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Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has 143 wins under his belt at the University of Iowa, one away from the all-time record.

The Gazette will count down each win, as ranked by writer Marc Morehouse.


Get to know Jonathan Babineaux, maybe the quintessential Kirk Ferentz player

No. 20 Iowa 44, Michigan State 16 | Oct. 12, 2002

Michigan State quarter back Jeff Smoker is stripped by Iowa's Jonathan Babineaux during at the beginning of the third quarter of Iowa's 44-16 win Saturday Oct. 12, 2002 in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Michigan State quarter back Jeff Smoker is stripped by Iowa's Jonathan Babineaux during at the beginning of the third quarter of Iowa's 44-16 win Saturday Oct. 12, 2002 in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. This was week 7 in the Great Year. And the Hawkeyes were feeling it.

This was a horrible Michigan State team. After Nick Saban decided he couldn’t build a football farm in the north, MSU hired Bobby Williams and John L. Smith.

[Pregnant pause for dramatic effect signifying how wide left those hires were.]

Michigan State didn’t come correct to this one, and the Hawkeyes were in cruise control.

Here are the names referenced in the game story (just last names, all you need): Babineaux, Roth, Banks, Russell, Lewis, Cole, Barr.

Put the 2002 Hawkeyes in “Game of Thrones” and the White Walkers would be like “No, no, no, no. No one said anything about these guys. No bleeping way. We’re good here behind the wall.”

2. Jonathan Babineaux is not only the oldest living defensive lineman in the NFL. He’s an incredible story of perseverance. You can totally see why Kirk Ferentz had so much admiration for former Iowa assistant Carl Jackson. I didn’t get to know Carl well, but he always struck me as the kind of coach who, after a really awful day of practice, would know exactly what to say.

Maybe that appealed to a young Jonathan Babineaux.

3. Let’s blow out the other two cool things and roll a story out that I wrote in 2004. (See below)

Quote: I can see why you guys loved this team so much. You probably had a really great time with “Bullies of the Big Ten.” Not sure I can even use the word “bully” anymore. I’ll get emails. I’ll delete them without reading, but I’ll get them.

Anyway, bullies.

“We’re a physical group, we’ve been physical from day one,” defensive tackle Colin Cole said. “That’s our game, that’s the way we play.

“We’re not going to try to finesse you. We’re not going to try to hide stuff. We’re going to beat you right over the head and ram it down your throat all game.”

Note: I forgot the 2002 secondary ranked so low. I don’t remember it being a huge problem. C’mon, Carson Palmer did that to everyone and I think the renaissance, as brief as it was, Palmer enjoyed really punctuates my point.

Why No. 113? — All the 2002 games can’t be in the top 20.


Game story from 2002

IOWA CITY — It is a whole-new deal here, this 2002 Hawkeyes season, a trip into a new world with fresh experiences, games on ESPN and, yes, a slight scent of roses in the air.

The team isn’t supposed to use that word, that “Rose” word. Not yet, anyway.

The deal Coach Kirk Ferentz cut with his players was that it’d be OK for some long-range thinking after the fourth game of the Big Ten season.

Hey, that’s the team. After Saturday’s 44-16 flat-out ear-tweaking of Michigan State, it’s OK for you to take a peek, play games in your head and project the Hawkeyes into whatever bowl game you want.

The No. 17 Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) are one game from official coach-sanctioned Rose Bowl talk. Make no mistake, though, they’re now officially sanctioned players in the Big Ten and off to their best start since 1991.

“I think it’s seeping into Iowa City already,” offensive tackle David Porter said. “After the game, everyone was chanting ‘Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl.’ But for us, every game is a bowl game. And Indiana is our next bowl game.”

OK, before you hit the Wal-Mart looking for Rose decals for your cheek, look up the travel agent and give the Bowl RV its 10,000-mile tune-up, soak in this beauty.

The game tape is Sunday morning being Fed Exed to various Big Ten locations to coaches who want to know how to stop Michigan State’s all-American wideout Charles Rogers.

Rogers entered with an NCAA record streak of 13 straight games with a touchdown catch. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder seemed a shoo-in to add to that record, with the Hawkeyes’ secondary ranked No. 116, next-to-dead last in the country.

Rogers had bruised ribs coming into Saturday’s game. Going out of Saturday’s game before 69,021 at Kinnick Stadium, he had bruised ego.

