Three cool things:
1. Here’s the king of games in which the Hawkeyes were out-statted to the brink of extinction, but then ... somehow ... from their backs on the bottom of the ocean ... found a way ... to win. (Say that in William Shatner or Tom Servo from MST3K.)
Please, someone do the homework and tell me how many of these have there been? Roughly, just going over these games, I’d guess 15 percent of Kirk Ferentz’s 143 victories came with the Hawkeyes fighting off their backs, like in MMA. Unfortunately, this metaphor didn’t hit me until writing about the Pinstripe Bowl win.
That’s not every coach’s vision. And not every coach has the fortitude to deal with a talent, speed or whatever deficiency that challenges the Iowa program from week to week.
I’ve always thought Ferentz prefers it this way. He likes being the little guy. I think he likes the fight.
In a one-on-one, I once asked Ferentz about losing and Iowa. It’s an element in being Iowa. Iowa loses football games. Probably always will. Probably, I said.
“I’m not as big on the wins and losses. I never have been, from day 1,” he said. “That wasn’t our focus as much as playing well. That’s really what it gets down to and then you can live with the results.
“ ... I think big picture here, again, is there are only two coaches here who have lasted more than a decade. Was Evy [Forest Evashevski] eight or nine? I can’t remember, but I think if you look historically anywhere just about, there are going to be peaks and valleys. During my time here, we’ve seen them in our league at other schools that maybe have a more advantageous setup for recruiting. It’s a reality of sports. I think if you’re planning on staying somewhere long enough, you better be prepared to deal with that.
“It’s kind of like coaching in any season, there are going to be things that happen this year that are disappointing and hopefully, we’ll get out unscathed. When things happen that you didn’t hope for or you get unwanted results, you have to deal with those, find a way to rebound, find a way to recover and make it a positive in some way.”
So, live with the results. At Iowa, that’s a bigger fight than it is at a lot of places.
I think Ferentz likes the fight. I asked him that in 2015.
“I was short, small and slow.” Ferentz said. “My whole thing, if it was a 40-yard dash, if we run 20 of them, I would fare OK. That was the only damn chance I had. That’s the way I’ve looked at life, I guess. The first 19 weren’t going to be pretty if the guy had any ability at all. That’s the curse you’re born with.”
I’m going to theorize that’s why Iowa has consistently shown it can fight from its back. This game was totally that.
2. Kyle Schlicher deserves some love. I’d nominate him for second best kicker of the Ferentz era, but Mike Meyer and Marshall Koehn were really good and Miguel Recinos is currently doing everything he’s asked and more.
Still, Schlicher is No. 5 on Iowa’s career scoring list. In his three years as starter, Schlicher hit 51 of 67 field goals (76.1 percentage).
Schlicher’s mountain to climb was following the best field goal kicker in Iowa history. At this point, Nate Kaeding had a pizza named after him, the Lou Groza Award and the NFL.
Kaeding owned a little less of the Iowa record book after this one. Schlicher set records with five field goals and 17 points. He made field goals of 36, 22, 20, 38 and 49 yards. The 49-yarder was a career-long for the then-sophomore from Ankeny. It came with 9:11 left in the game and gave the Hawkeyes their winning margin.
Schlicher and Kaeding had a healthy competition. Kaeding really did have a pizza named after him. I think it was at “Bob’s Your Uncle.”
“My guess is that Nate’s really proud of what Kyle did today,” Ferentz said. “What a great role model he was for Kyle.”
Schlicher readily admitted after this one that he owed a lot to Kaeding. He spent two years as Kaeding’s understudy and took notes the whole time.
“Every aspect,” Schlicher said. “Having the chance to watch him for two years, from the mental aspect to the technical part of it, every little thing you can think of, was great for me.
“I don’t think he knew that I was stalking him. OK, I wasn’t really stalking him, but whenever we were at the football complex, I watched every little move he made.”
The way the Hawkeyes were built in 2004 — virtually no running game, great defense and special teams — Schlicher arguably became Iowa’s most important player down the stretch. He scored Iowa’s points in a 6-4 victory at Penn State. Against Purdue, Schlicher’s three field goals provided the winning margin in a 23-21 game.
“To have a field goal kicker step up and do what he did today, that was helpful, needless to say,” Ferentz said. “That won us the ballgame, probably.”
I’d go a little further. It helped Iowa win a share of a Big Ten title.
3. 337 to 6.
Minnesota ran the ball 54 times for 337 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Iowa allowed 68.2 yards per game through its first nine games. This time, it allowed almost five times that ... and still won.
“They’ve run the ball well on a lot of people,” Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway said. “We have one of the best rush defenses in the country, but today we played a team and we couldn’t stop them.”
Minnesota’s athletic offensive line cleared oceans for running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, who became the first running back duo to post consecutive seasons over 1,000 yards. They ran over, through and around Iowa tacklers.
Barber had 167 yards, Maroney 158 and three touchdowns. Tosses, tackles, up the gut ... didn’t matter. The consensus in the Iowa locker room was they were the two best backs the Hawkeyes had faced that season.
“For sure,” Iowa linebacker Abdul Hodge said. “They’ve got good speed, and they’re hard to tackle. They keep their feet moving all the time.”
Still, this Iowa defense was stony. And yet that happened. And yet they won. Footballs are oddly shaped for a reason.
“I can tell you that there’s probably a lot of teams around the Big Ten that see those stats in the rushing game and say it’s got to be a misprint,” Minnesota Coach Glen Mason said. “These guys are as tough against the run as anybody we’ve seen. They don’t have to cheat against the run as much as some people do.”
Quote: “A big part of winning football games is not losing them.” — Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz
Note: 337 to 6.
