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Kirk Ferentz stared at the clock and knew he had a decision to make.
Iowa's undefeated season, and a College Football Playoff berth, hung in the balance with Michigan State pushing the ball steadily downfield and time winding down.
The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes owned a four-point lead in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game and had managed to hold the Spartans to no more than field goals on their previous scoring possessions. But on this drive, Iowa's defense was worn down; before Michigan State reached first-and-goal at the 3-yard line, the Spartans converted four third downs and one fourth down on what was a nearly 20-play drive.
Now, a go-ahead touchdown seemed somewhere between likely and certain. And so the moment forced Ferentz to consider the unpalatable idea of letting the Spartans walk into the end zone to provide his offense with ample time to operate.
But doing so would require him to approach sophomore linebacker Josey Jewell, who would become known as one of Iowa's best players in school history, and tell him to essentially stop playing when there still was a chance for a game-winning goal-line stand.
"I don't mind telling you one of my thoughts was, OK, Josey comes over, and I'm going to tell him that we're going to let them score intentionally?" Ferentz recalls now. "I just had a vision of being the first head coach ever in a college football game to get dropped on the sideline, get knocked out by a player. Because that's probably what would have happened if I told Josey we were going to surrender. That thought got quickly dismissed and we played it out the way it was."
Iowa ultimately fell to Michigan State in that game, but the moment stands out to Ferentz more than five years later because of what is says about Jewell, who became Iowa's first-ever three-time captain, a consensus All-American and a stalwart at the center of the Broncos' defense.
But at no time before those achievements did all that seem destined for Jewell, the often-underestimated linebacker from the biggest little town in northeastern Iowa.