Three cool things:
1. This was a great, great win for Iowa, in my opinion.
Missouri came in ranked No. 12 in the country. The Tigers had an NFL QB in Blaine Gabbert. They beat Iowa for an offensive lineman out of Harlan. They beat Iowa for DE Aldon Smith (he played freshman hoops at Cedar Rapids Washington before becoming a high-round NFL draft pick).
Missouri had the smell of a fat cat. That’s apple pie for an able Hawkeye team.
But before we get into all of that, you’ll see the “worst December ever” mentioned a few times in the gamer. A tsunami of departures hit the Hawkeyes for all kinds of reasons.
There used to be an unwritten rule that reporters spread around the touchy questions. I was up in this one. I had to ask about the trouble.
Kirk Ferentz’s eyes lit up. Not out of desire to answer, mind you. He was firing up the head coach laser eyes. You remember from last fall, when Urban Meyer’s laser eyes crapped out at Kinnick. I think Ferentz’s laser eyes burned through my one nice V-neck sweater.
I used to be more self-conscious about those sort of questions. Now? You want to know stuff, you have to ask stuff.
Now, everyone wants to be the tough reporter guy. I love it.
2. This probably should’ve been a Norm Parker game, but there’s another one that fits a little better.
Still, I’ll never forget how the Hawkeyes gathered around him on the field in the postgame. Parker was still in a wheelchair. This was the season he missed time after having part of his right leg amputated because of diabetic complications.
Adrian Clayborn ran up to him like a little kid.
Iowa’s defense leaked in this one. Say what you want about Gabbert now, but he put up major numbers at Missouri. The Tigers were a team on the rise. Iowa? It was finishing a disappointing season.
During bowls, Iowa has to open practice. (When Iowa is in Iowa City, it doesn’t have to do that because you’re going to buy tickets anyway. Bowls like Iowa to do that, because they don’t know if they will sell tickets.)
Parker’s health and energy were a topic. In a good way.
“You can just feel his presence out there,” defensive lineman Christian Ballard said after an Insight Bowl practice in Tempe. “There’s a lot more clarity.”
There was no question this defense, stacked with future NFL players, missed Parker throughout the season.
”Everything he says, we hang on every word,” linebacker Jeff Tarpinian said. “Because you know when he says something, it’s important.”
Iowa’s defense bent vs. Missouri. Like Parker, it didn’t break.
“Yeah, that was fun,” Parker said in the spring following this Insight Bowl. “I enjoyed that. And our team really worked hard. When the team is working hard and everybody is doing their thing and they put a lot of effort into it and they had a lot of focus on it, that makes it fun. And it was fun to be part of that.”
Iowa’s coordinators don’t have media duties. It makes Ferentz nervous or whatever.
So, when Parker talked during this time, it was media day and that was about it. He conducted those interviews from his golf cart. The media gathered. I poked my head in and saw a can of chewing tobacco.
I might’ve included that in the story.
So, another media opportunity. I think it was Kids Day. It was something in Kinnick.
I’m standing with my back turned to the field. I hear a golf cart roll up behind me.
I knew exactly what it was and why it was. It was Norm Parker. He wasn’t mad. He was laughing. Said I might’ve gotten him in trouble with his doctor.
Still, when I heard my name shouted like that? On an Iowa football practice field? Yeah, that freaks you out a little bit.
He was 69 years old with a prosthetic leg and he was coaching football. Big football.
If you love football, you got Norm Parker.
3. The month from hell ended with Ferentz running off a list of former players in the postgame locker room scene and saying, “That’s what makes being an Iowa Hawkeye so special.”
That wasn’t the answer to my question, but that was the vibe. After a season chained to “ugh,” it was a good way for 25 seniors (whoa) to sign off.
Quote: ”It’s bizarre how we keep recruiting and keep coming up with these running backs. They’re not the biggest recruits coming out of high school, but they get here and we throw them in game situations and they just play their (bleeps) off. They absolutely just fight and strain. They do everything we ask them to do and they do it at such a high level.” — Iowa OL Julian Vandervelde
Note: Going into this game in Phoenix, Ariz., the Hawkeyes had lost seven consecutive games west of the Rocky Mountains, dating to the 1987 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
So, credit for checking that off, but, no, Ferentz isn’t going to do the west coast road trip ever again. And neither probably is Stanford.
