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Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has 143 wins under his belt at the University of Iowa, one away from the all-time record.

The Gazette will count down each win, as ranked by writer Marc Morehouse.


12-0 and 'One big, crazy dream'

No. 4 Iowa 28, Nebraska 20 | Nov. 27, 2015

Iowa tight end George Kittle celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Nebraksa in at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (The Gazette)
Iowa tight end George Kittle celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Nebraksa in at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. The headline was “One big, crazy dream.” That was paraphrasing a line from the Drive-By Truckers song “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife.”

It’s a murder ballad and one of the saddest songs in the DBT (we’re on a first-name basis) catalog. I don’t know why it popped into my head. We do sometimes crowd source the big headline. I suggested that one and it stuck.

It stuck probably because of the cover picture we used. It was George Kittle standing all alone in the end zone after catching a TD from C.J. Beathard.

That headline and the picture just seemed to fit.

My headline suggestion doesn’t get picked often for wins. It’s usually “Crowd watches game,” because I’m on deadline and grumpy about being on deadline.

The other two that I remember were losses. The 2009 game at Ohio State was “Cold Roses.” If Iowa would’ve won, it would’ve gone to the Rose Bowl. The Ryan Adams song came to mind.

And then at Penn State in 2016. It was totally forgettable. It also was the first game I covered after my dad died. I was way into this record by John K. Samson called “Winter Wheat.” It’s full of sad, reflective songs, but there was this one song called “Select all, Delete” and that fit this game like a glove.

So, yes, I totally cop to music lyrics for headlines. You can’t force them, however.

Anyway, there’s a little peek behind the headline curtain. I still think the big headline in the newspaper has to be a beautiful fit with the mood. It’s also the one headline that doesn’t care about SEO. I cheer for those.

2. The call was a “rebel.” Safety Miles Taylor blitzed through the B gap and middle linebacker Josey Jewell blew through the A.

That’s what Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong saw. He saw Taylor’s arms and No. 19 rise toward his face mask. What Armstrong didn’t see was defensive end Parker Hesse.

Armstrong lofted a pass toward the left flat, Hesse tipped it with his right hand, gathered it and walked into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. This silenced the 90,830 fans inside Memorial Stadium and gave the Hawkeyes a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in capping 12-0 2015.

“I didn’t have to run that far, so I didn’t have the ball that long,” Hesse said. “I’m thankful for that, I didn’t trip or anything like that.”

It was one of those plays where the defense had the perfect call into what the offense wanted to run. On a second-and-8 from Nebraska’s 11, the Huskers were going into a considerable north wind and tried to catch the Hawkeyes in a play where maybe they weren’t thinking pass.

Hesse’s play was emblematic of what Iowa’s defense was in 2015. Going into Nebraska, Iowa players were drilled with questions about being out of gas. The numbers Iowa allowed in the last few weeks of 2015 supported that.

On the flip side, Hesse was a redshirt freshman who played more in 2015 than he could’ve dreamed. After senior Drew Ott suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 10, Hesse plugged in and kept the car pointed in the right direction.

I forgot that Bo Bower replaced Ben Niemann in this one after Josey Jewell accidentally gave Niemann leftover helmet on the day after Thanksgiving.

Bower responded with five tackles, a tackle for loss and a QB hurry. I love how Bo blew through 2014. I wish I could’ve done that.

“I just think we have good guys on the team, that’s all,” Bower said. “Last year and this and that, but it’s this year and we’re 12-0 right now.”

I remember Hesse said he didn’t really notice how quiet Memorial Stadium was after his pick-six. Bower said he couldn’t tell, either, but for a much different reason.

“I was yelling,” he said.

3. There’s another Jordan Canzeri game I have in mind, but back-to-back TD runs of 29 and 68 yards put the needed insurance on the scoreboard for the celebration to begin.

The photos of Canzeri during his 68-yarder, I’d say they fall into “iconic status,” but “iconic status” is so fleeting in football today. Still, Canzeri running free along the Nebraska sideline with a still Memorial Stadium in the background, that’s probably about as good as it gets for you guys.

The score answered Nebraska’s touchdown and kept the Hawkeyes two scores ahead.

I hope Boone Myers gets a shot in the NFL. He was brilliant on this play. He blocked defensive end Greg McMullen toward Nebraska’s sideline, and then left guard Sean Welsh stopped defensive tackle Kevin Williams at the line of scrimmage. Fullback Adam Cox ran through the open lane and stonewalled linebacker Dedrick Young. Welsh slipped off Williams and then blocked linebacker Josh Banderas at the second level. Canzeri hit the hole hard and outraced linebacker Marcus Newby for the touchdown.

“The line, the tight ends, the fullbacks, the receivers blocking downfield, they make it really easy for me. On both my long touchdowns I didn’t get touched,” Canzeri said.

