Three cool things:
1. Let’s spend a few minutes in Nathan Chandler’s helmet for this one.
The Hawkeyes lead, the offense is cruising and then everything goes phhfft.
The Iowa quarterback threw a pass to wideout Ed Hinkel, who wasn’t looking for the ball, and Wisconsin cornerback Scott Starks intercepted. Series after next, Chandler squirts for a 5-yard gain, but fumbled.
And the next series, when you know Chandler wants badly to make up, he tries to force a ball to wideout Mo Brown, who’s perfectly bracketed with Starks over the top and linebacker Kyle McCorison underneath.
Chandler either didn’t see McCorison or thought he had the arm to dissect Wisconsin’s coverage.
McCorison returned the ball to Iowa’s 36. The Badgers turned two of Chandler’s three turnovers into touchdowns and held a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
The offensive linemen started to harrumph. The offensive coordinator wanted answers. And his helmet was suffocating him.
“You’ll have to ask Coach,” Chandler said when asked if he thought the hook was coming.
Kirk Ferentz wasn’t about to pull his fifth-year senior starter. No, he stuck with the quarterback who’d put eight wins on the board up to that point.
But that doesn’t mean hugs and backslaps were in order. And that doesn’t mean Ferentz didn’t at least entertain thoughts of yanking Chandler.
“I wanted him to keep playing, let’s go back and get it going here a little bit,” Ferentz said. “I didn’t have many words of advice or anything like that.” There were thoughts in my mind certainly, if anyone’s struggling we’ll think about making a change if appropriate, but the way the game panned out, I just didn’t think the time was right.”
This game wasn’t exactly a quarterback’s paradise. The weather, with drizzle and rain, colored the passing games for both teams. But Chandler’s first quarter had do-over written all over it.
He was 0-for-4 with an interception. His early second quarter wasn’t so hot either. Another interception that was promptly turned into a touchdown. Chandler had two interceptions and a fumble before he completed his first pass.
Chandler was probably an interception from the bench.
“We never gave up on him,” offensive tackle Robert Gallery said. “It was still early. We had a lot of time left.”
Gallery let his emotions go, getting into Chandler’s face on the bench and shouting up the rest of the offense.
“He (Gallery) said, we’re behind you,” Chandler said. “He’s not a very vocal guy, but today he was pretty vocal, keeping everyone fired up, everyone in it.”
2. OK, now for the real story of what happened at halftime.
Gallery came to Iowa City in 2015 because he grew up on an 800-acre farm in Masonville (still makes it home to help his folks, Mike and Mary, with the harvest) and it was time to put his name up on the ANF Wall of Honor.
We had a conference call with him. I knew what needed to be asked. Robert was really nice to give an honest answer.
Gallery was 35 at the time and was four years removed from his playing days, down 40 pounds from his playing weight of 330. He is a dad who works on his home ranch and spends time helping customize cars at a friend’s shop.
Gallery, the competitor, was a different story.
In this 2003 game at Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes trailed, 21-17, at halftime and were rather sloppy. So, when they went into the locker room, Gallery picked up a steel garbage can and threw it through a chalkboard and into a locker.
The room fell silent.
“I kind of, quote unquote, lost it at halftime,” he said.
Iowa won. I forgot to ask if they had to pay for the chalkboard, then I remembered there’s never been a need for a chalkboard in Wisconsin. I kid, I kid! And now I can never go home again (my grandmother taught second grade in Lancaster, Wis., for 35 years. So, I’m totally kidding, Wisconsin fam).
“I won’t repeat what I said,” Gallery said with a laugh. “I don’t know if that’s what helped, but we went out in second half and turned things around.”
3. Do you not think veteran linemen watch rookies and hope for the best?
Hey, whenever I can work Tyler Luebke in, I’m going to do it.
Here, Luebke stepped out of anonymity with 10 tackles, including two for losses and a quarterback hit.
”Secret weapon — Tyler Luebke,” defensive tackle Jared Clauss said. “I’m not trying to be mean, but Wisconsin is looking at the program and thinking ‘Who is No. 60?’ and then tried to attack him. He responded great.”
Luebke was a 6-1, 268-pounder playing against the Great Lake that is the Badgers’ O-line.
”I had some butterflies going through my stomach last night during meetings,” Luebke said. “Last night in bed I was lying there and I knew that I had to come up big because people were expecting me to do good things.”
It’s OK to be human and admit nerves, guys.
Quote: I am on record endorsing Nate Kaeding for Iowa City mayor.
”That’s what Iowa’s built on, the people not the program. It’s easy to sit there at other universities and say, hey, Nate Chandler, you’re done. But we know that as people we all make mistakes. He knows that. He knows that we all have his back regardless of what happens.”
When you have that, you have a team.
Note: This led to Iowa’s first Outback Bowl. They’re up to five now. I can drive around Tampa and find my favorite coffee place.
Why No. 22? — There was the visible frustration, but that last play and then the release thereafter, these guys were excited to go back to Florida and show the Orange Bowl was Carson Palmer at the height of his powers (and USC, for that matter).
