Three cool things:
1. You know my friend Sam Paxton, The Gazette’s night sports editor, has been really helping me out with this. Sometimes, it’s been like a caddie. He gets me to the tee box and does everything but swing.
I’ve totally appreciated that. This has been a lot of ... a lot.
During the entire deal, Sam has been talking about Iowa’s victory over Michigan in 2003. He kept bringing it up, bringing it up. “You know, Marc, that 2003 Michigan game ...”
The whole time, I’m like, “Shoot, I’m kind of blanking on this one. Oh well, I’ll fake it because I’m the high-plains drifter and I don’t need help.”
You know that’s the attitude that’s made me a crazy person.
Finally, last week, I did that weird reverse coach thing. I said to Sam, I’m slammed and, man, I’ve got to get to No. 12 and it’s the Michigan 2003 game. Do you remember anything about it?
I knew he knew.
I think Sam had his part of this written in six minutes. He’s one of you. I need, trust and respect Sam’s fan-ness. Sam and sports copy editor Ryan Suchomel are terrific resources for me. Ryan used to be on the beat at the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
I’m handing Sam the mic. Don’t screw up the toast. (This is part Cultural Idiocy Quiz and totally from the heart. Thank you, Sam.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: There have been bigger games. For sure. But this is my favorite game ever at Kinnick Stadium.
Maybe it’s because it was the first time I was ever actually IN attendance for a victory over one of the Big Ten’s blue bloods. Weirdly, that hadn’t happened for me yet.
Maybe it was because the Hawks fell behind by two quick scores almost immediately and it seemed dire, especially in the wake of the turd they dropped the week before at Michigan State.
But they chipped. And chipped. And chipped some more. And a 14-0 deficit became a 30-27 lead.
What I remember most was the noise. I mean, it was LOUD. When Michigan mounted its last-ditch drive, the Kinnick crowd came alive — it was homecoming, after all.
Michigan worked its way to the Iowa 47-yard line with 1:55 to go. Three-yard gain.
On second and 7, John Navarre throws incomplete, Kinnick erupts. Absolutely deafening.
On third down, Navarre throws incomplete again. Oh wait … THIS is the loudest I’ve ever heard it.
On fourth down, a penalty on Michigan. Another level yet I didn’t know existed.
And on fourth and 12, another incompletion. Iowa’s gonna win. Couldn’t hear yourself think. Pain threshold kind of noise.
I’ve been told that the sound at the Orange Bowl when C.J. Jones returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown was not unlike standing on the tarmac as a jet takes off over your head. But I wasn’t there for that. I WAS there for this, and this is the basis for all my comparisons since.
— Hayden was there. It was the day he was inducted into the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame ... and he got to go in when Bo Schembechler was in the house to see it. It was a glorious sight.
— Random factoid: I’m a huge fan of the show “Survivor.” Like, crazy obsessed. For 18 years now. I mean, I’ve written game analysis pieces on “Survivor” for The Gazette (kind of helps that Cedar Rapids is home to two “Survivor” champions in Denise Stapley and Sarah Lacina … made it an easy sell).
Anyway, in 2003, the show was still huge, arguably at its 20-million-viewers-a-week apex. The season airing that fall — “Survivor: Pearl Islands” — is still considered one of the best in the show’s history. Then, that January, “Survivor: All-Stars” debuted after Super Bowl XXXVIII (the Patriots-Panthers fourth-quarter explosion), the night of Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” The world was watching.
The common denominator between both seasons? Rupert (it’s reality TV, you don’t need his last name), the tie-dyed, bearded pirate who was so popular with the general public that the show essentially created a fan vote after the “All-Stars” finale to award him $1 million even though he failed to win the game twice (sorry, spoiler alert). He was as popular as a reality TV star could possibly be, to the point that he transcended the show.
This game was on Oct. 4, Rupert’s “Pearl Islands” boot episode aired on Nov. 20. Right in the middle of that, on Nov. 3, he left for Panama and began filming the “All-Stars” season.
