BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Ricky Stanzi spent most of Saturday trying to figure out Indiana's defense.
He made No. 15 Iowa's late rally look as easy as 1-2-3.
Stanzi took the Hawkeyes 88 yards in three plays, the last a 52-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt with 2:50 left for an 18-13 victory at Indiana.
"For two years in a row now, we've had games against Indiana that are, uh, bizarre, to say the least," Stanzi said. "At the end, we kind of got clicking with the pass plays and it worked out for us."
Again, just barely.
Last year, Iowa needed 28 fourth-quarter points to escape Indiana's bid in Iowa City.
This time, they needed a dropped pass and a replay review confirmation after Ben Chappell took Indiana back down the field to the Hawkeyes 18.
On fourth-and-10, Damarlo Belcher appeared to grab, then drop, what would have been a touchdown pass with 28 seconds left. The play was so close that the Hoosiers' home crowd roared with approval, thinking Belcher scored. The replay showed, clearly, that Belcher never had control of the ball and the on-field call stood.
Belcher did not talk to reporters after the game.
"I didn't see it," Chappell said. "I saw the refs say incomplete, but I didn't really see the play because I got hit right as I threw it. I thought it had a shot. I knew the safety was wide and I knew I got it over the backer."
The victory added another chapter to this inexplicably unusual series.
It also kept Iowa (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) in the hunt for a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl bid. No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Ohio State and No. 16 Michigan State all have one conference loss, just like the Hawkeyes.
"I was pretty relieved with the win," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
For Indiana (4-5, 0-5), the loss epitomized what this season has become - close calls and missed opportunities.
They've now lost five of six, 10 straight in conference play and 11 in a row against ranked teams dating to an October 2006 upset against then No. 15 Iowa. And Indiana came within a whisker of not only winning it in the final seconds, but also sealing it when they needed only 3 yards for a first down with 3:42 to go.
Chappell wanted the offense to stay on the field.
Coach Bill Lynch played it safe, punting, and Stanzi wasted no time making the Hoosiers pay for their decision.
On first down, he threw a 21-yard pass to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. On the next play, he threw 15 yards to Johnson-Koulianos. Then McNutt put a double move on cornerback Matt Ernest, getting free down the middle of the field. Stanzi's pass hit the wide open receiver in stride just inside the 20-yard line and McNutt won the foot race for the score.
"When I came out of the route, I thought I'd be open, and I just hoped that everyone else would do their job," McNutt said. "He put it in the perfect spot."
Stanzi finished 22 of 33 for 290 yards with one TD and one interception. McNutt caught six passes for 126 yards, and Johnson-Koulianos caught six passes to raise his career total to 163, breaking the school record of 157 previously held by Kevin Kasper. Freshman Marcus Coker, starting in place of the injured Adam Robinson, ran 22 times for 129 yards.
But the Hawkeyes settled for four field goals in five red-zone trips against a defense that ranked near the bottom in the Big Ten in points allowed.
Mike Meyer's 27-yard field goal made it 9-6 Iowa midway through the third quarter.
The Hoosiers broke through on the ensuing drive when Chappell rushed to the line following an 18-yard completion, quick-snapped the ball and plunged into the end zone from a yard out to give Indiana a 13-9 lead.
Chappell was 27 of 46 for 222 yards with one interception for Indiana and broke Kellen Lewis' school record for completions. He has 590.
"To be able to take a team down the field like that and then on that particular route to get him (Belcher) open, he (Chappell) knew it was going to take some time," Lynch said. "It wasn't one of our quick throws, so he knew he would have to hang in there until the route opened, and he did."
Belcher just couldn't hang on, and the Hawkeyes celebrated.
"Like every player on the field and every player on the sideline, I'm sure our stomachs were in knots," said Ferentz, who won his 100th career game. "It was an anxious. It was a little closer than I would have hoped it would be, but we won it."