“Give credit to both of their safeties,” Rogers said in a statement MSU sports information read to the media. “They did a great job not on the run and also in pass support.”

Rogers had five catches for 78 yards. He came close to one TD, nearly breaking a broken play, a tipped pass, for a TD in the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t know anything about that streak until you guys brought it up just now,” senior free safety Derek Pagel said. “You guys have a new one every week.”

So, how’d they do it?

The Hawkeyes didn’t do anything elaborate. They didn’t double-team, bracket or put a Tazer zap on Rogers. They hung out in a sagging man-to-man and cover two. There was no mad scientist stuff out of defensive coordinator Norm Parker.

What they did was hammer the living daylights out of MSU quarterbacks, Jeff Smoker and Damon Dowdell.

Quarterback hurries is not a stat that’s kept on gameday. It shows up sometime later during the week. It might take a couple weeks to tally Saturday’s haul.

They do keep sacks, however, on gameday. Sophomore end Matt Roth had three, including one on Dowdell that caused a fumble, and sophomore end Jon Babineaux had one.

Iowa had 11 tackles for loss.

So, how’d they do it?

“We’re a physical group, we’ve been physical from day one,” defensive tackle Colin Cole said. “That’s our game, that’s the way we play.

“We’re not going to try to finesse you. We’re not going to try to hide stuff. We’re going to beat you right over the head and ram it down your throat all game.”

This brings us to Smoker, who was pulled in favor of Dowdell but later returned. He came into Saturday’s game perfectly healthy. Going out of Saturday’s game, he had just about every jointed body part encased in ice.

Which would explain another statement on behalf of a player issued by Michigan State sports information.

It was a record day for player statements read to the media by sports information.

“I threw some bad balls, and we had some fumbles,” said Smoker, who completed 17 of 33 for 169 yards, two interceptions and one TD. “You can’t beat a top-20 team on the road with five turnovers.”

The Hawkeyes turned those five Michigan State (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) turnovers into 20 points.

Pagel returned an interception 62 yards for a score. Strong safety Bob Sanders’ interception turned into the first of three Nate Kaeding field goals.

Babineaux’s strip of Smoker and linebacker Fred Barr’s recovery set up running back Fred Russell’s 11-yard run. Roth’s sack on Dowdell and Cole’s recovery set up a Kaeding field goal that gave Iowa a 37-7 lead with 8 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

“The story of the game was our defense,” Ferentz said. “They just played tremendous football. It looked like Iowa football out there again on defense.”

The Spartans took the opening drive 54 yards on 12 plays and took a 7-0 lead on tailback Dawan Moss’ 2-yard plunge.

After that, it wasn’t so much what the Spartans didn’t do, but what Iowa did.

Sophomore running back Jermelle Lewis returned the ensuing kick 94 yards for a 7-7 tie. The Spartans’ next score didn’t come until 7:59 of the fourth quarter with the Hawkeyes holding a 44-7 lead.

Quarterback Brad Banks hit wide receiver C.J. Jones for 62- and 25-yard TDs.

But other than that, there were few offensive fireworks. Banks completed 8 of 19 for 154 yards, two TDs and an interception. Iowa also had its streak of 10 games with a 100-yard rusher snapped.

Russell gained 75 yards on 18 carries. The Hawkeyes did outrush MSU, 127-55. And, who knows, maybe the Hawkeyes would’ve had more if their average starting field position wasn’t their 43-yard line.

“I didn’t know that one about us and the 100-yard runner,” Banks said. “Y’all pop up with new stuff every week.”

And so do you all.

Jonathan Babineaux feature from 2002

Game of life

IOWA CITY — Sometimes the celebrations are more than chest thumps and high-fives. Sometimes they mean something.

When Jonathan Babineaux makes a play on the field, a sack or tackle for loss, he looks up to the heavens and points.

And, no, it’s not a “hey, look at me” move. He happens to have a crowd up there.

Way before Jonathan Babineaux was a 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior defensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes, he was a third-grader growing up without a dad in Port Arthur, Texas, an oil town on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.

Joseph Babineaux went to the doctor’s office one day in the late 1980s. He leaned on a rail near a concourse. The rail broke, and he fell two stories to his death. Five kids were suddenly and shockingly without a dad.

“That was way back when,” said Jonathan Babineaux, a quiet, thoughtful 23-year-old. “I was probably third grade, 7 or 8 years old.

“I really don’t remember too much. I just remember what happened and what went on after that.”

