The Hawkeyes kicked off the season with a home game against Utah State. Iowa's transfer student-athletes impressed in their debut, with quarterback Cade McNamara throwing touchdown passes to tight end Erick All and wide receiver Seth Anderson. Iowa would take care of business, 24-14.
This game also marked the return of the best tradition in college sports, the Hawkeye Wave, where the sold-out crowd of more than 70,000 fans gave their full attention to the pediatric patients and their families at University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.
After falling to Iowa State the previous year 10-7, Iowa had extra motivation to excel against their rivals on the road in a sold-out game at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Hawkeyes set the tone early with a 28-yard field goal from Drew Stevens and a 35-yard passing touchdown from Cade McNamara to tight end Luke Lachey in the first quarter. Iowa's defense starred in the second quarter, as it held Iowa State to three points at the end of the half and scored a touchdown off a 30-yard interception from defensive back Sebastian Castro.
The Hawkeyes would go on to win the game 20-13 and claim the coveted Cy-Hawk Trophy. This would net Kirk Ferentz, Moon Family Head Football Coach, his 200th career win and increase the Hawkeyes' all-time series lead against the Cyclones to 47-23.
In the only night game at Kinnick this season, 4-1 Iowa faced Michigan State in a midseason Big Ten matchup. After leading 10-9 at halftime, the Hawkeyes were down 16-10 after the Spartans scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery early in the third quarter. The Hawkeyes then tied the game with a pair of field goals from Drew Stevens, including a season-long strike of 53 yards.
Late into the fourth quarter, star defensive back and punt returner Cooper DeJean would give Iowa a 23-16 lead following an electric 70-yard punt return touchdown. Iowa would kick one more field goal to increase the lead to 26-16, sealing the win for the Hawkeyes.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota and a bye week, Iowa faced Northwestern at Wrigley Field, the third-ever college football game played in the stadium. Despite this being an away game, Iowa's dedicated fans brought the energy for a showdown where a win would put the Hawkeyes on top of the Big Ten West.
After a scoreless first half from both teams, defensive lineman Anterio Thompson blocked his second punt of the season deep in Northwestern territory, giving Iowa great field position, great field position. The defensive spark would lead to a touchdown from tight end Addison Ostrenga.
Northwestern would tie the game with a touchdown near the end of the fourth. Iowa responded with a late-game drive allowing Drew Stevens to nail a 52-yard field goal and give Iowa the win at Wrigley. The Hawkeyes moved to 7-2 on the season and first in the Big Ten West.
In its 11th game of the season, Iowa played Illinois for a chance to secure the top spot in the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes shined early, forcing an Illini safety. The offense also scored after Deacon Hill connected with Addision Ostrenga, but Iowa trailed 10-9 at halftime.
After falling behind 13-9 to start the fourth quarter, Iowa responded with a 30-yard rushing touchdown from running back Kaleb Johnson to take a 15-13 lead. Iowa's defense would shutout Illinois' offense after a clutch touchdown, winning the Big Ten West and guaranteeing a trip to the 2023 Big Ten Championship.
In the last game of the regular season, Iowa played Nebraska on Black Friday.
After going into the fourth quarter tied at 10-10, the Hawkeyes continued their trend of late-game heroics and found a way to win when it mattered most. After a turnover gave the Huskers the ball with under a minute left, the Hawkeyes made three crucial plays with under 20 seconds left. The first was an interception from defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett with just 15 seconds left in the game. On the next play, Iowa handed it off to Leshon Williams, and he scampered 22 yards to Iowa in field goal range.
The final play of the game would come from an unlikely source. Iowa's backup kicker, Marshall Meeder, would attempt his first kick of the season. Earlier in this game, Nebraska blocked two field goal attempts from Drew Stevens, which influenced the decision to put in the backup for a potential game-winning kick. Sure enough, Meeder made the field goal that gave Iowa its 10th win of the season.
The 143rd Hawkeye Marching Band did not disappoint this season, performing another lineup of incredible halftime shows ranging from scores of Hollywood blockbusters made by Hawkeyes to the chart-topping music of Taylor Swift. Two performances in particular stole the show and put the 275-member band into the national spotlight.
The first was its performance celebrating the Iowa women's basketball team. The show, debuted in Iowa's third game of the season, depicts Caitlin Clark celebrating after making a basket. The halftime show was featured on ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Sports Illustrated. Nearly a month later, the band performed it again for the record-breaking women's basketball crowd of 55,646 during the historic Crossover at Kinnick.
The marching band again found the spotlight later in the season with its show featuring the music of Metallica. “The Hawkeye Metal Band”—a group formed by three marching band members who replaced their usual instruments with the bass, guitar, and drum set—played alongside the marching band to bring a more authentic metal sound to the show. The performance was entered into Metallica's inaugural marching band competition, “For Whom The Band Tolls,” where Iowa is currently one of five Division I collegiate finalists competing for $75,000 worth of musical equipment.
It’s Game Day in Iowa City!— Hawkeye Marching Band (@HawkeyeBand) September 30, 2023
And you do not want to miss tonight’s halftime show… pic.twitter.com/jfbr87qfVE
Iowa Hawkeyes took home various Big Ten and national honors at the end of the season. Star player Cooper DeJean received recognition for his play on the defensive side of the ball and as a punt returner, making All-Big Ten first-team defense and first-team special teams. DeJean also earned two individual awards in the conference, being named the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year. Finally, he was named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the best defensive back in the nation, and the Nagurski Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive player.
Punter Tory Taylor joined DeJean on the All-Big Ten first-team special teams and won the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the Year Award. Along with these honors, Taylor also became the first Hawkeye to win the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the best punter in the nation.
Iowa's coaching staff also brought home awards this season as defensive coordinator Phil Parker won the Broyles Award, which is presented annually to the best assistant coach in college football. Parker received this honor for leading Iowa to a fifth-ranked defense in the nation, and he was the only defensive coach nominated for the award.
There's one more game to go! The Hawkeyes' 10-2 record landed them a spot in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl, where they will go against the 25th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Watch the Hawkeyes' final matchup of the season on New Year's Day at 12 p.m. (CT) on ABC.