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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.


Iowa vs. Syracuse: Anatomy of a goal-line stand

No. 14 Iowa 20, Syracuse 13 (2OT) | Sept. 9, 2006

Iowa players Bryan Mattison (99) and Miguel Merrick (15) indicate no touchdown during the penultimate play of the game in double overtime at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., on Saturday Sept. 9, 2006. (The Gazette)
Iowa players Bryan Mattison (99) and Miguel Merrick (15) indicate no touchdown during the penultimate play of the game in double overtime at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., on Saturday Sept. 9, 2006. (The Gazette)

Three cool things:

1. This is that game.

The broken punctuation of the official final scoring summary maybe tells it the best.

Unadorned and official, it goes straight to the heart of the eight-play goal-line stand that saved the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 20-13 double-overtime victory at Syracuse.

Penalty Iowa, pass interference 3 yards to the Iowa 2, first down Syracuse. That’s how it began.

There’s more, lots more. Seven plays more. Tons and tons of sweat and grit more.

“It was long, like the longest ever,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I’ve never seen anything or experienced anything like that, and I doubt I ever will again. I think most of us can say that. It was a totally unusual situation.”

Play four, third down, was another pass interference. Penalty Iowa, pass interference 0 yards to the Iowa 2, first down Syracuse. Time to do it all over again.

“There are a lot of things running through your head, but the main thing is that they’re not getting into the end zone,” cornerback Charles Godfrey said. “At that moment, what was going through my head was, `Do whatever you have to do to keep them from the end zone.”’

Play five, first and goal, Fiammetta, Tony rush for 1 yard to the Iowa 1 (Iewbema, Ken). The official stats note the Iowa tackler after each play. It also spells Iowa defensive end Kenny Iwebema’s name wrong.

SU quarterback Perry Patterson threw his hands up into the air, signaling touchdown, after this one. Fiametta, a 6-foot-1, 237-pound fullback, got his helmet to the goal line.

“I saw the helmet,” middle linebacker Mike Klinkenborg said. “It’s the ball that counts.”

Play six, second and goal, Fiammetta, Tony rush up middle for no gain to the Iowa 1 (King, Mitch). Patterson again raised his hands.

“I remember there were a few times that I just wanted to let them score so we could get back out to the 40,” King said. “My teammates just kept it positive. They yelled, `Just keep pushing, we’ll get there.’

“It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced in football.”

Plays two through seven produced 1 yard. What’s going through the offense’s head at this point?

“You would have to have a good attitude,” Iowa running back Albert Young said, “but I think more in a situation like that it was maybe more of a false hope.”

Just before play eight, Syracuse called timeout. The official scoring summary put play eight this way: Chiara, Paul rush up middle for no gain to the Iowa 1 (Iewbema, Ken).

There’s some controversy here. Iwebema got the official credit for the tackle that saved the day. But roll the tape. At the bottom of that humanity is defensive end Bryan Mattison, who drove off his block and grabbed the knees of Syracuse running back Paul Chiara.

Mike Klinkenborg was in there, too. Defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul were close.

“Can’t run without your legs and I had his legs,” Mattison said. “Nah, we both got him and that was good. I’ll let him have credit for that one.”

Syracuse had first down at Iowa’s 5 and eight plays later ended up four white jerseys on Chiara’s back at the 1. The percentages of coming through with a goal-line stand on four downs is in the 10 or 20 percent neighborhood. After eight plays?

“As a player, it was an amazing thing that they did stop us,” SU defensive tackle Tony Jenkins said. “I’ve been in on a lot of goal-line plays in my career and to stop them once is tough enough, but seven times in a row is unheard of.”

There is really no way to describe the fortitude it takes to plug in full tilt for eight plays from inside the 5-yard line. It’s the football equivalent of Russian roulette.

King and Mattison didn’t have energy for melodramatic pep talks.

“We just kept telling each other to keep your feet moving. Just keep coming across. We’ve got to knock the center back,” King said. “We just kept looking at each other, almost dead, we were so exhausted. We just kept motivating each other to keep pushing, keep your feet moving.”

Don’t discount the mental part of it. When the Hawkeyes stopped the Orange on plays four, five and six, the Orange still were only 1 yard from an extra point to tie it.

