Three cool things:
1. I haven’t done any what I would call “live” work on this. I texted Iowa sports information director Steve Roe to help me out a little on this one.
Late Iowa SID George Wine called the press box after this one or was at the game. Anyway, he let the world know that this was indeed the greatest comeback in Iowa history.
And I find that really awesome.
Everyone needs keepers of the flame (oh no, he’s going full salute to the SIDs). Let’s throw some love to the SIDs.
George passed away in 2012. Gazette columnist Mike Hlas shared some memories and posted the column he wrote about being a one-person sports information department in 1968. It’s really, really good stuff.
In 1999, George wrote the book, “Hayden Fry: A High Porch Picnic.”
Wine retired in 1993. He was Iowa’s second SID. The torch was passed to Phil Haddy, who I think only got stronger after suffering a heart attack in 1999. Seriously, Phil is the terminator. He eats leftover Ruth’s Chris for breakfast.
Phil retired in 2011 and now Roe is the SID. He tells me no on some things and yes on some. We’ve shared many laughs about some of the craziness that has been spit out of this three-ring circus.
For the most part, SIDs aren’t fly-by-night, job-hopping megalomaniacs. That’s coaches. I kid. Most SID staffs are people who are “of” the program. They’re from here. They might’ve interned with the program. They’re in the corps and want to send a shiny car out of the garage.
One thing I often see attached to SIDs is marketing. That is not their job. Iowa struggles with marketing because I think the ethos is “college” over “football” and that makes it weird, but that’s a whole other podcast.
On George and his unique ability to find factlets like this, Steve said, “He had great memory for this type of stuff, then we would go check the records.”
The records ... That’s my quest. A good, complete set of records online. Let’s crowdsource.
Iowa also would get occasional help from Ron Gonder and the late Bob Brooks. Ron is a record keeper. Bob knew everything. I mean everything.
Iowa has had only four SIDs since the 1920s.
Hey, part of the reason I’m doing this is because I finally have enough years in the bucket to make the memories something. The SIDs shaped that, for sure.
I asked Steve about comebacks and he sent this.
Iowa’s Largest Football Comebacks
Margin — Result
• 21 points — Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 27, Sept. 17, 2011, at Iowa City
Iowa trailed 24-3 with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter. James Vandenberg scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, but Pittsburgh would add to their lead with a field goal with 12:09 left in the contest.
• 18 points — Iowa 34, Oregon 31, Oct. 29, 1949, at Iowa City
• 17 points — Iowa 37, Michigan State 30, Oct. 5, 1996
Iowa trailed 17-0 with 14 minutes remaining in second quarter
• 17 points — Iowa 30, Minnesota 27, Nov. 22, 1986, at Minneapolis.
Iowa scored winning field goal after Minnesota was penalized for having 12 men on the field the previous play when a field-goal attempt was no good
• 14 points — Iowa 42, Indiana 24, Oct. 31, 2009, at Iowa City
Iowa trailed 21-7 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter
2. The no-huddle worked! It was the reason Iowa won.
After falling behind 24-3, the Hawkeyes kicked into no-huddle, two-minute desperation mode.
During this stretch, quarterback James Vandenberg completed 17 of 20 for 217 yards and three TDs. Before no huddle, Vandenberg was 14 of 28 for 182 yards, an interception and no TDs. That’s a pass efficiency of 97.45. During the last quarter-plus, Vandenberg’s efficiency was 225.64.
Quite simply, no huddle worked. It looked like a genius move, but down 24-3 with just more than 18 minutes left, Iowa’s hand was sort of forced.
”We were getting the ball out quick and it was all about putting completions together,” Vandenberg said. “It was all about making plays and those guys did all day.”
The other end of Vandenberg’s passes were just as clutch. Wide receivers Keenan Davis, Marvin McNutt and Kevonte Martin-Manley totaled 22 catches for 317 yards and three TDs. After nine drops in two games, Iowa had none vs. Pitt.
Desperation drove Iowa’s move to the no-huddle, but Vandenberg’s comfort level running it was striking.
I didn’t think at the time it would change Kirk Ferentz’s philosophy. The tempo thing worked and it was so easy to think it would translate to Vandenberg’s skills and a pretty great group of WRs, so a lot of you guys totally wanted to see it every week, every down.
“We’re not against being up-tempo,” Ferentz said. “The other thing, too, up-tempo could be three plays and you’re out pretty quickly.”
The very next week was No. 136, Louisiana-Monroe. The week after that was at Penn State. Iowa tried the no-huddle and Penn State ate it up.
Iowa scored three points, was dealt an 11-minute deficit in time of possession and generated just 253 yards. It wasn’t all the no-huddle sending the defense three-and-outs (there were only two). Three turnovers didn’t help.
Be aware of tempo in this coming season. I think Brian Ferentz has a really good sense and feel for it.
3. This game was flat-out fun.
21 — Points down by Iowa to Pittsburgh until a rushing TD with 1:16 left in the third quarter
17 — Points down by Iowa to Pittsburgh until a 14-yard TD pass with 9:55 left in the game
129 — Yards receiving by Keenan Davis, a personal best
399 — Yards thrown by James Vandenberg, tied for seventh-most in Iowa history
6 — Tackles for loss by Iowa
It was historic. Officially, the 21-point deficit (24-3) was the largest Iowa had conquered on the way to victory. The previous best was 18 points in a 34-31 win against Oregon in 1949.