What does this have to do with Iowa-Michigan 2003? I rushed the field after the Hawks pulled it out, and who did I run past on the Kinnick Stadium turf? Rupert. He was there, working for ABC Sports in some capacity. I thought maybe I was seeing things until my buddy Matt later told me that, yup, he was working near his section, with people screaming “Rupert, did you win?” all game long until he finally turned around and growled at them, “You’ll just have to watch the show.”
— By the way, I was sitting next to a college kid who waved a “Let’s Go Cubs!” sign all game long that day. The Cubs — hoping to close out the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS that night at Wrigley Field — ended up losing and having to fly back to Atlanta for the decisive Game 5 the next day. Improbably, they won … and had only to beat the Florida Marlins to go to the World Series.
Piece of cake, right?
Ummm … 2016 was still a ways off.
— Lastly, I brought my entire family to a game for the first time that fall. The Buffalo game. I actually remember walking up to the ticket booth and saying, “Can I have 13 tickets, please? Preferably all together?” … and getting them. All together. South end zone. It was the week before my sister’s wedding and everyone was in town, including my aunt who lives near Tampa, Fla. It was a religious experience for her that day, I promise you.
Anyway, as I stood on the field after the Michigan game, I reached down and grabbed a fistful of Kinnick grass and put it in my pocket. When I got home, I fastened it to a piece of paper with Scotch tape and mailed it to Florida. I’m told it’s been framed and hangs in her house to this day.
Like I said, my favorite game at Kinnick ever.
— Sam Paxton, The Gazette
That’s one nutty hospital. Thanks, Sam.
2. I forgot I verbalized “Iowa” in this one. My bad.
Anyway, Mac McCausland sent me an email after this one, saying he enjoyed “Iowa’d” and might use it in hoops telecasts. I don’t know if he ever did, but I’ll tell you this, I don’t verbalize very often and in fact can’t believe I did it this time.
3. I think we saw an early version of the “raider” defense in this one. The raider is Iowa’s third-down defense against the pass.
Here, it was “victory defense.” It was that in the playbook. It’s called that way in the huddle.
Calling it was one thing. Making it stand up was another.
Leading Michigan 30-27, last-gasp drive with two minutes left that day, you could argue the Hawkeyes were maybe getting a little ahead of themselves.
It was, after all, No. 9 Michigan with the ball. That was quarterback John Navarre, who’d burned Iowa for 389 yards and two TDs. And that was a quartet of receivers who could bust out in an Olympic 400 relay anytime it wanted.
But, no, it was victory defense, even when it works.
“That’s our ‘victory defense,’“ junior free safety Sean Considine said. “You go out and get the victory. I think it was a little change-up and it definitely helped us.”
Quote: “When you have a team like ours, everyone has everyone’s back. We believe in each other. We know the other guy will come through.” — QB Nathan Chandler
Why No. 12? — I forgot about the comeback. That’s what I forgot. That’s why Sam loved this one so much. I totally get it.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2003
IOWA CITY — The names that pop up for this team.
Ramon Ochoa, Erik Jensen, Nathan Chandler. No-names from nowhere no one wanted.
Calvin Davis, Matt Neubauer, Chigozie Ejiasi. The names that pop up. Too short, too slow, too wonderful.
The Hawkeyes have turned themselves into a verb. Down two touchdowns, down 40 or 50 all-American pedigrees, they just find a way to out-Iowa you.
That’s maybe the only way to go with No. 23 Iowa’s 30-27 victory over No. 9 Michigan before 70,397 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
When all else fails, when all conventional explanation goes kerplooey, they Iowa you.
”When I look back on this, I think that’s going to be the biggest thing,” senior defensive tackle Jared Clauss said. “We’ve got guys no one wants playing out there. Michigan has blue-chippers everywhere.
“It makes you feel pretty good when you beat a team like that. When you know they didn’t want you out of high school. Everyone trusts everyone on this team.”