Every play had to be perfect from Iowa’s end. The linemen had to win the physical battle up front. The linebackers had to be in two places at once, keeping an eye to the inside handoff but also putting themselves in position to make the off-tackle plays.

Play seven, Patterson ran a perfectly executed option to the left. Defensive end Alex Kanellis held him at the waist and Klinkenborg cleaned him up.

Patterson was a Klinkenborg away from the end zone.

“Yeah, the momentum is going your way, but that’s the tricky thing about momentum,” Godfrey said. “You have to know how and when to handle it. You still have to go with the attitude that, `This play, I’m not letting them in the end zone.’”

Some of the defenders managed to find enough energy to celebrate. Some even sprinted to the middle of the field, piling into a big blob of white jerseys around midfield.

“I dug deep down and found some energy to go celebrate,” Godfrey said.

Not King.

“I joke about how our team rushed the field and I was the only one running away from our team so I wouldn’t have to jump around and celebrate,” King said. “I waited until I got my breath back.”

It was long. Like the longest ever.

2. Yes, I think Drew Tate did hurt his oblique or whatever that ended up being at Solon Beef Days. It happens. Kids being kids.

When the QB is hurting, he becomes unintentional click bait. That certainly happened with Tate during this season.

He missed this game with an abdominal strain. He then suffered a torn ligament in his thumb and missed a few games. Iowa has been blessed with good QB health, but not in 2006.

Tate had a streak of 25 consecutive starts going into this one, that was a big deal to Tate, but he knew better than anything, that was fleeting.

“He didn’t look like Drew Tate (last Wednesday),” Ferentz said. “I’m not going to ask him what he wants to do, because I already know the answer. I know the answer for every day next week, too.

“We’re going to see how he does and go from there. It’s our job to make the good decision.”

Jason Manson became the first Iowa QB to throw four picks and win since ... I want to say it was Gary Snook.

“I’m just happy with the win,” Manson said. “That’s all that matters. We’re 2-0 and that’s the best we can be right now.”

I also forgot Manson spent some or most of that 2006 camp at wide receiver. Quite an about face.

3. I don’t know what Syracuse’s football place is called now, but it smelled bad in 2006. I really hope that’s improved.

After this one, Hawkeyes were 10-6 in dome stadiums.

The Carrier Dome lived up to its reputation. The weather outside was a nice 75 degrees, but inside it was closer to a humid 90. And it was loud.

They have a T-shirt here, “This is the Loud House.” If it’s on a T-shirt, you know it’s true.

Quote: “Nobody was out there feeling sorry for themselves. Yeah, we made mistakes, but it didn’t matter. We just fought back. It was a good time seeing these guys fight.” — Defensive end Kenny Iwebema

Note: Iowa had four pass interference penalties in this one. I should be able to dial up a stat that says how many games Iowa has won with four pass interference penalties. It’s probably not very many wins.

Why No. 50? — I think this is about right. Defense scored a 100. Offense was a zero. So, 50, right?


Game story from 2006

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Tired and triumphant, Kenny Iwebema just laid on top of Syracuse running back Paul Chiara.

The rest of his teammates bolted toward the big block “S” at midfield. Time to punch out and celebrate. Maybe mug for the ABC cameras.

Iwebema didn’t budge. He gave Chiara a big “good game, man” slap on the butt and rolled off. Tired, yes, definitely. But triumphant, too.

With senior quarterback Drew Tate sitting out because of a lingering abdominal strain, the No. 14 Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0) simply, pardon the pun, gutted one out over Syracuse (0-2), 20-13, in two overtimes before 37,199 fans at the Carrier Dome.

It wasn’t over until Iwebema bear hugged Chiara with fellow defensive end Bryan Mattison around Chiara’s ankles at Iowa’s 1. SU will agonize after coming this close to snapping its school-record 10-game losing streak.

The stop punctuated a goal-line stand that included seven plays, a pass interference penalty and buckets of guts or whatever you want to call the stuff that makes athletes perform when the emotional and physical tank is below empty.

“Nobody was out there feeling sorry for themselves,” Iwebema said. “Yeah, we made mistakes, but it didn’t matter. We just fought back. It was a good time seeing these guys fight.”

Fifth-year senior Jason Manson found out Saturday morning he would get his first start. It played out very much like a first start. He stumbled away from center on his first play and nearly fell before completing a 9-yard pass to wideout Herb Grigsby.

