Three cool things:
1. Without a doubt, it will go down in Iowa football history as the best $5,000 ever spent.
The wild celebration the Hawkeyes and their fans enjoyed in the Metrodome in 2002 was priceless. In the throes of Iowa’s Big Ten title-clinching victory, with an 8-0 conference record on top of that, Iowa fans tore down the goal posts in the Metrodome’s south end zone.
The Hawkeye horde carried an upright up a flight of stairs and onto a concourse before discovering the Metrodome’s revolving doors.
The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission billed Iowa $5,000 for the goal post. Iowa athletics director Bob Bowlsby gladly accepted the charge.
“We can’t take responsibility for everything our fans do,” Bowlsby said, “but it’s a good bet Gopher fans did not tear down the goal post.”
It is a great bet.
It’s believed the last time an opposing team tore down a goal post was when California students tore one down at Stanford after losing the 100th edition of the “Big Game” in 1997.
Going to venture to guess Iowa fans are a little more ... rugged than college football fans from Berkley.
“We had about 50,000 fans charge the field, rip down goal posts, throw people in the air and carry us off the field,” Iowa defensive end Matt Roth said. “It was a lot of fun. They were grabbing everything they could. They were kleptomaniacs, trying to steal players, coaches and goal posts.”
The Hawkeyes won, 45-21, cinching up the school’s first undefeated run in the Big Ten in 80 years. It was Iowa’s first Big Ten title since 1990. And nothing was going to stop Hawkeye fans from celebrating.
Minneapolis police arrested a handful of fans. The Metrodome P.A. announcer issued two “final warnings” and then dome security unleashed that unforgettable high-pitched squeal from the loudspeakers.
“It did not have positive results,” athletics director Joel Maturi said in the aftermath. “No one has told me who did it and why.”
An estimated 32,000 Iowa fans helped pack the Metrodome on Nov. 16, 2002. The attendance of 65,184 was the largest crowd to watch a Gophers football game at the Metrodome, breaking a record of 65,018 against Iowa in 1986.
DO YOU SENSE A PATTERN?
“People say that it’s ‘Kinnick North,’ and that’s for good reason,” freshman linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Our fans travel so well up there. Our fans get up there in masses. They’re loud, and that place gets rocking.”
The 2002 Hawkeyes featured Heisman runner-up Brad Banks, Mackey Award-winning tight end Dallas Clark, Lou Groza-award winning kicker Nate Kaeding and a future Outland Trophy winner in offensive tackle Robert Gallery.
Minnesota had helmets.
“I knew going out to practice on Tuesday we weren’t going to lose that game,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We had such a strong group of seniors. Those guys were on track.
“As coaches, we were almost on autopilot during the course of that game. Our guys just went out and won. It was one of those games. You don’t get many of those in your career.”
When this happened, I thought, well, the Gophers are going to give as good as they got. At some point. I guess 51-14 did happen 12 years later.
“I don’t expect those guys up there to forget it,” Iowa guard Brian Ferentz said going into the 2004 game, another doozy. “You put that on top of the fact that this game is an intense rivalry, a border game, a trophy (Floyd of Rosedale) that’s been around forever, I’m sure they’ll be excited and ready to go.
“And I’m sure they’re showing them video clips of our fans trying to carry the goal posts out of the stadium.”
Glen Mason was Minnesota’s coach. Imagine losing 45-21 and giving 300-plus rushing yards and then hearing the other team tore down your goal posts.
Insult wrapped in injury dressed up as spectacular prank.
“I don’t cherish the fact that we allowed them to do that,” Mason said going into the 2004 game. “I don’t think they would’ve torn them down if we would’ve won. (But) I’ve got more problems on my plate than to worry about what happened a couple years ago, to be quite frank with you.”
By the time the Hawkeyes had coach Ferentz on their shoulders and a few Iowa fans were in handcuffs, the Gophers were in the sanctity and safety of their locker room. They didn’t see much of the dome hoedown.
“I think that takes away from a lot of it, not seeing it coming down,” offensive tackle Rian Melander said. “We take a lot of pride in our field, we take a lot of pride in the trophy and all those other things. We don’t want to see it happen, that’s for sure, but I don’t think it was as big of a deal as it ended up to be down there.”
One of coaching’s oldest ploys is to show a film clip of something to pump up their players during their final Friday night meeting. In the days after the 2002 game, ESPN’s SportsCenter was all over Hawkeyes Gone Wild, the Metrodome edition.
That’s probably the last thing Gophers players saw before they went to bed before the 2004 game, which was Iowa’s return to the Metro ... Kinnick North.
Were the Hawkeyes worried that their fans wrote a karmic check they couldn’t cash?
“I don’t think the Gopher players are sitting back and thinking, ‘You know, we’ve got to get these guys back because their fans pulled our goal posts down,’“ Greenway said. “But it’s probably something their fans get mad about just because we kind of took over the place.
“The Hawkeye fans will do that sometimes. But that was just a sight I’ll probably never see again.”
Greenway ended up playing a heckuva lot of football. 11 years in the NFL. He didn’t see the opposing fans tear down the home team’s goal post. That would’ve made the paper, I think.
