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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.


The best pure football game in the Kirk Ferentz era

Iowa 31, Purdue 28 | Oct. 5, 2002

Iowa tight end Dallas Clark pulls in the game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter of Iowa's 31-28 victory over Purdue on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002 in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Iowa tight end Dallas Clark pulls in the game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter of Iowa's 31-28 victory over Purdue on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002 in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. This is the best pure game. It just is. I’m going to roll through the ridiculous highlights and drama, build the argument and let everyone debate the fact that this is the best pure game of the Kirk Ferentz era.

(And, yes, we’ve reached the part of this series where I want it to be about the games. These wonderful, wonderful games. The top five ... I know I’ve said this a bunch, but, man, these are awesome to the point of unbelievable to the point of thinking I was so damn glad to witness. Sports are cool.)

— Let’s start with the end.

Brad Banks hit Dallas Clark for a 7-yard TD with 1:07 left in the game. We all remember that. The kid from Belle Glade lofted a perfect pass with Purdue DE Shaun Phillips bearing down like an avalanche to the kid from Livermore, who then ran around Kinnick like he was carrying the winning Powerball ticket. (As it turned out, Dallas Clark totally was carrying more than a football.)

First, you remember Shaun Phillips, right? In his Purdue career, Phillips set the school record with 33.5 sacks. He totaled 60.5 career tackles for loss. (FWIW, Iowa’s career tackles for loss leader is Jared DeVries with 79.) And then Phillips went on to have an 11-year NFL career and made the Pro Bowl in 2010.

So, there was that.

Second, it was fourth down. Do you guys remember that? Iowa spent all of its timeouts trying to keep time on the clock on Purdue’s next-to-last (retiring “penultimate,” it’s a $10 word for a 10-cent thought) drive.

“Was it fourth down?” Clark asked. “I think I knew it was at the time. I guess you forget those details.”


— No timeouts. Time is running out. So, why not call a QB draw on first down?

I know I’m eventually going to get in big trouble for this, but they’re big, they’re brass, great call by then-OC Ken O’Keefe. Stony. It was a gamble, but there was an out built in. If a QB draw isn’t there, the QB goes down quickly and on to the next play.

It was there. It was so there.

Banks broke free for 44 yards, taking the Hawkeyes from their 13 to Purdue’s 43.

At this point, you start to think, Iowa’s got this. But then, it took four downs to get it.

— Purdue was a third-and-4 away from taking a knee.

A couple of years ago, I ponied up the $45 to buy Norm Parker’s principles of tackling. Or maybe it was principles of outside linebacker. Can’t remember which and I don’t even have a DVD player right now.

Anyway, there was a lot of tackling drills. The player going through and showing all of the perfect technique? Grant Steen. This dude was a walk-on and really was the first OLB where Iowa threw away the key. They assigned Steen this job, he went out and did everything they asked and did it really well.

Steen came up with a huge stop on this third-and-4. Without it, this game is lost in the ether.

— I tend to glom on the big lead change. The one that decides it. The other lead changes? I kind of blow past those. There’s only so much space and I generally get 25 inches to digest things. Maybe that sounds like a lot, but that eater-sized northern gets chewed up quickly.

In this one, the Hawkeyes fell behind 14-3, took a 24-14 lead late in the third quarter and then fell behind again on Jon Goldsberry’s 2-yard TD run with 5:45 left.

And then there was the lead change I wrote about. Still, lead changes in football games. They are something. I can’t believe we haven’t taken all of the fun out of it with some sort of analytic (kidding, I enjoy analytics, it’s football stuff, I like football stuff).

Lead changes, a fun football thing that probably doesn’t get statted enough. That probably gives these the magic feeling we all watch games to see.

— Purdue had 507 yards of offense. Iowa still won. How many times have we played this out? (By the way, if anyone who can code and who wants to donate some time, let’s make the mother of all Iowa football numbers sites. No message board, just numbers and history and a database to answer all of these little stat things we’d all love to have answers for. I know Jon Miller is interested. We should be able to make something cool and usable happen for this community.)

— The tight end had a 95-yard TD reception.

90 freaking 5.

Clark wasn’t a lumbering TE. He was a sprinter. He also had great body control. I think he came close to hurdling someone during this deal.

The tight end made a 95-yard TD happen and it’s like the 10th most interesting thing that happened.

— Purdue had 30 first downs. THIRTY.

The last time Iowa allowed 30 first downs, it was 2013 at Ohio State and a 34-24 loss.

And Iowa countered with just 14 first downs.

— Iowa blocked two kicks.

Bob Sanders blocked a field goal and cornerback Antwan Allen returned it 85 yards for a score. Sean Considine blocked a punt and Jermire Roberts covered it in the end zone.

Yeah, that happens all of the time. What it does do is tears up Purdue’s amazing and beautiful offensive stat sheet. Tears it to shreds.

