebrate with your fans on the road,” said receiver Keenan Davis, half of one of the game’s biggest plays. “We haven’t been able to do that very often.”
Mike Meyer kicked four field goals, including what ended up being a 42-yard game-winner on the fourth play of the second overtime of a game dominated by both defenses. Ironically, however, it was a pass from James Vandenberg to Davis that turned the momentum.
On second-and-26 from Iowa’s 16-yard line with just more than 5 minutes left, they combined for a 35-yard passing play along the right sideline, which was just the first of several Iowa good plays to come.
“It was a play we knew we had to make to win the game,” Davis said.
They made it, and Mark Weisman made some plays, too on Iowa’s most significant drive of the day before leaving the game with a foot injury. The 235-pound tailback ran 37 yards on third down against a defense that allowed its first six opponents just 86.0 rushing yards a game. Three plays later, he followed center James Ferentz into the end zone from the 5-yard line, and suddenly it was 13-all with 55 seconds to play.
He walked gingerly off the field, and was replaced in the overtimes by Greg Garmon.
“It just got hit,” said Weisman, who wore a protective boot on his right foot after the game. “I think it’s fine, though.”
Michigan State struck first in the extra session with Dan Conroy’s 24-yard field goal, and then Meyer’s third field goal on the wet day, a 27-yarder, sent the game into an additional session.
This time, the Hawkeyes opened the scoring, Meyer sending a 42-yarder through the uprights, then afterwards he recalled something former Iowa kicking great Nate Kaeding once told him:
“Nate Kaeding always said treat everyone like it was the Super Bowl,” Meyer said.
Now it was Michigan State’s turn from the 25-yard line. Bell gained a yard on first down, but he wasn’t part of the next play.
Instead, Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell chose to throw on second down, a pass that defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat nicked with his left hand. The ball bounced off intended receiver Keith Mumphrey — and into Castillo’s firm grasp.
“It was too high,” Maxwell said. “In conditions like this, if I can get it down around his chin — even if he doesn’t catch it, it gets knocked down.”
Iowa players celebrated a conference road win — rare recently after losing three of four last season. They celebrated Kirk Ferentz becoming the second Iowa football coach to reach 100 career victory.
“The guys battled back,” said Ferentz, who became a first-time grandfather when son Brian’s wife, Nikki, had a daughter Tuesday morning.
“Whether it was the 100th win or the 10th, this was a game that I’ll remember for a while.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
A game ball goes to the entire Iowa defense, led by Anthony Hitchens’ 15 tackles. This unit kept the game close while the Iowa offense struggled to find consistency. “Nobody got frustrated when the offense wasn’t moving the ball,” said linebacker James Morris, who had 10 tackles. “We understand that’s going to happen.”
— Running back Damon Bullock and cornerback B.J. Lowery stayed in Iowa City, still recovering from injuries. Bullock had a concussion, and Lowery has a foot problem.
— Florida Citrus and Outback bowl representatives watched from the press box.
— Iowa gave up its first sack since Northern Illinois got six in the opener, when Vandenberg was flattened early in the second quarter. Linebacker Kyler Elsworth over-powered Mark Weisman to get to the quarterback.
— On third down in the second overtime, James Vandenberg threw a pass toward Jordan Cotton that was nearly intercepted by Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Instead, however, Cotton turned in one of the best defensive plays of the game, knocking the ball away from Dennard. “I had to do something,” Cotton said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football