This rivalry dates back to 1891. It’ll be 113 years old this season. The goal posts will never again be up for grabs.
So, this was really, really cool.
2. One by one, they popped into the air. We’re talking the offensive linemen here. One by one, Iowa’s O-linemen shot off the Metrodome turf and onto shoulders of Iowa fans.
They didn’t have a choice.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” said center Bruce Nelson, a 6-foot-5, 288-pounder. “I had no idea who the guys under me were. I’ve got to tell you, we’ve got some stout fans. That’s a lot of weight.”
It all came full circle in this one. The offensive line that carried the Hawkeyes all season got carried away.
“I’m not used to that type of thing,” said tackle David Porter, a 6-7, 315-pound senior. “I’m tall, but that was a little scary. I’m used to having my feet on the ground and being tall.”
The Hawkeyes came full circle on the field, too.
Before Banks was a Heisman candidate, he was a first-year starter. Pretty much no one knew Banks would turn out to be the quarterback he was that season.
While Banks bloomed, the Hawkeyes leaned on their O-line — Nelson, senior guards Eric Steinbach and Andy Lightfoot and tackles Porter and junior Gallery.
Running back Fred Russell became Iowa’s ninth 1,000-yard rusher. Sophomore Jermelle Lewis stepped in for Russell and gained 105 yards in the second half of Iowa’s victory at Michigan.
Banks took a few hits early against Minnesota and Iowa jumped to a 28-14 halftime lead, so the coaches geared down the play-calling. The Hawkeyes rushed for 365 yards on 56 carries, averaging 6.5 yards a carry.
Russell gained 194 yards on 17 carries, an 11.4 average, before a bruised shoulder forced him out with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
“We rode them all season,” Russell said. “It was nice to see them get a ride today. I couldn’t help with that, though, I’m not that strong.”
Lewis rushed 19 times for 101 yards and a TD. It was the second time that season Iowa had two running backs go for more than 100 yards.
“I think the offensive line is the heart and soul of every team,” Porter said. “They set the tempo at practice, they set the tempo in games. They can control the line of scrimmage. We had that going today.”
Iowa rolled up 465 yards to Minnesota’s 285. Iowa outrushed Minnesota, 365-80.
Russell, who joined the postgame ceremony with his left arm in a sling, had seven runs of 10-plus yards, including a 53-yarder that led to a Lewis 6-yard TD and a 14-7 Iowa lead.
“They have a very good line full of old guys who’ve been around for a while,” UM defensive end Mark Losli said. “We pride ourselves on stopping the run. The game wasn’t how we hoped it would go.”
Lightfoot, a 6-6, 280-pounder, was the last O-lineman to be hoisted, like an SUV onto a wrecker. The two Iowa fans under him locked eyes and huffed and puffed.
Bruce Nelson nailed it. You guys are stout.
3. It was good to be a Hawkeye after this one. This was back when players, and I guess all of us, were able to have Thanksgiving. And Iowa’s bye in 2002 was the last week of the season. Does that make sense to anyone?
It said in Iowa’s media guide that linebacker Fred Barr was a communications major. I’m here to tell you, he was a great communicator.
“It feels like home cooking,” Iowa’s middle linebacker said. “You haven’t had any in a while. That feeling that the food is sitting in your stomach and you can sit back and relax.
“We’re definitely going to relax and watch TV.”
Quote: When your athletics director gets to talk like this, you’ve won.
”I think it’s safe to say they (the Fiesta Bowl) would certainly enjoy having Iowa there. The Rose Bowl folks were here, too. That’s always the pinnacle for a Big Ten team. I like to have 11-1 in the barn. We can just watch the rest of it and see which opportunities develop. If the next three weeks are as crazy as the last three weeks, who knows what might happen.” — then-Iowa AD Bob Bowlsby
Note: You guys met the Hawkeyes at the Iowa City Airport after this one.
Coralville resident Joe Griffin took a detour on his way to the grocery store. He headed to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where he and hundreds of others, who had dropped what they were doing, attended an impromptu pep rally to celebrate the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten co-championship.
“The store is open 24 hours, but we’ve waited years for this,” said Griffin, 28, who came with his girlfriend, Christine. “They should be welcomed home like this. They’ve kept their focus, and done more than anyone expected them to.”
For a while, the crowd couldn’t decide which three-syllable cheer to use while waiting for the team. It wasn’t a bad problem to have. After all, it hasn’t been often Hawk fans have had to choose from “Big Ten Champs,” “B-C-S,” “Let’s Go Hawks,” and the four-syllable cheer of “Banks for Heisman.”
The team, fresh off a plane at The Eastern Iowa Airport, was welcomed back to Iowa City with a standing ovation by fans, many with roses, as they carried in the Floyd of Rosedale and Big Ten Championship trophies.
After looking at the trophies, pep rally host and football announcer Gary Dolphin worked the audience of 500 into a frenzy by looking under the table holding the trophies.
“I guess the Heisman hasn’t arrived yet,” he said.
