Three cool things:
1. Got a little carried away with nicknames here.
That happens, but I do try to watch it. Remember the sportswriter in “Slap Shot”? His name was Dickie Dunn (played by the brilliant M. Emmet Walsh) and he was always “trying to capture the spirit of the thing.”
So, you know, it’s a fine line between being a homer dip-bleep and being an objective observer.
Yes, I regretted bringing up “the Bullies of the Big Ten” thing after this one.
Even though, it fit. It fit perfectly. I mean, did you see the box score in this one?
— Iowa gained 221 yards, its lowest output of 2015 and that includes the Rose Bowl.
— Wisconsin had four turnovers.
— C.J. Beathard completed nine passes. No, that’s not a record. In fact, since this game, Iowa has won five games when it has completed fewer than 10 passes, including the Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College.
— Iowa went scoreless in the second half.
— There were six sacks, four by the Badgers.
This was a “Bullies of the Big Ten” game.
I love ESPN’s Steve Levy. But I do think he and Brock Huard were nervous about this one at the beginning. I think they were nervous about potentially calling a 10-6 game that was basically won by a former running back who was switched to linebacker and then eventually became a really good defensive end.
The tone was muted, but it sounded like they were going to a zoo without bars. (Gotta give Huard huge credit for dissecting Iowa’s pass blocking with “arrogance of protection,” which you knew had to be something straight out of a Wisconsin coach’s mouth.)
I didn’t “feed” the “Bullies” quote to Desmond King. You could tell he’d done his homework. Or this was the main point coming from Iowa coaches during the week. This game is going to be “Bullies.”
Desmond threw it right out there.
“We’re sending a message to the Big Ten,” said King, who added two more interceptions to raise his season total to five at that point. “We want to let them know the bullies of the Big Ten are back. That’s what Iowa was known for back then. We’re just trying to bring that back.”
I think I went back to Desmond with the “Bullies” thing not long after, maybe the next week. I think Desmond had to answer that one a lot. Brian Ferentz is keen on the messaging thing. I also think his body fuels itself on the idea of “Bullies of the Big Ten.”
But he was hyper aware and Desmond said Brian shut that down with this: You can’t give yourself a nickname.
I can’t argue with that logic. In fact, totally get that, totally right note to send your team.
That is how “Bullies of the Big Ten” became a thing. That’s what Michigan linebacker Carl Diggs called Iowa going into the 2003 matchup.
By the way, I got a few emails after this one scolding me for using the word “bullies.” The general sentiment, which is fine, I get it, was that’s a word I can’t use, because bullies are bad.
Of course, bullies are bad. I’ve run alongside a big college football team for the last 20 years, I know bullies when I see them.
I’m just going to say context, people. Context.
2. Just throwing nicknames out after this one all nimbly bimbly.
For the record and in case anyone has forgotten, the name of the Iowa-Wisconsin traveling trophy is the Heartland Trophy, named after the hotel chain in Iowa (kidding). Iowa and Wisconsin are where? America’s heartland! Or next to each other.
The trophy debuted in 2004. I’m not sure anyone would care if it went away. The implied trophy in this one, first chair in the Big Ten West, is more than enough.
The Hawkeyes hadn’t seen the Heartland in a while. They got giddy.
A brass steer sits on top of the trophy. Defensive lineman Sam Brincks is from Carroll. Western Iowans have a giant steer trophy of their own.
In the southwest Iowa town of Audubon resides a giant statue of “Albert,” which is proclaimed as the world’s largest bull. Brincks offered up Albert. Drew Ott embraced the cow pie out of that.
Ott posted a picture of the trophy on Instagram.
“We just came up with it,” Ott said. “It sounded fitting. And I guess there’s a bull named Albert in Audubon. We didn’t know it. We were just talking about it, and I think (Brincks) said it, and it all made sense.
“You’ve got Floyd the pig and I like saying Floyd, so Albert sounds nice.”
The Bullies of the Big Ten game and the fight for Albert the Bull trophy. Please, make me stop. Clearly this is a cry for help.
3. 2015 was a giddy season. If you don’t think something like 12-0 is fun for me, apparently I’ve not communicated very well over the last 20 years. (I guess it’s 21, someone in HR finally remembered the one year I was a part-timer.)
At the end of the year, I think we filled up a special section. I think my boss took one look at me (it was the end of the season and I was shot) and said, hey, how about maybe a top 10 plays and call it a day?
I named the “Nate Meier play on the goal line against Wisconsin” No. 1.
If you watch the numbers on the D-line closely for the Hawkeyes, they’re kind of off. Dom Alvis wore No. 79, because coaches thought he might be an offensive lineman. Meier wore No. 34 because he started his Iowa career as a running back.
“I guess Nate is the lucky one, he gets to stick with his running back number,” Ott said then. (He wanted a single-digit number, but got 95.)
After Meier’s freshman year, he switched to linebacker. And then defensive end.