“Taking that knee, I didn’t let go of the ball until I almost got into the locker room,” Vandenberg said. “I just couldn’t even comprehend it.”
Quote: “It was going to be a learning experience, either way. At least this one has a happy ending. Now what are we going to do with it?” — Kirk Ferentz
Note: Todd Graham rubbed a bunch of crap on the coaching profession when he left for Arizona State. Things ended appropriately there for him after last season (he was fired). There are programs that live under the delusion that this is or isn’t college football.
With his team facing third down at Iowa’s 3 early in the fourth quarter, Graham sprinted up the sideline trying to call a timeout. In the process, he pulled his hamstring.
“It was pretty stupid, but I did,” Graham said. “We had a young guy in there that was lined up wrong. It was a very critical down. I hadn’t taken off like that in a while.”
The play didn’t work, either. QB Tino Sunseri lined up in the shotgun and dropped the ball after the center snap. Safety Jordan Bernstine covered him for a 4-yard loss.
Why No. 26? — Greatest comeback in Iowa history. C’mon.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2011
IOWA CITY — There are two Iowas.
One has its helmet on backward. The other is the Most Interesting Football Team in the World. One has its hip pad in its mouth. The other jumps out of airplanes and pulls babies out of burning buildings. One eats glue. The other sends its mail without a stamp and it still gets there.
The one with the backward helmet fell behind by three touchdowns late in the third quarter Saturday. The Most Interesting Team in the World turned around and scored three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to complete the greatest comeback in Iowa football history.
Quarterback James Vandenberg completed 31 of 48 for 399 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including two to redshirt freshman receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, to pull the Hawkeyes (2-1) from a 24-3 deficit with 3:11 left in the third quarter to a thrilling 31-27 victory over Pittsburgh (2-1) before 70,585 at Kinnick Stadium.
Micah Hyde finished last week as a free safety, began Saturday in his old spot at cornerback and finished the game with his second interception at Iowa’s 43 with 1:41 left.
According to Iowa sports information, the 21-point comeback was the greatest in Iowa history. The 1949 Hawkeyes fell behind Oregon 24-6 with 2:30 left in the third quarter before pulling it out at Kinnick, 34-31.
“It was going to be a learning experience, either way,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “At least this one has a happy ending. Now what are we going to do with it?”
Pittsburgh took a 24-3 lead on a Tino Sunseri 4-yard TD pass to Drew Carswell with 3:11 left in the third. Iowa took its next drive and sprinted 60 yards on five plays with Vandenberg scoring from the 1 with 1:16 in the third, making it 24-10. The Panthers drove for a 24-yard field goal to make it 27-10 with 12:09 left in the fourth.
Vandenberg volleyed with a 14-yard TD pass to Keenan Davis to make it 27-17 with 9:55 left.
“Clearly, I would’ve liked to have played four quarters like this,” said Vandenberg, whose 31 completions were fourth most in Iowa history. “What matters is we pulled this out as a team.”
Pitt’s turn went all the way to Iowa’s 36. On fourth-and-3, Sunseri rolled right and overthrew a wide receiver. That gave the Hawkeyes, and a white-hot quarterback, a first down and 7:56 left on the clock.
“Obviously, their coach trusted his offense and that’s a coach who’s playing aggressively,” cornerback Shaun Prater said. “Hey, if he thinks his offense can get it done, go for it. As a defense, we are all going to stick together, play our technique and hopefully get the turnover.”
The fourth-and-3 opened the door. Iowa was in full-go, no-huddle. Vandenberg couldn’t be stopped. When Iowa fell behind 24-3, Vandenberg hit his next 10 passes. He finished the game by completing 17 of 20 for 217 yards with three TDs.
“Should have punted the ball,” first-year Pitt Coach Todd Graham said. “We’re on the road and, yeah, I felt like we were struggling to stop them.”
Iowa’s final scoring drives were nearly identical. Both went seven plays and 64 yards. Martin-Manley finished them with TD grabs of 25 and 22 yards over Pitt linebacker Todd Thomas.
“They were the same play,” Martin-Manley said. “It was an up route. The second one I had to twist, but I told myself if the ball was in the air, I was going to get it.”
When Iowa went to no-huddle, Vandenberg went to junior Keenan Davis, who had career highs of 10 receptions for 129 yards and a TD. Senior Marvin McNutt got his, too, catching seven passes for 112 yards. It was the first time since Indiana 2009 Iowa had a pair of receivers go for more than 100 receiving yards.
After allowing 473 yards and 44 points at Iowa State last week, the theme for Iowa’s defense this week was “defend the defense.”
It wasn’t perfect — Pitt had 422 yards and had scoring plays of 66 and 30 — but it was better. Hyde had two interceptions. Pitt fumbled five times. Iowa had just two sacks going in and came up with three Saturday and six tackles for loss. Iowa caused four fumbles.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Ferentz said. “Someone has to reach down and do something, too. You can say, ‘Let’s keep playing, guys,’ but someone has to make something happen.”
Someone turned their helmets around and they became the Most Interesting Football Team in the World.