I distinctly remember Brian Ferentz, then the offensive line coach, tearing up as he looked into the stands and jogged to the locker room. And that was before this quote, which is the kind of quote that leaves most offensive line coaches in tears of joy.

Quote: “12-0, 12-0, 12-0” — Iowa fans in Memorial Stadium after this one.

Note: I know you remember Iowa being in the eye of the College Football Playoff hurricane.

After this win, the Hawkeyes were No. 4 in the CFP rankings (is that still fun to read?) behind Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma.

Iowa was ranked ahead of Michigan State. Any way you cut this, the Big Ten title game was for a spot in the CFP, as it should be if the B1G is working right. It didn’t last year.

“We had great debate about Iowa and Michigan State,” said College Football Playoff chairman Jeff Long (fired at Arkansas and now the AD at Kansas with an eye toward fixing football). “I thought from the conversation in the room that a vote may have put Michigan State in front of Iowa. It did not, but I can tell you those discussions were long and hard and deep, thorough, and very, very close.”

Why No. 27? — This was close to an awful weather game. I can’t remember the hotel, but the car slid into the parking spot. And then I tried to track down a rumor while Scott Dochterman and I watched the Bears beat the Packers.

The horror.


Game story from 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. — They did the swarm to the big red “N” in the middle of the field. They took a right turn and ran into the south end zone and lifted the Heroes Trophy. Then, they took another right and ran to the southwest corner of Memorial Stadium.

This place is great and big and red, but in this moment, there were a bunch of kids jogging toward a raucous mass of fans dressed in black.

Some of the Hawkeyes scoped the stands for loved ones. Others ran wildly through the ring of Iowa fans along the fence.

Tight end George Kittle was a tornado of high-fives. Quarterback C.J. Beathard kept a lookout for his dad, Casey. He wasn’t able to find him, but he sure hugged the winter off someone. Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz just peered up and fought tears. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker didn’t take his eyes off the Iowa crowd until he was nearly up the Memorial Stadium tunnel.

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0” was the chant. That echoed through the stadium. It’ll always echo, now and forever.

The Hawkeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) put the finishing touches on their perfect season pretty much the way they’ve done it all year — total-team style. Running back Jordan Canzeri scored on consecutive runs of 29 and 68 yards in the third quarter, while the Iowa defense picked off Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong four times in Friday’s 28-20 victory before 90,830 fans.

When tight end Henry Krieger Coble vacuumed up an onside kick with 1:16 left, the Hawkeyes completed an undefeated season for the fifth time in school history and won a school-record 12th game.

“This season has been one big, crazy dream,” linebacker Cole Fisher said with a goofy grin and eyes glazed with wonder.

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“I don’t hear much when I’m out there on the field,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said, “but in the fourth quarter, to hear our fans, having some fun up there, for them for the first time to be able to say 12-0, I guess they were chanting there, that’s just fantastic.”

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“Nooooo, never,” strong safety Miles Taylor said when asked if he’s ever been on a 12-0 team. “Oh wait, maybe basketball, maybe CYO basketball.”

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“I’m from Tennessee and I have a big family, everybody was back home celebrating Thanksgiving,” Beathard said. “My dad felt like someone should be here, and he loves coming to these games. He told me he’s not going to have another opportunity to come to Nebraska and see us beat Nebraska at Nebraska, so he made the trip.”

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

The Hawkeyes stayed one step ahead of the Huskers (5-7, 3-5) on a 24-degree day that saw a north wind buzz at 13 mph. It was a rough overall day for Memorial Stadium, having its “A” blotted out and all, but it knew it was in for a fight when defensive end Parker Hesse tipped an Armstrong pass and returned it 4 yards for a 14-7 lead with 6:38 left in the first half.

“Just pure excitement, pure joy, really,” Hesse said. “It’s pretty indescribable.”

Canzeri’s TD runs did come on consecutive plays, with each giving the Hawkeyes a two-score lead. The Huskers’ comeback charge couldn’t gain momentum with Armstrong’s interceptions unplugging them. Those turnovers made up for the fact that Iowa went 0-for-9 on third down, a stat the Hawkeyes could live with.

“I think what we saw (in video study preparing for Iowa) was why they won today,” Nebraska Coach Mike Riley said. “It’s not overly dramatic, but the best way I can put it is this is a solid football team.”

Last season, Iowa finished 0-for-4 in trophy games. That got your attention. Saturday, Iowa completed the total turnaround, finishing off a 4-for-4 with wins over Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes also threw in the Big Ten West Division trophy. They will play for a silver football next weekend at the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.

“We’ve had a lot to prove,” wide receiver Tevaun Smith said. “There were a lot of people doubting that we could win this game. I think that’s what is keeping this train moving.”

Ferentz didn’t high-five himself given the chance Friday evening. He did acknowledge the outside noise and, really, how could he not hear it echo throughout a 90,000-seat stadium when it was all Hawkeyes fans there at the end?

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“I did hear that one,” Ferentz said. “That one sounded pretty good, actually.”