A full, silly, weird day at ISU’s Jack Trice

AMES — They had enough.

The Iowa State students in the northeast corner of Jack Trice Stadium had sat through rain, ignored the lightning, and did their best to enjoy the monsoon moment.

At some point, someone must have noticed that the security guards had sought protection as a severe thunderstorm roared overhead.

So a large group decided to turn the soggy party into a mud-and-grass dance, storming the field as the rain fell, chased by the guards who realized what was happening.

The day that started at 5 a.m. when the parking lots opened was already a marathon of silliness, and that was before the weather confounded the earlier meteorological predictions and turned what was supposed to be a sunny day into a mess.

Iowa’s 18-17 win over Iowa State, the Hawkeyes’ fifth consecutive in the in-state rivalry, was a collection of sloppiness and surprise, the steadiness of an older and wiser quarterback who got the first road win of his career on the Trice grass two years ago and continues to build a resumé that impresses.

The official time of the game was 5 hours, 53 minutes, including two weather delays that took almost three hours.

It was an eternity of goofiness that included, well, a picnic for the Hawkeyes in their locker room.

During the second delay of 2 hours, 6 minutes, Iowa’s managers, with the help of an escort from state troopers, went to three different stores around Ames and picked up 60 sandwiches for the Hawkeyes.

“Walked in, someone was eating a big hoagie,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

“They kept telling us, ‘Grab something to eat. Grab something to eat,’” quarterback Nate Stanley said.

There was a scramble for food.

“I did get a sandwich,” defensive end A.J. Epenesa said. “It was getting brutal in there, but I did get one.”

“I didn’t have a sandwich,” Stanley said.

“I didn’t get one,” center Tyler Linderbaum said. “I had an apple and some snacks.”

Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette wasn’t sure he wanted to tell what he was doing.

“I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but I took a nap,” Smith-Marsette said. “Yeah, I took a nap. I just let the storm pass by.”

“It really wasn’t all that difficult,” Epenesa said of getting through the delays. “You just get off your feet, relax, keep going over the game plan. Put your headphones in, stay locked in, don’t lose your grip on that focus. When we got back out there, it was just second nature.”

There was an eruption of applause outside when the sun came out. Day was creeping into night, and the weirdness was just beginning.

The Hawkeyes won because they survived. The Cyclones were making big plays until they didn’t.

Iowa was steady — when the Cyclones’ 14-6 second-half lead seemed to be the beginning of the end, the Hawkeyes started getting stops, helped by the occasional Iowa State penalty or a slip on the wet grass.

Keith Duncan’s field goal with 4:51 left was the ultimate game-winner, capping Iowa’s survival.

“Games like this come down to mental toughness, physical toughness,” Ferentz said. “Nobody got discouraged. Even though we had discouraging plays, no one got discouraged.

“We kept swinging the bat, kept playing.”

“We stay together in sticky situations,” Smith-Marsette said.

Stanley was the steadiest, not quite the sharpest.

Stanley completed 22-of-35 passes for 201 yards. Iowa was 10-of-19 on third down, and three of those conversions came on big Stanley plays. He had a 27-yard pass to Smith-Marsette on third-and-22 from the Iowa 19 in the third quarter, a 14-yard run on third-and-11 from the ISU 26 in the fourth quarter, and a 14-yard pass to Mekhi Sargent on third-and-4 from the Iowa 31 later in the fourth on the drive that ended with the last of Duncan’s four field goals.

The Hawkeyes’ lone touchdown of the day came on Stanley’s 1-yard burrow into the end zone in the fourth quarter.

“That’s the value of having a veteran quarterback,” Ferentz said.

“Obviously, when we win, I don’t care how I did,” Stanley said. “Yeah, I made some throws, some throws I could have had, some decisions I could have made a little better.

“But we won, and I’m just happy to able to say we won.”

It felt like, as the lights blazed through the damp night, as if something weird would finish off someone, and that’s what happened to the Cyclones.

They were poised to get a final chance for a game-winning drive after stopping Iowa with 1:29 left.

The punt by Michael Sleep-Dalton was going to be fielded for a fair catch by Iowa State’s Deshaunte Jones. But teammate Datrone Young, blocking downfield, ran into Jones. The ball hit off Young, and Iowa’s Devonte Young recovered.

The Hawkeyes ran out the clock.

It was 9:04 p.m. when the game clock hit zeros.

No more rain, no more storms, no more insanity.

Iowa moved to 3-0 on the season. There’s a bye week ahead, then a home game against Middle Tennessee State before the crucible of Big Ten play begins.

The Hawkeyes were limping, yawning, ready to get home.

“Bottom line is we’re 3-0,” Ferentz said. “We’re happy about that.”

John Bohnenkamp contributes weekly columns and high school sports coverage for Pen City Current

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