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Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Instant analysis: Iowa 27, Missouri 24

By Adam Rittenberg

Well, that was entertaining. The Big Ten is off to a 1-0 start in the bowl season after Iowa rallied to win a wild one in Tempe, Ariz.

Here's a quick look at Iowa's 27-24 win against Missouri in the Insight Bowl.

How the game was won: Headed toward another disappointing loss, Iowa turned the momentum midway through the fourth quarter when Micah Hyde picked off a Blaine Gabbert pass and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown. Gabbert (434 yards) had been brilliant before the pick-six, and Iowa's defense once again seemed to be wearing down. The shorthanded Hawkeyes' offense received a huge lift from freshman running back Marcus Coker and an offensive line that consistently opened holes. The game seemed to be following a typical and tragic script for Iowa, but Hyde created a Hollywood ending.

Player of the game: Marcus Coker. Iowa's depth chart at running back had been decimated by injury, transfer and suspension, leaving Coker as the team's only reliable option for the bowl. The freshman answered the call in a big way, displaying tremendous power and speed. He rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, including a 62-yard scoring burst early in the second quarter to give Iowa a 14-3 lead. Hyde certainly merits a mention for his heroics.

Turning point: Hmmmm ... how about Hyde's 72-yard pick-six with 5:32 left in the game and Iowa looking dead in the water? Bingo. Although Gabbert made his only awful decision in an otherwise brilliant night, Hyde deserves credit for jumping the route and making a brilliant return up the sideline for the touchdown. It marked Hyde's second return touchdown of the season after he took a lateral from Tyler Sash and raced to the end zone against Michigan State. His score has to go right up there with the Warren Halloway touchdown in the Capital One Bowl as one of the most clutch plays in Iowa history.

Best call: It was the best or the worst, depending on whom you ask, but the replay overturn of a Missouri first-down catch late in the fourth quarter put Iowa in position to win. Missouri would have been in field-goal range had the catch held up, but an excellent camera angle showed the ball hitting the ground and moving. I'm still surprised the officials ended up overturning the call on the field because of indisputable video evidence, but it looked like they made the right decision.

Second guessing: Iowa's defensive scheme. The Hawkeyes played too many linebackers and too few defensive backs against Gabbert and Missouri's pass-happy spread offense. Without much of a rotation along the defensive line, Iowa looked gassed and didn't put much pressure on Gabbert. The plan nearly cost Iowa, but Hyde saved the day.

What it means: Iowa's decorated senior class ends an otherwise disappointing season on a great note, as the Hawkeyes won their third consecutive bowl game for the first time in team history. After blowing four fourth-quarter leads and allowing late touchdowns in all five regular-season losses, Iowa had seen this movie before,but made a play to change the ending. Although Iowa loses a lot for 2011, the encouraging performances from underclassmen like Coker, Hyde and linebacker James Morris raises hope for the future.