We recently took a look at the top 10 games from the Big Ten in the 2013 season, and now it's time to review the top individual performances of the season that was.
This was a much tougher assignment than anticipated. My original list swelled to about 20 contenders, and it was difficult to pare down. Some players turned in more than one outstanding performance, but for variety's sake, we are limiting each player to just one entry here. We're also taking into account the difficulty of opponent and stakes of the game. But mostly, we're rewarding the most record-breaking, honor-winning, jaw-dropping individual showings from 2013 in the Big Ten.
Let's get started ...
No. 10: Christian's lionhearted Big Ten finale
The numbers: Kirskey had 11 tackles, including three for loss, plus a sack and a forced fumble.
A closer look: The Heroes Game hadn't really developed into a rivalry after Nebraska won the first two installments, but Iowa's dominating performance at Memorial Stadium might have just upped the ante. The Hawkeyes were led all season by their standout trio of senior linebackers, but Kirksey received a little bit less attention than the senatorial James Morris or tackling machine Anthony Hitchens.
Against the Huskers, Kirksey was everywhere on the field, helping Iowa force three turnovers and hold Nebraska to just 89 rushing yards. His biggest moment came in the third quarter, with Iowa holding on to a seven-point lead and the Huskers faking a punt from their own 32-yard line. If you've followed Hawkeyes football even casually in recent years, you know fake punts have often led to disaster for Kirk Ferentz's team. But not this time, as Kirksey sniffed it out and shed a block to tackle Sam Foltz for an 8-yard loss. The Hawkeyes scored on the following play.
Morris and Hitchens had great games as well, but Kirksey won Walter Camp national defensive player of the week honors for his role in the victory. Given that it came in a rivalry game on enemy soil and helped Iowa get to eight wins and an Outback Bowl berth, Kirksey's performance deserves inclusion in the top 10.