The Monday Kickoff: Ranking The Games Of 2019

Ihmir Smith-Marsette scores on a kickoff return in the Holiday Bowl in Iowa's 49-24 win. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

John Bohnenkamp

Iowa started the 2019 football season with a win, and ended with a win.

The 10-3 season was at its best at the end, when the Hawkeyes were trying to recover from having their Big Ten West Division hopes dashed. All Iowa did was win its last four games, a goal the Hawkeyes had talked about after a 24-22 loss at Wisconsin in early November.

This is a look at the 13 games, from worst to best.

13. Michigan 10, Iowa 3, Oct. 5

So much ugh to this game. And yet the Hawkeyes still had a chance to win the game.

Iowa came into the game undefeated and ranked 14th nationally, while Michigan, at No. 19, had been inconsistent to start the season.

All of that didn't matter in this game.

Quarterback Nate Stanley was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions. The Hawkeyes, almost perfect on turnovers through the first four games, had a fumble by running back Mekhi Sargent on their first play from scrimmage.

But Iowa's defense shut down Michigan. The 10 points were the lowest allowed by a Hawkeye team in a loss since a 9-6 defeat to Iowa State in 2012.

Stat of the game: Stanley's sacks reduced Iowa's rushing yardage to one yard on 30 attempts.

12. Penn State 17, Iowa 12, Oct. 12

The Michigan game could have been washed away with a win in this one.

Penn State came into the game ranked 10th, and Iowa has a history of knocking off highly-ranked teams under the lights at Kinnick Stadium, although the Nittany Lions have been immune to that in recent seasons.

Iowa's offense sputtered again. The Hawkeyes got only two Keith Duncan field goals in the first three quarters, and their only touchdown came in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard pass from Stanley to Brandon Smith.

The defense, again, kept the Hawkeyes in this one. Penn State had 294 yards of offense, compared to 356 for Iowa. The Nittany Lions were efficient enough to leave with a win.

Stat of the game: Safety Jack Koerner had a breakout game with 13 tackles.

11. Wisconsin 24, Iowa 22, Nov. 9

This one was decided by inches, but the Hawkeyes always seemed miles away from a win. And it was the game that all but officially ended Iowa's West Division hopes.

Iowa trailed 21-6 to start the fourth quarter before finally opening up on offense. The Hawkeyes scored 16 points in the quarter, with Stanley throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Nico Ragaini and a 75-yarder to Tyrone Tracy. But on the two-point conversion after the Tracy touchdown, Stanley was stopped inches short of the goal line.

Stat of the game: Duncan had three field goals, breaking Iowa's single-season record of 21.

10. Iowa 26, Purdue 20, Oct. 19

The Boilermakers came into the game 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten, but this game wasn't decided until late in the fourth quarter on Sargent's 14-yard touchdown run.

Iowa only outgained Purdue 362-360, but the Hawkeyes had more than an 11-minute edge in time of possession.

Smith set career highs with nine catches for 106 yards, but he suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter that proved costly — he would be in for just one play in Iowa's final five regular-season games.

Stat of the game: Iowa had 102 rushing yards after having just 71 in the previous two games.

9. Iowa 20, Northwestern 0, Oct. 26

This was one of those games to just get through and get home.

It was Iowa's fourth shutout in its last 11 Big Ten games against the toothless Wildcats, who didn't put up any sort of a fight.

Iowa had 302 yards of offense and scored in each quarter.

It was a rainy, gloomy day at Ryan Field, and the Hawkeyes headed into their second bye week at 6-2 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten.

Stat of the game: Sargent had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It was the 10th touchdown run of the season for the Hawkeyes, with five of those coming from the 1-yard line.

8. Iowa 38, Miami (Ohio) 14, Aug. 31

The Hawkeyes only led 10-3 at halftime, then pulled away in the second half.

Stanley threw three touchdowns and Sargent had 91 rushing yards. This would be the game to introduce us to freshman running back Tyler Goodson, who had nine carries for 36 yards in his debut.

