IOWA CITY — As his wobbly 47-yard field goal snuck over the crossbar with 3 seconds remaining Saturday, Central Michigan kicker David Harman hesitated, uncertain if he had reason celebrate.
All he needed to do was look across the line.
Denied a game-changing block, Iowa’s Tom Donatell fell to his knees, burying his head in his hands as Tanner Miller stared in disbelief at a Kinnick Stadium scoreboard which did not lie.
Harman’s kick had the distance, and the Hawkeyes were forced to stomach a 32-31 loss to the Mid-American Conference program, letting an eight-point lead slip away in the final minute of a mistake-filled game.
“The game, it was there for us to win, and we gave it right back to them,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves.”
From a plethora of penalties to a pass defense which struggled from start to finish to slow the 26-of-35 passing performance of Chippewas quarterback Ryan Radcliff, it was a day-long struggle for the Hawkeyes.
“We’re a young football team in a lot of ways, and we played that way. It’s frustrating,” said Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, who completed 16-of-25 passes for 215 yards.
The Hawkeyes, who trailed 23-14 at halftime, seemingly had dodged the potential upset when Mark Weisman capped a 217-yard rushing performance with his third touchdown run of the game with 2 minutes, 18 seconds remaining.
His score, which followed a 46-yard field goal by Mike Meyer earlier in the fourth quarter, gave Iowa a 31-23 lead and put the game in the hands of a defense which had not given up a point in the final quarter of a game this season.
Radcliff had other plans.
He drove the Chippewas 64 yards over the next 1:33, hitting Titus Davis with a 13-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left after an Iowa defender fell to the ground. Trailing 31-29, Central Michigan went for the two-point conversion, but Radcliff’s pass sailed over the reach of intended receiver Courtney Williams.
It took a pair of onside-kick attempts — the first one negated by a delay of game penalty — before Radcliff had the ball back in his hands after the Chippewas’ Jesse Kroll recovered the kick at the Central Michigan 42-yard line.
Five plays later, Harman ignored a high snap, got off a low kick with a breeze at his back and had just enough distance to clear the uprights with his fourth field goal of the game.
“Right when it came off my foot, I knew I didn’t hit it perfect,” Harman said. “I hit it a little fat, so it came off a little low, but I know for me I should get it there every time. My heart started racing a million miles an hour until I saw the signal.”
He had the chance to secure the win on a drive extended by the Hawkeyes’ third personal foul penalty of the game, a flag on Joe Gaglione which followed an incomplete pass on a 3rd-and-6 play that moved the ball to the Iowa 39-yard line.
“It’s always the second guy who gets called,” Gaglione said. “I know better, but in the moment, it happened and it cost us.”
The penalty was the ninth of the game for the Hawkeyes, who were flagged for 106 yards of penalties as they ended the nonconference portion of the schedule at 2-2 for the first time since 2007.
“Central Michigan got the job done there in the last minute the way you have to, and we didn’t,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Some of those things are just kind of reflective of the whole game.”