— OK, some names have been invoked. Big names in Iowa football that weren’t big names going into this one.

Bob Sanders and Sean Considine were short resume guys. Antwan Allen was a true freshman. You’re Googling Jermire Roberts.

You might’ve promised to name your first born “Adolphus” after Adolphus Shelton, the game-winning interceptor, but no one is holding you to that 16 years later.

Iowa had the “Rockys from Hickory” thing going in this big time.

Best pure game. Best pure game.

2. A new Ferentz “sound” came out of this one. Former Press-Citizen and Register Iowa reporter Andy Hamilton knows.

The sound a coach makes when it’s fourth-and-7 and his quarterback is surrounded by three defenders while he waits for the receiver to pop open can only be described as something between a beached whale and a hungry moose.

“Ahhhhh, ahhhh, uh huhhhhhhhh,” Ferentz said.

That was the start of the quote. Hey, it’s all material.

Rest assured, if Banks had been buried under a pile of Purdue, the sound Ferentz made wouldn’t have made the newspaper.

The point here is that the TD play took foreverrrrrrr. Or at least it felt like it. (The power of the 2002 O-line, man. Pass pro for days.)

“When you’re sitting back there, it seems like forever,” Banks said. “The guy was right there, I could feel him. I didn’t know Dallas had it until his arms went up.”

Banks waited, Clark ran a crossing route in front of linebacker Joe Odom and caught the 7-yard game-winner.

The waiting was the hardest part.

Banks waited as end Kevin Nesfield and safety Ralph Turner bore in from his left. Phillips was the one who had Ferentz squirming in his headset.

“When I saw the kid come off the edge on the last play, I thought we were in trouble,” Ferentz said. “Until that point, I felt pretty good. Then, I saw that kid and I thought, ohhhh.”

That’s the weird thing about Banks. He didn’t have a standout game, but he was still standing with 1:12 left. When everything crashed around him on that final play, he maintained a Zen-like calmness.

In the huddle before the game-winner, Banks just kept chanting, “We’re going to score, we’re going to score.”

“He’s so in control,” said Clark, who caught three passes and tied a career-high with 116 yards. “He just doesn’t let things bother him. You need a short memory at quarterback.

“He settled us down. He’s a great leader for this team.”

Purdue loaded up the left side of Iowa’s line. Banks saw heat was coming from his left. That was when he knew the play — a “Y” sneak open — would work.

“I wanted to make sure I drew the guys on the sprint,” said Banks, who completed 14 of 22 for 226 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. “Once I saw that they were blitzing on that side, I thought this is going to work.

“So, once they blitzed, I just pulled up. I came backside to Dallas coming across field. I just wanted to make sure I gave him a good ball to catch.”

Clark lined up on the left side. Freshman wideout Clinton Solomon lined up right and pulled a lot of the traffic out of the middle of the field, leaving Clark one-on-one with Odom.

“We didn’t run the play during the game, and then, it just opened up,” Clark said. “It was awesome. I’ve never seen that in practice. It just opened up and I knew when I had to go.”

Ferentz credited special teams coach Lester Erb for the call from the pressbox.

Ferentz credited offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe for calling a quarterback draw on the first play of the drive. Banks broke it for a 44-yard gain.

“It was a great call,” Banks said. “Once I saw I had the green, I wanted to make sure I took everything they gave me.”

Banks took a big hit from Phillips on the fourth-and-7. The crunch was the sweet sound of success.

3. I’m throwing around the ESPN Classic thing a lot. It was sort of new in the early 2000s. I loved it then. I thought it said everything about a game when ESPN immediately put it in its Classic rotation.

The week before this one, ESPN put Iowa’s double-OT victory at Penn State right onto ESPN Classic. Maybe the highlight of that game was Joe Paterno chasing an official up the tunnel. Or maybe it was the blocked PAT Iowa returned for two points that mattered.

I believe this game ended up going the same route. I think it took another week or so, but I know Iowa-Purdue 2002 ended up on Classic.

I always got the feeling Ferentz held great respect for Purdue coach Joe Tiller and defensive coordinator Brock Spack. It you think about this game, you can understand why.

Quote: Two blocked kicks, that had Tiller looking for answers on the lapses in protection.

“It’s very interesting on the sideline,” Tiller said. “You ask what happens and we develop amnesia.”

Note: Didn’t you just know that Dallas Clark was going to go pro after that 95-yard TD catch?

Just think, he was a star for the Indianapolis Colts and they loved him in Indiana. Even after this deal.

Why No. 5? — Why not No. 1?


Game story from 2002

IOWA CITY — Last week, they made ESPN Classic network’s “Instant Classic.” The people at ESPN have that kind of power. They work in TV. They can turn last weekend into rerunable glory.

