IOWA CITY - Folks around the country who only skim through the list of college football scores from Saturday are going to think this one was fairly routine.
Iowa, a 171/2-point favorite, beat Indiana by 18 points, 42-24.
Routine. Ordinary. Just another game. Went exactly the way everyone figured it would, right?
Well, maybe not exactly.
In truth, it was the kind of game you'd expect to see on Halloween, with all sorts of eerie twists and horrifying moments for 70,585 people in Kinnick Stadium. There were plenty of people sitting in the stands wearing gorilla suits and Santa Claus outfits in honor of the holiday, but there were things happenings on the field much more bizarre than that.
The consensus was that it was the weirdest episode yet in a wild and crazy Iowa season. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who likened a season-opening victory over Northern Iowa to hitting green twice in a row on a roulette wheel, said this one was "kind of like winning money when you're not even in the casino."
Iowa trailed by 14 at halftime, even before Stanzi threw four interceptions in the third quarter. And the Hawkeyes somehow still won game. By a wide margin.
"I've never been in a game like this or seen a game like this," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
"We give people their money's worth," linebacker A.J. Edds added.
There was one play in the middle of the third quarter that was pretty much worth the price of admission all by itself.
Indiana was on the 2-yard line, about to go in for a touchdown that would have given it a three-touchdown lead. But Iowa's defense, which almost never blitzes, blitzed.
Linebacker A.J. Edds came around the right corner and hit quarterback Ben Chappell's arm as he was about to throw. The ball caromed over to strong safety Tyler Sash, who was blitzing from the other side. It hit Sash in the helmet, popped back to Edds and tackle Christian Ballard, who each got a hand on it, then bounced right back into Sash's hands.
He caught it and raced 86 yards for a touchdown. Instead of Indiana being up 28-7, the score was 21-14.
"I didn't even know the ball hit me in the back of the head until I got back into the locker room after the game and our film guy said, 'You're not going to believe this,'" Sash said.
Edds didn't wait for that. He immediately went to the sideline and looked up at the scoreboard to watch the replay.
"I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to get called back or something," he said.
Ballard admitted that even after the game, after seeing the video, the whole play was a little fuzzy.
"It was crazy, probably one of the longest plays of my life, other than maybe Clayborn's blocked punt (against Penn State)," he said.
Stanzi still threw two more interceptions after that, but the Iowa defense stood firm. Out of the four third-quarter interceptions, Indiana managed only three points.
Then, after looking like Mr. Hyde for an entire quarter, Stanzi turned into Dr. Jekyll in the fourth quarter, throwing touchdown passes of 92 and 66 yards on consecutive plays.
Here is how peculiar this game was: Stanzi's passing efficiency, according to the statistical formula used by the NCAA, was minus-40 in the first quarter and 36.65 in that nightmarish third quarter. In the fourth quarter, it was 815.6.
That's not the sort of consistency that will get him voted All-Big Ten.
And this isn't the sort of victory that will move the Hawkeyes higher in the national polls. It was a struggle every step of the way, as it seemingly always is for this team.
The Hawkeyes don't really care. They're 9-0 for the first time in their history and one step closer to a Big Ten title.
"We have zero style points," Edds said. "If there's a category for style points, we're negative in that column."