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2003
MADISON, Wis. — Time stopped. Bodies flew every direction. The ball went into the air and the game up for grabs.
It was one of those made-for-TV, slow-motion moments. The kind where the boy makes the play, gets the girl and everyone explodes in a celebration.
OK, down to the last second, the last play, the last breath, now action.
Winner gets a Florida bowl.
Sean Considine has made-for-TV looks. Why not? Why not make him the hero?
The Iowa free safety batted down quarterback John Stocco’s pass with no time on the clock and the No. 17 Hawkeyes survived Wisconsin, 27-21, before 79,931 Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Stocco, Wisconsin’s No. 3 QB, took the snap from center just before the Camp Randall clock came up triple zeros. He took three steps and looked Jonathan Orr’s way, who broke open for a second.
“The ball passed right by my hand, and I’m thinking ‘oh no,’” Iowa defensive tackle Jared Clauss said.
“I saw he got the pass off and then you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m thinking ... I don’t know what I’m thinking,” strong safety Bob Sanders said.
”They got the play off and that was amazing. And then after that it looked like a hand grenade went off out there,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There were guys all over the joint. It was scarier than it needed to be.”
Time stopped. Bodies flew in every direction. The ball went into the air, off Considine’s hand and onto the Camp Randall turf.
Iowa (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) won. Scratch that, Iowa survived.
And the Hawkeyes’ chances for a Florida bowl — either the Capital One or Outback — live at least until Dec. 6, when the Bowl Championship Series picks or passes on Ohio State.
“I’ve never been in a football game where it came down to the wire like that in my whole career of playing football,” Considine said. “I was probably as nervous as everyone in the stands. The way it ended was awesome. The best game I ever played in.”
Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) took the ball with 3:38 left at Iowa’s 48. Stocco — in for the struggling Matt Schabert who was in for the concussed Jim Sorgi — completed a 23-yard pass to wideout Darrin Charles for first down at Iowa’s 20.
Fullback Matt Bernstein gave the Badgers first-and-goal at Iowa’s 10 with a 2-yard gain.
Fast forward two plays, Wisconsin called its final timeout with 21 seconds left.
On third-and-goal from Iowa’s 5, Stocco threw in the flat to running back Dwayne Smith who was tackled after a 1-yard gain. No timeouts, fourth down, the clock to a nub.
“You can second guess why you throw that swing pass,” Wisconsin Coach Barry Alvarez said. “If he (Smith) runs into the end zone, it’s a great play.”
Smith didn’t. Sophomore cornerback Jovon Johnson tackled him and kept him in bounds.
Time stopped. Bodies flew in every direction. The ball went into the air against an Iowa defense that knew exactly what it was doing.
When the Badgers called timeout, defensive coordinator Norm Parker called defenses for two plays. Actually, two defenses for different formations for both plays.
Whatever, the point is the Hawkeyes knew what they were doing. And when you’re caught between celebrating and suffering, that was everything.
“That was good coaching right there,” Sanders said. “That’s something we practice, but we never know if we’re going to need it. Good thing we practice it.”
The Hawkeyes won the turnover battle, barely, snaring three interceptions and one fumble compared with their two interceptions and fumble.
The Badgers took a 21-7 lead in the second quarter, taking two Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler interceptions and turning them into scores.
Chandler’s first pick — an apparent miscommunication with wideout Ed Hinkel — turned into running back Anthony Davis’ 1-yard TD. Chandler’s second pick — a bad decision linebacker Kyle McCorison plucked out of underneath coverage — turned into Smith’s 1-yard TD and a 21-7 Wisconsin lead with 10:06 left in the second quarter.
So you know Chandler was into it on the last play.
“Relieved isn’t the right word,” said Chandler, who completed 8 of 26 for 66 yards, two interceptions and a TD. “That’s the best game I’ve ever been a part of. Sheer emotion.”
When Iowa punted and set up the Badgers at Iowa’s 48 with 3:38 left, the Iowa coaches put it on their defense. It was fitting. Iowa’s defense carried this one.
Johnson’s second-quarter interception turned into Chandler’s 6-yard TD pass to wideout Ramon Ochoa, who put Iowa up 7-0 with an 18-yard reverse in the first quarter.
Considine’s third-quarter interception turned into running back Fred Russell’s 1-yard TD run. Russell had a game-high 137 yards on 18 carries, a 7.6 average.
Sanders’ third-quarter interception turned into Nate Kaeding’s 28-yard field goal and gave the Hawkeyes their 27-21 margin with 13:56 left in the game.
The Hawkeyes turned three Schabert interceptions into 17 points. Maybe that’s why they call them turnovers.
That’s why with 3:38 left and the ball on Iowa’s 48, the Hawkeyes had the game exactly where they wanted it.
“I want it on the defense, but not necessarily on the 48,” Clauss said. “But it was great. Great coaching, great play by Sean, just great, great, great.”
Time can start up again any time.