Why No. 4? — This was my favorite. It was unbelievable.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2002
MINNEAPOLIS — They paused to touch the trophy, the Big Ten championship trophy, there in the winning locker room. It was real. It was theirs. The season of dreams was now indelible. And there was the hardware, golden and shiny and permanent, to confirm it.
From doormat to winner. In one implausible leap. Iowa. Yes, Iowa.
“I stood with my arms around that thing (the trophy),” senior free safety Derek Pagel said. “I had my picture taken with it. A lot of us did that. It was beautiful.
“I just wish I could hit pause right now and run over this about 100 times.”
The Hawkeyes rushed for 365 yards and converted three Minnesota turnovers into touchdowns in a 45-21 victory before a sellout crowd of 65,184 at the Metrodome.
Or was that Kinnick Stadium? Iowa City?
Some 32,000 Iowa fans gave the Hawkeyes (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) what must have felt like a home-field advantage over the Golden Gophers (7-4, 3-4).
“This place today was Kinnick with a roof on it,” tight end Dallas Clark said.
First Big Ten championship since 1990. First undefeated Big Ten season since 1922. First Big Ten commissioner giving a speech and giving a trophy in the Iowa locker room maybe ever.
“I think you can argue that the Big Ten is the strongest conference in the country,” Commissioner Jim Delany said. “Iowa is the undefeated champion of the strongest conference in the country.”
But we’ll see what happens with Ohio State. They may be the undefeated champion of the strongest conference in the country.”
No one within an arm’s length of a rose or a Hawkeye seemed to care this is a shared championship, for another few weeks anyway. Ohio State controls the BCS and Rose Bowl by virtue of a better overall record.
Iowa can win the Big Ten title outright and qualify for the Rose Bowl if No. 2 Ohio State (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) loses to Michigan next week at Columbus. Iowa doesn’t play Ohio State this season.
“No one cares a bit,” said center Bruce Nelson, with the tag from his “Big Ten championship” ball cap dangling over his left ear and the tag from his “Big Ten championship” T-shirt dangling over his collar.
“Rose Bowl, shared title, no one cares.”
And no one seemed to care.
A Metrodome maintenance crew worked long after the game trying to piece together the south end zone goal posts. They had no idea. This doesn’t happen with the Gophers or Vikings.
Seriously, they were flummoxed, trying three times before finally figuring it out for Saturday night’s game between Concordia-St. Paul and Southwest State.
Yes, Iowa fans, after years of never touching the collapsible goal posts at Kinnick, made quick work of the Metrodome goal posts.
Minnesota also Gopher-izes the Metrodome with banners hanging on the upper deck facade for every Big Ten team. The Iowa banners were conspicuous by their absence after the game, long gone, in Cedar Rapids, Epworth or Des Moines by now.
Metrodome security tried about everything. The P.A. announcer issued two “final warnings.” They also tried blasting a high-pitched squeal from the loudspeakers. The Minneapolis police arrested a handful of fans on the field.
“We’re getting used to Hawkeyes fans running out on the field,” said defensive end Howard Hodges, whose sack and fumble recovery turned into a 14-7 Iowa lead in the first quarter.
“We know the fans are just as happy as us. They’ve been waiting for something big to happen for Iowa and it did today. They (Iowa fans) can drop in with us at the bowl game, I don’t care. They can drop in at my house, it doesn’t matter.”
The fans took their bounty, an upright, for a couple of laps around the field, finally dropping it in the stadium concourse.
Negotiating the revolving doors might have been a bit too much.
“Someone said they got the goal posts,” guard Eric Steinbach said. “I knew they (security) had their hands full when our fans started lifting the O-line and carrying us around.”
First 11-win season in Iowa history. First nine-game winning streak in one season. First mosh pit for Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, who was carried off the field by linebacker Tony Burrier and Clark.
“I’m kind of wondering how I got up there. I was a little bit embarrassed,” Ferentz said. “That was a pretty good view, pretty good, I can say that.”
Quarterback Brad Banks threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, and running back Fred Russell rushed for 194 yards to spur the Hawkeyes, whose nine-game conference winning streak since is their longest since stretching a nine-game streak over the 1956-57 seasons.
Banks started his college career at Central Florida. He was a redshirt freshman and No. 3 on the depth chart behind Daunte Culpepper, now the Minnesota Vikings QB.
They met up Friday night in Minneapolis.
“He was watching today,” Banks said. “I hope he liked what he saw.”
Banks completed 9 of 17 for 100 yards and two TDs, including a 31-yarder to Mo Brown. He rushed seven times for 39 yards and two TDs.
For the second straight week, he left the field in the fourth quarter to chants of “Heisman, Heisman, Heisman.”
Russell left in the third quarter with a bruised left shoulder. Sophomore Jermelle Lewis carried the rest of the way, rushing for 101 yards and a TD.
The bowl reps were there, and there was bowl talk.
“You win the Big Ten, you want to go to the Rose Bowl,” Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby said. “But like coach has said, it’s going to be pretty hard to disappoint us.”
After the final gun they were swallowed. The young men who made magic couldn’t find their way out of the madness.
The Big Ten championship trophy was theirs. And they had the pictures to prove it.