And then a step farther in this game. Meier was inserted on goal-line defense to play nose guard. At 6-2, 255, the senior is an undersized defensive end. At nose guard on goal line, he’s an extremely undersized player.
“I can get low,” Meier said. “It was cool playing that position.”
So, what did this say about Meier? It probably said that he’s a quick, violent rambler on the line of scrimmage.
I’m not sure Iowa ever got more out of any other undersized D-lineman. Meier was whatever character you want to pick on Dragon Ball Z.
Quote: “We’re sending a message to the Big Ten. We want to let them know the bullies of the Big Ten are back. That’s what Iowa was known for back then. We’re just trying to bring that back.” — Cornerback Desmond King
That’s the sound of the mic dropping. What did he say again?
“The bullies of the Big Ten are back,” King said.
Note: Since the disaster of 0-for-4 in trophy games in 2014, the Hawkeyes are 10-2 in trophy games. You know who the “2” are.
Why No. 15? — Defensive games can be good, too. The question then is it great defense or bad offense? I think it’s called football. I’m going with that.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2015
MADISON, Wis. — A lot of Iowa things you haven’t seen for a while happened in the moments after Saturday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes topped No. 18 Wisconsin for their first win over a ranked opponent on the road since 2010 (at Michigan). After Badgers quarterback Joel Stave threw incomplete to tight end Troy Fumagalli on fourth-and-2 at Iowa’s 16-yard line with 36 seconds left, the Hawkeyes went on a search mission for the Heartland Trophy, which they claimed for the first time since 2009.
Really, they couldn’t find it for a second.
“Some of us couldn’t figure out where it was,” running back Jordan Canzeri said. “They were wheeling it away from us.”
Iowa (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Badgers (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) with a bruising 10-6 victory before 80,933 fans at Camp Randall Stadium. Iowa is now 5-0 for the second time under Kirk Ferentz. With the victory, the Hawkeyes have a great shot at being ranked for the first time since Nov. 21, 2010.
Iowa generated just 221 yards of total offense, but scored all 10 of its points off turnovers. Canzeri finished with 125 yards on a career-high 26 carries. It was just one of those sepia days for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, one of those days where the defense did the talking and the digging and the punching and the hitting and all of those active verbs.
Since 2013, three teams have held Wisconsin to less than 100 rushing yards — Iowa on Saturday, Alabama in this year’s season opener and national champion Ohio State in last year’s 59-0 victory in the Big Ten title game. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was sacked (four) almost as many times as he completed a pass (9 of 21 for 77 yards and 1-yard TD pass to tight end George Kittle in the first half).
Iowa missed some key offensive parts against the Badgers. Senior wide receiver Tevaun Smith (knee) and offensive tackle Boone Myers (neck/shoulder) didn’t make the trip. And, so, it makes sense that it was the first time Iowa was held with less than 100 passing yards and won since throwing for 72 in a victory over Purdue in 2008.
Strip away all of the stats and numbers of the Iowa things you haven’t seen for a while. Here are the words that tell you what you saw.
“We’re sending a message to the Big Ten,” said cornerback Desmond King, who added two more interceptions to raise his season total to five. “We want to let them know the bullies of the Big Ten are back. That’s what Iowa was known for back then. We’re just trying to bring that back.”
That’s the sound of the mic dropping.
What did he say?
“The bullies of the Big Ten are back,” King said.
Let the sun shine and trumpets ring out over the land of Iowa. You’ve been waiting for that since ... way too long. Sure, it’s a strong statement, but it’s out and there’s no walking it back now.
Frankly, the Hawkeyes don’t have to. Iowa’s defense doesn’t have to walk anything back after Saturday’s performance.
Four turnovers, six tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and enough disruption thrown toward Badgers quarterback Joel Stave to give him a facial tic that might last into December.
“It wasn’t a game of anyone outwitting each other,” Ferentz said. “It was two teams just really fighting hard.”
Speaking of music breaking out all over the land, Wisconsin people will write musicals in tribute to senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert’s performance. He had three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, five QB hurries and forced two fumbles, the second of which looked as if it would be the one that finally bit the Hawkeyes. A few plays later, it was second down at the 1-yard line.
“Everything is on the line there, literally on the line,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “If they score there, that changes the whole game.”
It’s easy to say “bullies of the Big Ten are back,” but it’s another to show it. Second down at the 1 was showing it.
On goal-line defense, Iowa moves defensive end Nate Meier inside to nose guard. He’s 6-1ish and 245 or thereabouts, and, no, it shouldn’t work. Only it did in the biggest way imaginable.
Meier blasted guard Micah Kapoi (he’s 6-3, 330) back onto Stave’s feet. Stave stumbled and fumbled the handoff to running back Dare Ogunbowale. Defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie recovered.
Meier was installed on goal line around two years ago. He was even more undersized then. It didn’t make sense then.
Now, you kind of see the wisdom.
Those two plays showed that, yeah, maybe the bullies are back.