Babineaux’s mom, Barbara, worked to make ends meet for the five Babineaux children, all with the initials J.B., just like their dad. The kids’ grandfather would spend a lot of days sitting with them while their mom was still at work.

“It was pretty much like that all the way through,” Jonathan said. “It was hard, having just one parent trying to take care of five of us. Most of the time, she wouldn’t be there. She’d have to work.

“When I was in elementary, she got a different job and things started to get a little better as the years went on.”

Babineaux said his mom is now a lab secretary at Huntsman Petrochemical Corp. He was asked what he took away from knowing how hard his mom worked to support the family.

“You see a goal, just to work as hard as you can for your family and always be there to support them,” he said.

The Babineauxes sued the medical company and the company that built the railing. That money helped them get through college.

“When everybody turned 18, we all got a large amount of money,” Babineaux said.

Move the story along to 2004. Barbara Babineaux is the proud mom of five college graduates. Jean and Josh graduated from Xavier University (Louisiana). Jeff graduated from Wiley College (Marshall, Texas). Jordan graduated from Southern Arkansas and is a defensive back on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad.

Jordan is the youngest at 22. Jeff is the oldest at 27.

Check that, Barbara Babineaux will be the proud mom of five college graduates. Jonathan needs one more class next semester before he graduates with a degree in African-American studies and a minor in sports leisure.

He wants to coach football, probably after a career in the NFL.

In a recent mock draft, had Babineaux going in the first round, at No. 26 to the Denver Broncos.

“My mom got us into sports,” Jonathan said. “After a while, sports got into everything and we continued to play.”

Babineaux broke into the starting lineup at Iowa in 2002. He started the first 11 games of Iowa’s Big Ten championship season but missed the Minnesota game after his grandfather died that week.

Teammates grieved with Babineaux. Fellow defensive lineman Colin Cole played that day with Babineaux’s initials on his wrist tape. Babineaux is that kind of a player. He might be the quintessential Kirk Ferentz player.

“There’s no question, I hope that’s what our team would embody — the kind of characteristics that Jonathan has,” the Iowa coach said. “That’s what we’re all trying to ingrain upon them. He’s not about flash. It’s not a parade when he shows up. But when he shows up, he gets the job done.”

Teammates feed off his quiet demeanor. He’s seen a lot worse in life. It takes a lot to rock his world.

“He’s a matured guy, he’s the grown-up of the bunch,” said fellow defensive tackle Tyler Luebke. “He does everything right on and off the field. He knows how to act.

“He’s a great role model for the rest of the D-linemen. We’re all seniors, but we still take cues from him. He’s a peer and a role model. I think that says a lot.”

Babineaux also has had more than his share of on-field perils at Iowa.

After playing as a freshman at fullback in 2000, Babineaux broke his leg during spring drills after moving to the defensive line. It was an ugly spiral fracture that didn’t heal well enough for him to play in 2001. Then last year, Babineaux had 23 tackles in a little over six games before breaking his right fibula in a loss to Ohio State.

“I thought, not again,” Babineaux said with a laugh.

Once again, Babineaux’s maturity and quiet demeanor won out. Instead of “why me?” Babineaux dug into rehab. He came out lifting more weight in the squat (600 pounds) than before the second break. He also came out faster, running a 4.72-second 40-yard dash at Iowa’s junior pro day last winter.

“I’m stronger than before and I’m also faster than before,” Babineaux said. “Overall the injury, I guess, helped me become stronger and faster. At least with the negative, it also came with a positive.”

Saturday is the ritual senior day. It’s the seniors’ final game at Kinnick Stadium. This is the day 280-pound defensive linemen come out to midfield and meet their parents. A mother and a son will meet and hug. And, just maybe, they’ll share a tear.

“My mom’s pretty much my everything,” Babineaux said. “She’s pretty much the reason why I’m still playing the game. I want to make her proud and be the best I can be in my life.”

Jonathan Babineaux has his dad’s name tattooed on his body. The memories aren’t as crystal clear as they once were, but the son remembers his dad.

“It’s something I got over, but like anybody who leaves you and goes on to another life, you always miss them,” Babineaux said. “You always keep them in your heart. It’s just a process going through it.

“My mom being there for us, just helping us get over it, made it much easier.”

If Babineaux makes a play and points to the heavens Saturday, it’s so not “hey, look at me.” It’s, “Hi, dad.”