IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa long snapper Tyler Kluver weighs 215 pounds. “On a good day,” that is, he said. And he’s at least a couple inches short of 6-feet tall.
The senior from Marshalltown, Iowa, looks more like your chemistry lab partner than the guy whose reception slayed sixth-ranked Ohio State, essentially eliminating the high-powered Buckeyes from College Football Playoff contention.
But with just more than three minutes to play in the third quarter on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, Kluver heard the call from offensive guard Keegan Render as the Hawkeyes took the field to line up for a field goal on fourth-and-3 from the Ohio State 20-yard line.
“Really, we’re running it?” Kluver said, recalling his response to the play call after Iowa’s 55-24 thumping of the Buckeyes. “OK. I double- and triple-checked with my holder. Honestly, in a game like this, we knew were going to need stuff like that to compete.”
The fake, a pass from the holder to the snapper, was designed by Iowa tight ends coach and special teams coordinator LeVar Woods in time for the Sept. 30 Michigan State game. The plan called for Iowa to run it early in a recent game, but the right moment never materialized.
“The third quarter works, too,” Kluver said, “in a big-time situation.”
The result? A first down at the 2-yard line. Iowa QB Nate Stanley hit tight end T.J. Hockenson for a touchdown on the next play. The Hawkeyes led 38-17, and there was no coming back for Ohio State.
Pole Cat fit among a series of big plays on Saturday for the Hawkeyes that turned a potential nail-biter into a 31-point victory.
There was the first snap from scrimmage as safety Amani Hooker baited Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett and stepped in front receiver Binjimen Victor to grab an interception. Hooker returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, the first interception of Barrett since Week 2 — ending a stretch of 190-straight passes without a pick.
Iowa routs Ohio State to squash the Buckeyes’ playoff path
Iowa pulled its Kinnick magic once again, unexpectedly routing No. 6 Ohio State and likely eliminating the Buckeyes from Playoff consideration.
“I saw it in the commercial,” Hooker said, asked if he knew of Barrett’s streak, which encompassed 22 touchdown throws. “He had a long streak and we wanted to break it. I didn’t think it was going to be that easy.”
There, too, was the targeting call on Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, which extended an Iowa drive with the game tied at 17 after a third-and-8 incompletion late in the second quarter. It left the Buckeyes without their star defensive end for the remainder of the game and led to an Iowa touchdown, then another late TD — after the first of Josh Jackson’s three interceptions — to put Iowa on top 31-17 at halftime.
But the fake field goal will live longest in Iowa lore.
“We copied it from somebody,” Ferentz said. “I’m not sure who.”
Seconds after Kluver learned of the call, Colten Rastetter, Iowa’s sophomore punter and holder, yelled for the Hawkeyes to shift into a Swinging Gate formation.
Place-kicker Miguel Recinos went in motion toward the yard-line numbers on the far side of the field in front of the Ohio State sideline, where the entire offensive line waited without the football. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa ran in motion toward Rastetter, alone in the backfield, behind four players near the line of scrimmage, including Kluver.
Urban Meyer stood near referee Ron Snodgrass. The Hawkeyes said they thought the Ohio State coach might call timeout, so Kluver snapped the ball quickly, before the Buckeyes could diagnose the fake.
Defensive end Jonathon Cooper rushed Rastetter, who shoved the ball downfield more than he threw it.
“It was a little above average,” Rastetter said of the pass.
Kluver was the only option on the play. If he wasn’t open, Rastetter was instructed not to look for another receiver. And definitely not to try to run for the first down.
“Just go down,” Rastetter said. “That’s what I was told.”
But Kluver was open, racing past linebacker Tuf Borland into clear space near the 10-yard line.
“My heart fluttered a little bit,” Kluver said.
The pass from his holder was underthrown. Kluver adjusted and made the catch.
“I’ve tried over the course of my career to show that I’m an athlete, not just a long snapper,” Kluver said with a straight face. “I’m pretty confident in my physical ability, regardless of what I was given genetically.”
Ferentz said he was more worried about the throw than the catch.
Kluver stumbled to the ground short of the goal line as Recinos, the kicker, and defensive lineman Jake Hulett raced to celebrate with him.
The long snapper said he should have scored on the play. “I’ll kick myself over it forever,” he said.
No matter, his spot in Iowa history is secure.