IOWA CITY, Iowa — The officials under the field goal post waved their arms as the ball sailed wide of the left upright and 70,000 Iowa fans cheered wildly.
Cole Netten smiled and laughed as silence fell upon Kinnick Stadium. He had heard the whistle before the kick left his right foot. Iowa had called a timeout and, in a 17-all tie game with seven seconds remaining, he’d get a mulligan.
“Nice practice,” center Tom Farniok told him. “Now you get to win the game.”
The redshirt sophomore reset himself for the 42-yard game-winning field goal attempt. He slowed his breathing as a calming mechanism and awaited the snap. The ball flew back to holder Austin Fischer, who planted it for Netten. He swung his right leg through the ball and watched it sail through the uprights.
“I did it,” Netten thought.
The kick capped a 20-17 comeback victory for Iowa State over in-state rival Iowa on Saturday, the second straight for the Cyclones in Iowa City. After two losses to open the season, Iowa State flipped the script when adversity struck.
The Hawkeyes scored first late in the first quarter with a 16-play drive that took nearly eight minutes. Iowa converted twice on fourth-and-one to continue the drive before running back Mark Weisman capped it with a one-yard touchdown run.
After Iowa State responded early in the second quarter with a career-long 47-yard field goal from Netten, Iowa went on the move again later in the quarter. The Hawkeyes eventually converted on fourth-and-eight in the redzone, and after ISU cornerback Sam Richardson dropped an interception near the goal line, Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock rushed into the end zone for a 14-3 lead.
Adversity struck shortly after when Iowa State moved down to the Iowa two-yard-line threatening to respond and make it a one-score game before halftime. Instead, running back DeVondrick Nealy fumbled as he crossed the goal line.
“I knew I messed up,” Nealy said. “We were on the goal line and it could have changed into something different in the second half if I had scored the touchdown. But I knew I had to keep fighting and I knew my time was going to get called again.”
“You fumble the ball going into the end zone, you could fold your tent up right then and there. You can say, ‘It’s happening to us again, woe is me,’” coach Paul Rhoads said. “They didn’t say that and they moved past the play. I told [DeVondrick], ‘We’re going to need you again.’”
The Cyclones moved within inches of the goal line on fourth-and-one in the middle of the third quarter, and quarterback Sam Richardson lined up under center. After using the option earlier to draw the Iowa defense in, Iowa State went with a jump-pass and tight end E.J. Bibbs dug up a pass from his quarterback.
“It was an amazing catch to be honest,” Richardson said. “I about crapped myself when I threw it. I threw it short, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
And then Rhoads’ earlier words to Nealy acted almost as prophecy. Midway through the fourth quarter, Richardson found Nealy for a 27-yard touchdown on a wheel route that capped a 92-yard drive to give the Cyclones a three-point lead.
“You couldn’t hear anything in the stands,” Nealy said. “It was just blank and you see the ball coming like a beach ball. It just got big and got big and it fell right in my hands and I heard the crowd go wild when I caught the ball.”
Iowa would get a get a 44-yard game-tying field goal from Marshall Koehn with 4:08 remaining in the game. Richardson and company moved the ball 51 yards to set up the game-winning kick attempt for Netten.
The first attempt sailed wide, his second hit the mark.
“Being an Iowan your whole life, this is something that doesn’t feel real. Like a dream is even pushing it for sure,” Netten said. “It’s hit me a little bit, but it’ll definitely hit me more when I get home and I’m just sitting there and go, ‘Whoa, I actually did that.’”