Why No. 17? — You should wear this T-shirt proudly.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2010
TEMPE, Ariz. — Down to a replay.
It was fourth-and-6 with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and his record-setting night threw a fourth-and-6 pass to record-setting wide receiver T.J. Moe.
Wait ... Wait ... Wait.
The replay showed on the Sun Devil Stadium big screen. The Missouri sideline threw its collective arms in the air. First down at Iowa’s 33.
Wait ... Wait ... Wait.
”Upon further review ... ” Mid-American Conference official Tom McCabe said. “ ... the play was ruled an incompletion.”
Iowa ball, Iowa game, Iowa’s sweet, sweet headline in the Arizona desert.
Flash and smash.
Iowa turned around the world’s worst December and claimed the Insight Bowl trophy, 27-24, over No. 12 Missouri before a bowl record crowd of 53,453.
Freshman running back Marcus Coker hammered away at the Missouri defense 33 times for 219 yards and two TDs and sophomore cornerback Micah Hyde returned an interception 72 yards for a TD with 5:32 left in the game.
Upon further review, the Hawkeyes (8-5) are bowl champions, winning their third straight postseason game and bringing football very much back into the Iowa conversation.
“It wasn’t me who changed the momentum,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said when asked about the switch that flipped on Hyde’s interception. “It was the players. All the credit goes to them.”
Coker’s numbers were all Iowa bowl records. He had 113 yards and a 62-yard TD run in the first half.
Coker was the starter only because sophomore Adam Robinson was suspended for the Insight Bowl because of team violations. Robinson was cited for marijuana possession Monday night in Des Moines. Iowa athletics director Gary Barta issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes issued their statement Tuesday night.
“It was just a great effort by our players,” Ferentz said. “Each and every guy on the roster did a great, great job against a great, great team.”
Coker was the offensive MVP. Hyde earned the defensive award.
Hyde’s play came out of nowhere.
Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert put up record numbers, completing 41 of 57 for 434 yards and a TD. But he made one really super-bad choice, throwing late along the Missouri sideline to receiver Wes Kemp.
Hyde stepped in front and, as Iowa players are coached, cut his way to the opposite sideline.
“I just turned a defensive play into an offensive play,” Hyde said. “They were making blocks all over the place. All I had to do was run.”
Coker had a big first half, rushing for 16 carries for 113 yards. No negative plays. His 62-yard TD helped the Hawkeyes to a 17-10 halftime lead.
“He’s got a scholarship, too,” Ferentz told ESPN as he ran off the field at halftime.
MU ran up 293 yards total offense, but had just 10 points. Iowa kept up, going for 243 yard. MU ran 46 plays.
Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater broke up a sure TD pass from Gabbert to Jackson, who tipped the ball into the air where safety Brett Greenwood swooped in for this fifth interception of the season.
MU running back Henry Josey followed perfect blocking and was hardly touched from 10 yards out to pull MU within 17-10 with 4:51 left in the first half.
The drive was efficient, going 82 yards in nine plays and using just 2:31. Gabbert showed NFL-ness here, going 5 for 6 for 77 yards, including a 26-yarder to Jerrell Jackson.
Iowa took a 17-3 lead on freshman Mike Meyer’s 34-yard field goal with 7:28 left in the first half.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi’s 38-yard completion to little-used Don Nordmann moved the ball to MU’s 20. Nordmann was in, obviously, because Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is gone. Nordmann entered the game with one catch for 14 yards this season. That catch came in week 1 against Eastern Illinois.
Coker’s 62-yarder gave Iowa a 14-3 lead at 13:26 of the second quarter.
He ran to the right. Center James Ferentz got a seal here. Tackle Markus Zusevics got a seal there. And Coker ran it right up the alley for 62 yards and a score, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi.
Iowa scored on its first drive. The big play came on a third-and-5 from Iowa’s 35.
MU’s Carl Gettis lined up in press coverage and junior wide receiver Marvin McNutt ran through his attempt to press. Stanzi lofted a perfect pass and 49 yards later the Hawkeyes had first down at MU’s 13.
Ferentz choked up, a little at least, during the trophy presentation.
Understandable after the world’s worst December.
Upon further review, maybe it wasn’t so bad. They went out winners.