Why No. 20? — 337 to 6.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2004
MINNEAPOLIS — Marcus Paschal flopped facedown in the plastic grass and kitty litter that is the Metrodome field. He had no idea and was afraid to even look.
Paschal took a dive at Rhys Lloyd’s 51-yard field goal attempt. Facedown, he had no idea and was afraid to even look.
“I looked over at (linebacker) Abdul Hodge,” Paschal said. “When I saw him pounding his fist on the turf, I still didn’t know for sure. That could’ve meant he made it, too. But then I saw that he was smiling, and then I finally knew.”
With 28 seconds left, Lloyd’s kick sailed some 10 or 20 feet left, and the Iowa Hawkeyes somehow found a way.
“I just missed it,” Lloyd said. “I can’t do anything about it now. I let the team down. I hold the whole loss on me.”
Minnesota outrushed the Hawkeyes, 337 yards to 6. Iowa squeezed just six points out of two golden first-and-goals inside the Golden Gophers’ 10. The Hawkeyes even poked themselves with a few untimely and brain-dead penalties.
Somehow, someway, the Hawkeyes found a way, 29-27, Saturday before a thoroughly Iowa crowd of 64,719.
“A big part of winning football games is not losing them,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
And that pretty much says it all for the No. 19 Hawkeyes (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten), who have won six straight and have all but parked their bowl RV in Florida going into next week’s season finale against Wisconsin.
Minnesota (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) continued its late-season slide, dropping its third straight and fifth of its last six games.
Yogi Berra couldn’t have said it any better. A big part of winning football games is not losing them.
In order to not lose, the kicker can’t miss.
Sophomore Kyle Schlicher made 5 of 5 field goals and set an Iowa record with 17 points. His last field goal, a career-long 49-yarder, gave Iowa a 29-20 lead with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter.
To not lose, the quarterback has to be the best offensive player, especially when a fifth running back goes out with an injury.
Sophomore Sam Brownlee sprained his ankle in the first quarter, leaving Iowa with freshman Damian Sims as its only true running back.
Sophomore quarterback Drew Tate completed 24 of 39 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The no interceptions is a big deal. Iowa had no turnovers. The Gophers had four, and three turned into Schlicher field goals. Iowa didn’t hurt itself. And when you average 0.2 yards on 27 rushes, that matters big time.
“Somehow, someway, we’re sitting here with a win and they can’t take it back,” Ferentz said. “We’re taking (traveling trophy) Floyd (of Rosedale) home with us. We’re the first team to beat them at home. I’m proud of that.”
Iowa held up its end of bringing ESPN’s College GameDay pregame show to Iowa City next week. Wisconsin (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) didn’t come through.
Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby said Chris, Lee and Kirk were on their way if Iowa and Wisconsin won. The Badgers went down in flames at Michigan State, 49-14.
Iowa is most likely headed to Florida, either the Capital One or Outback. Orlando (Capital One) or Tampa (Outback) is up for grabs next Saturday.
Well, that and a share of the Big Ten title, pending Michigan at Ohio State next week.
“I think we continue to be alive for all the options that start in Tampa and go on upward,” Bowlsby said.
The Hawkeyes scored on their first five possessions, capped by Tate’s 60-yard bomb to sophomore wideout James Townsend that gave Iowa a 23-10 halftime lead.
The Gophers weren’t going anywhere, not with Cadillacs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney in the backfield.
With 8:04 left in the second quarter, Maroney broke a 79-yard touchdown run that pulled the Gophers to 16-10. That was just a taste. Barber finished with 167 yards on 29 carries. Maroney carried 19 times for 156 yards and three TDs.
Barber spurred a drive for a field goal and Maroney finished the Gophers’ next drive with a 37-yard run to pull Minnesota within 23-20 with 5:22 left in the third quarter.
Iowa entered No. 4 in the nation in rush defense, allowing 68.2 rushing yards a game. Minnesota countered with the nation’s No. 7 rush offense at 246.9 yards a game.
“I wouldn’t call it a wake-up call for us. We haven’t been sleeping out there, c’mon,” linebacker Chad Greenway joked. “You have to give them credit. We knew they were going to be good, and they were good.”
But the Gophers were also painfully one-dimensional.
“I couldn’t be happier with how we ran the football today,” Minnesota Coach Glen Mason said. “I’m disappointed with how we threw the football.”
With five minutes left, on third-and-11 at Iowa’s 15, Iowa stopped Maroney. But Iowa tackle Tyler Luebke was called for a personal foul facemask, giving the Gophers first down at the 5. Maroney scored a play later.
The Hawkeyes answered with a quick three-and-out. Minnesota took over at its 46 and marched to Iowa’s 31 with less than a minute left.
On second-and-8 from Iowa’s 31, Greenway stopped Barber for a 4-yard loss, stretching the degree of difficulty for Lloyd’s field goal attempt.
On third-and-1, Barber rushed up the middle for a yard.
“I asked Rhys where we had to get to and he told me he could hit it from there,” Mason said.
This is where Iowa’s flameouts in the redzone started to haunt the Hawkeyes.
“Those just pissed me off,” Tate said. “We’re down there twice, we get field goals. If we score, that changes things at the end.”
This is when the dome went almost silent, and the knuckles went white.
Floyd of Rosedale went up for grabs.
“I got myself directly across from where he (Lloyd) was,” Schlicher said. “As soon as he kicked it, I knew. I started jumping up and down. You could tell from the rotation of the ball. He tried to kick it too hard.”
A big part of winning football games is not losing them. Move over, Yogi Berra, here comes Kirk Ferentz.