IOWA CITY — Here’s what all of us who care about college football should do if we’re being honest:
Say it out loud, to yourself and anyone who has had to listen to you insist how games and seasons will turn out. Say “No matter how much I think I know about this stuff, I don’t really know that much.”
I just did so in the Kinnick Stadium press box as I typed this. I whispered it, though. Didn’t want to bother anyone else here who knew nine days ago that Iowa would lose to Minnesota and follow it with a win over No. 13 Michigan. Which was no one, come to think of it.
What you heard and possibly said yourself after Iowa’s belly flop at Minnesota was “They may not win another game this season.” What you didn’t hear was “I think the Hawkeyes can keep Denard Robinson bottled up for the most part,” and “If Iowa’s defense has to make a stop on the final drive against Michigan, it will.”
I was in the camp that wondered if the Hawkeyes might lose out and stay home for the holidays with a 5-7 record. I also was in the camp who thought the Hawkeyes could (the operative word was “could”) beat Michigan Saturday, but only in the event they posted a lot of points. Like 38. Or more.
There had been no psychic visions of Iowa holding the Wolverines 118 yards under their season-average of 441. Or of boldly staring down a Michigan 1st-and-goal at the 3 by forcing four straight incompletions to end the game and keep Iowa on the good side of a 24-16 score at Kinnick Stadium.
“What a stop!” honorary Hawkeye captain Tim Dwight shouted with glee as he bounded up some stadium steps after the game.
What a stop, indeed. It began at the Michigan 18 when the officials said Wolverines back Vincent Smith had come out of a scrum without being downed, and had himself a stunning touchdown run. Then they looked at the videotape. Uh, no.
Robinson then used his arm, of all things. He had four completions ranging from 12 to 19 yards set up that 1st-and-goal. On second-down, another replay review was used to see if Junior Hemingway’s magnificent catch ruled out-of-bounds was a touchdown after all. Close, so close, so very close. But uh, no.
Smith dropped the third-down pass from Robinson. One play and two seconds remained.
“We broke the huddle, and I was just thinking ‘Stop them. Make the tackle, make the play,’ ” Iowa defensive back Jordan Bernstine said.
“ ‘We need a stop,’ I was saying to myself. ‘This can’t happen two weeks in a row.’ ” said Hawkeye defensive end Broderick Binns, who had a terrific game.
Iowa sophomore cornerback B.J. Lowery smothered intended Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree on fourth-down. Incomplete. Bernstine’s eyes began searching the end zone.
“I had to make sure there were no flags,” Bernstine said. There weren’t.
“And then I just went crazy.”
As did the crowd of 70,585, minus a few thousand Michigan fans. They expected more from their team’s 35-point-a-game offense than less than half as much against a defense that had been dissected by so many quarterbacks without Robinson’s resume.
“It’s almost better we won that way,” Ferentz said, talking about a defensive stand to secure victory. “It’s easy to say that now. But it’s almost better in that we really had to dig in. There were plenty of opportunities to surrender, but nobody did.”
The calendar flipped from October to November last Tuesday, the same day the Hawkeyes had their first practice after the mess in Minnesota.
“The coaches tell us there’s a 24-hour rule, win or lose,” said Binns, who batted down three passes and had a 12-yard quarterback sack. “Last week we had 24 hours to sit there and be mad at ourselves for dumb mistakes. After that, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we’re on Michigan, preparing to play a different team. We knew it was important not to let Minnesota beat us two times.”
Unlike media and fans, the teams can’t afford to linger on previous results. Look at what else happened in the Big Ten Saturday. Road teams Minnesota and Indiana gave Michigan State and Ohio State hard times before falling. Northwestern won at (gulp) Nebraska.
The Big Ten is officially off its hinges.
After Ferentz’s postgame press conference, a reporter told him Minnesota had nearly upset MSU.
“Imagine that,” the coach replied, than he snorted. That’s how he laughs.
“We try to stay off elevators,” Ferentz said. “I’ll leave that to you guys. The world’s not quite coming to an end, and we’re certainly not riding in any victory parades.”
Maybe all of us will now learn from our errors and misjudgements, and not be too hasty to declare a team immortal or dead. Nahhh.