When Chandler, the fifth-year senior from a California juco, throws a 31-yard TD pass to Ochoa, a too short, too slow wideout from East L.A., you’ve been Iowa’d.
When Jensen, a tool-box tight end from Wisconsin, catches a third-and-9 for a 14-yard gain, and the drive stays alive for Ochoa, you’ve been Iowa’d.
When Davis, a skinny Iowa City High kid who skipped his junior season of football because he wanted to go D-I in basketball, catches seven passes for 60 yards and pops up hit after hit asking for more, you’ve been Iowa’d.
“I think we all know we’re not the most talented team in the world, and we’re not claiming to be,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re not the smartest staff and we’re not claiming to be. But we’ve got a team, at least. That’s where it all starts.”
No one can go Iowa (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) with Iowa. Michigan (4-2, 1-1) can’t go Iowa with Iowa.
When your offense rolls up 463 yards, your quarterback completes 26 of 49 for 389 yards and two TDs, your defense generally herds the opposition’s offense for most of three quarters and you still lose, you’ve been Iowa’d.
“I think anytime you lose, it’s disappointing,” Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said. “But you have to deal with it. That’s one of the values of the game.”
The Hawkeyes took a lead after Michigan’s punt unit tried to get a little bit too cute.
UM kicker Garrett Rivas ran to the right and punted once in the first half. The Wolverines tried it again late in the third quarter. Rivas ran right, but this time safety Chris Smith blocked the punt and gave Iowa first down at Michigan’s 14-yard line.
Four plays later, Nate Kaeding booted a 32-yard field goal to give Iowa a 23-20 lead with 2:34 left in the third quarter.
“I don’t really know what that was,” Kaeding said about Michigan’s punt formation. “It’s a credit to our special teams. They respect you if they’re willing to try something totally different.”
Different, yes. Effective, no.
“I take full responsibility,” Carr said.
The Hawkeyes held the 23-20 lead into the fourth quarter. With 9:39 left, Iowa drove the ball only the way Iowa can.
Third-and-11 from their own 20, Chandler rolled right and drilled a pass to Jensen for a 24-yard gain. Try to remember that Jensen came into the season with eight receptions.
“Didn’t look like it on that play, did it?” said Chandler, who completed 17 of 34 for 195 yards, two TDs and an interception. “When you have a team like ours, everyone has everyone’s back. We believe in each other. We know the other guy will come through.”
On third-and-9 from Michigan’s 44, Chandler hit Jensen for a 13-yard gain. Try to remember that Chandler was roundly booed by Iowa fans after Iowa’s offense went three-and-out three straight possessions to start the game.
“I didn’t hear them booing when he was throwing touchdown passes,” said Ochoa, who, with kick and punt returns, put up 169 all-purpose yards. ”Hey, it comes with the territory. You can’t let it get you down. We won’t let it get us down.”
Then, with 5:16 left, Chandler hit Ochoa for 31 yards and a 30-20 lead. They out-Iowa’d the boo-birds.
“The coaches trust us, we trust each other,” said Davis, whose 6-yard TD grab with 19 seconds left in the first half pulled Iowa within 20-17. “I think a lot of what we’re doing goes to great coaching. We get coached to do the things we do.”
The Wolverines stormed back. Quarterback John Navarre, who completed 26 of 49 for 389 yards, two TDs and an interception, threw a 41-yard laser to wideout Braylon Edwards to pull Michigan within 30-27 with 3:43 left.
Iowa went three-and-out. Michigan had the ball at its 27 with 2:44 left.
Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker broke out the 3-and-everyone-drop defense. Iowa had seven defensive backs in. Some of them you might even have heard of.
On Michigan’s last play, Navarre threw incomplete in a crowd that included sophomore Antwan Allen, a too-short, too-skinny kid from Tampa, Fla., and Smith, a fifth-year senior whose name is on the depth chart in pencil.
“You’ve just got to believe in the guy next to you,” Smith said. “No matter who he is or where he’s from, you’ve got to believe he’ll be there.”
And that’s how Iowa out-Iowas people.