So, if last week’s overtime victory at Penn State earned “Instant Classic” status, what will the ESPN people do with the Hawkeyes now?

Anyone up for a double-instant super-mega classic?

That’s where quarterback Brad Banks and tight end Dallas Clark took the Hawkeyes Saturday. The two hooked up for a 7-yard touchdown with 1:07 left to rally No. 24 Iowa past Purdue, 31-28, before 68,249 at Kinnick Stadium.

Double-instant super-mega classic.

“In many ways, we’re fortunate to win,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But on the other hand, I have to compliment our players. They showed a lot of heart and character, especially when they needed it.”

When they needed it, that’s the phrase of the day.

The game had comebacks, with the Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) falling behind 14-3, taking a 24-14 lead late in the third quarter and then falling behind again on Jon Goldsberry’s 2-yard TD run with 5:45 left.

Then they took the late, late, late, late, late, late, late, late, late lead.

The play was a Y sneak open.

Don’t know if Clark was the “Y,” but he pivoted in front of a Purdue linebacker and sprinted toward the sideline. He was wide open.

“It’s a play I think we’ve called once, and that was last year,” said Clark, who caught three passes for 116 yards, including a Kinnick record 95-yard TD that gave Iowa a 24-14 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter. “At least I think we’ve called it once. It’s sort of one of those plays where it either works or it doesn’t.”

And, oh yeah, it was fourth-and-7. It was everything.

“Was it fourth down?” Clark asked. “I think I knew it was at the time. I guess you forget those details.”

Banks waited as long as he could, and, just before defensive end Shaun Phillips wrapped around his ankles, he lofted a loose spiral into the big blue afternoon sky.

“When you’re sitting back there, it seems like forever,” said Banks, who had another quietly effective day, completing 14 of 22 for 226 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. “The guy was right there, I could feel him. I didn’t know Dallas had it until his arms went up.”

The Hawkeyes gave themselves one last chance when outside linebacker Grant Steen stopped Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch for a 2-yard gain on third-and-4 at Iowa’s 42-yard line.

With all their timeouts called to save clock, Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe rolled the dice on first down. Banks took a perfectly timed quarterback draw 44 yards, taking the Hawkeyes from their 13 to Purdue’s 43.

“This game was a tough nail-biter,” said running back Fred Russell, who ran into a blitzing Purdue defense all game but still managed 109 yards on 22 carries, with one shoulder wrapped like a Christmas present. “A tough team fights through the bad things in a game. We had a lot of bad things, but we fought it. I think that shows a lot about our mental game.”

Double-instant super-mega classics need their share of unlikely heroes. You know, the Rocky Balboa or the kids from Hickory. The Rebel Alliance. The Bad News Bears.

Seemingly Saturday, Iowa had an army of Rockys from Hickory.

On special teams, safety Bob Sanders blocked a field goal and cornerback Antwan Allen returned it 85 yards for a score. Reserve safety Sean Considine blocked a punt and reserve safety Jermire Roberts covered it in the end zone.

And, finally, reserve cornerback Adolphus Shelton intercepted a Kirsch pass that caromed off receiver Taylor Stubblefield’s shoulder and into the air, saving the day for Iowa with 14 seconds left.

All Stubblefield had done to that point was catch 13 passes for 149 yards. Iowa’s media guide says Shelton is a red shirt freshman from Dallas.

“I saw the quarterback throw the ball, the ball bounce off my guy’s shoulder,” Shelton said, “and I just got up under it and caught it.”

With starter Kyle Orton on the sideline with a concussion, Kirsch sparked the Boilermakers, igniting a fourth-quarter comeback with a 16-yard TD run. Goldsberry’s TD erased Iowa’s 10-point lead and put Purdue ahead, 28-24, with 5:45 left.

“He (Kirsch) deserved better than that — to have the ball go off our receiver into their defender’s hands,” Purdue Coach Joe Tiller said. “He deserved better than that.”

Maybe all of Purdue (3-3, 1-1 Big Ten) deserved better.

The Boilers hammered the Hawkeyes with 507 yards and held Iowa’s offense to 158 yards rushing, a season low. Take out Nate Kaeding’s 51-yard field goal, Clark’s 95-yard TD and the last drive, and Iowa’s offense was stuck in a three-and-out extended play.

Push away all the bad — the conservative play-calling, David Bradley’s 34.1 yards on seven punts, the nine penalties for 80 yards, Ed Hinkel’s fumble that led to a Purdue score, those 507 yards — and allow yourself to plant a kiss on this one.

“Bottom line is, when we needed it, we had it,” Ferentz said. “We weren’t perfect out there, I think everybody recognizes that. But the outcome was just beautiful.”

Double-instant super-mega classics usually end with the boy getting the girl. Saturday, Shelton kept the ball he intercepted.

It wasn’t perfect. They’ll settle for beautiful.