Manson threw four interceptions, including two on consecutive throws to begin the second half. He fumbled a center exchange. He even tackled fullback Champ Davis on a break-dance move of a handoff. It was ugly, he admits. But he won.

“Things happen,” said Manson, who finished 16 of 32 for 202 yards, one touchdown and the four picks. “We overcame them. A lot of teams don’t overcome those, we did. I’m thankful for the win, thankful for the defense.”

Defense, Manson has to be buying you some premium deep dish this week. The Hawkeyes gave up more yards (283) than they probably wanted to, definitely way more pass interference penalties (four) than they wanted to and way more third downs (9 for 20) than they were comfortable with, but they held the Orange on the goal line with everything on the line.

“I don’t even know where I was on that last play,” said defensive tackle Mitch King, who collected two sacks. “I kind of blank out there sometimes. I just run around.”

On first-and-goal from the 2, SU fullback Tony Fiammetta made it to the goal line. But his helmet and not the ball broke the plane.

“I saw the helmet,” linebacker Mike Klinkenborg said. “It’s the ball that counts.”

The Orange had six running plays from the 2 or closer and couldn’t punch through. Going into that last carry, Chiara had 1 yard on four tries. Curtis Brinkley had 68 yards on 15 carries. Wideout Tim Lane had seven catches for 59 yards.

Why Chiara?

“If we get it done, it’s a great decision,” SU Coach Greg Robinson said. “If we don’t, then you question it.”

Tate had made 25 straight starts, posting an 18-7 record. Prepare for daily updates and minute-to-minute speculation on the most famous abdominal strain since the McCaughey septuplets.

Tate dressed but didn’t throw a pass in warm-ups. There was never any discussion of his playing, even in the face of Manson’s struggles. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz pronounced Tate “day-to-day.”

He acknowledged Tate has been dealing with the injury throughout fall camp. The plan is to rest Tate until Tuesday, then evaluate his status for this week’s game against Iowa State.

“He wanted to go, but it was an adult decision more than anything else,” Ferentz said. “My responsibility is to look out for what’s best for everybody. I expected him to want to go, but I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do right now.”

Syracuse smelled blood with a newbie at quarterback. Robinson, a former NFL defensive coordinator, stuffed the line of scrimmage with nine defenders, basically daring Iowa to throw it. The Orange shut down the run until junior running back Damian Sims ignited Iowa’s lone TD drive during regulation.

He rushed five times for 28 yards, including a 15-yarder that was a tackle away from going the distance. He also caught a screen pass for 11 yards. Finally with a smidgen of a running game, the play-action pass opened up and produced two big plays, an 18-yard completion to Andy Brodell to SU’s 2 and the 2-yard TD pass to tight end Scott Chandler, who was Manson’s best friend with 6 catches for 65 yards.

In the end, Manson held up.

“Jason showed his determination today,” Chandler said. “The ball didn’t always bounce his way, but he kept on going out there. A win’s a win, and he’s 1-0 as a starter.”

The Chandler TD tied the score, 7-7, after SU took its first drive 78 yards and scored on quarterback Perry Patterson’s 3-yard pass to Taj Smith. SU was the worst third-down team in the nation last year. It converted 3 of 3 on its first drive.

Iowa kicker Kyle Schlicher gave the Hawkeyes a 10-7 lead on a 24-yard field goal with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.

This was a game of fingernails. During the field goal drive, Manson hit wideout Herb Grigsby on a slant in the middle of the field. Nine times out of 10, this is a TD. But safety Joe Fields reached out and got his hand on Grigsby’s collar and pulled him down at the SU 14 after a 50-yard gain.

Another fingernail, or toenail, was Schlicher’s miss from 42 yards with 8:51 left in the game. Schlicher sat out last week with a leg strain. He just pulled this one a few feet to the left. It left the door open just enough for SU.

The Orange took over at their 47 with 28 seconds left. Patterson completed a 13-yard pass to Tim Lane, who caught six passes for 48 yards, for a first down at Iowa’s 39 with 17 seconds left.

Patterson spiked it, and then sophomore Patrick Shadle drilled a 41-yarder with six seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 10-10.

“Every game isn’t going to be all peaches and cream,” Manson said. “We’re not going to blow everybody out every game. We came through. We overcame it.”

Tired and triumphant.