Stat of the game: Oliver Martin, who transferred from Michigan in the late spring, caught a 9-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. He had two catches for 14 yards in the game, but would have just three receptions the rest of the season.

7. Iowa 30, Rutgers 0, Sept. 7

This game was never in doubt.

Iowa led 20-0 at halftime, and the Scarlet Knights could never get anything going against the Hawkeyes' defense. Rutgers had just five first downs and 125 yards of total offense.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught two touchdown passes from Stanley, and Duncan added two field goals.

Stat of the game: Iowa had a 15:16 edge in time of possession.

6. Iowa 48, Middle Tennessee 3, Sept. 28

The fact that this was more entertaining than the Rutgers game, which was a conference game, says all you need to know about the Scarlet Knights.

Anyway, this was another one that was put away early. The Hawkeyes had 17 first-quarter points and led 27-0 before Middle Tennessee got its only points of the game.

Iowa had 644 yards of total offense, including 351 rushing yards.

Stat of the game: Iowa's three main running backs — Sargent, Goodson and Toren Young — combined for 319 rushing yards.

5. Iowa 19, Illinois 10, Nov. 23

The Hawkeyes got one touchdown — a 2-yard run by Goodson — in the first quarter to go with four Duncan field goals in holding off the Illini.

Stanley threw for 308 yards, but the Hawkeyes didn't have much of a running game — 79 yards on 32 carries.

Illinois had 192 rushing yards, but the Hawkeyes had three takeaways to slow the Illini offense.

Stat of the game: Linebacker Kristian Welch had 12 tackles, including 10 solos. His last tackle was a sack on the final play of the game.

4. Iowa 18, Iowa State 17, Sept. 21

A day that turned into a rainy mess. The game was delayed twice for a total of 2 hours, 55 minutes because of thunderstorms.

The Hawkeyes didn't get a touchdown until the fourth quarter on Stanley's 1-yard dive. Duncan had four field goals, including a 39-yarder with 4:51 left that proved to be the game-winner.

Stat of the game: Iowa had almost a 10-minute edge in time of possession, wearing down the Cyclones in the second half.

3. Iowa 23, Minnesota 19, Nov. 16

What the Hawkeyes couldn't do against the Nittany Lions, they did against the Gophers.

Minnesota came into the game ranked No. 7 and was 9-0 overall, 6-0 in the Big Ten. Iowa took control of the game early, leading 20-6 at halftime, and then held on in the second half.

The Gophers had 431 yards of total offense, compared to just 290 for the Hawkeyes, but were held out of the end zone until the second half.

Stat of the game: Iowa held Minnesota to its lowest point total of the season to that point. The Gophers had scored at least 31 points in eight consecutive games.

2. Iowa 27, Nebraska 24, Nov. 29

The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskers with a last-second field goal for the second consecutive season.

Duncan's 48-yard field goal in the closing seconds, punctuated with a blown kiss and a wagging finger toward the Nebraska sideline, capped the win for the Hawkeyes, who led 24-10 at halftime before the Huskers tied the game with two third-quarter touchdowns.

Goodson had 116 rushing yards for the first 100-yard game of his career.

Smith-Marsette had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, his first of the season. He had vowed at the beginning of the year he would get two.

Stat of the game: Stanley threw for just 99 yards, his lowest single-game total of the season.

1. Iowa 49, USC 24, Dec. 27

The Hawkeyes saved their best game for last.

Iowa took charge of the game with a 21-point second quarter, then closed the game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Smith-Marsette had three touchdowns — one rushing, one receiving, and one kickoff return — and nearly threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter. He finished the game with 203 all-purpose yards.

Iowa's defense was especially devastating in the second half. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa knocked USC quarterback Kedon Slovis from the game, finishing with 2 1/2 sacks, four tackles for loss, and a forced fumble.

Stanley became the second quarterback in Iowa history to win three bowl games. 

Stat of the game: Iowa had three takeaways, the last coming on Nick Niemann's interception return for a touchdown.