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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.

51

Mike Humpal's 50-year-old knee allowed Iowa to stand up straight and upset Illinois

Iowa 10, No. 19 Illinois 6 | Oct. 13, 2007

Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal pursues Illinois quarterback Eddie McGee during the second half of a game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2007, in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal pursues Illinois quarterback Eddie McGee during the second half of a game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2007, in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Three cool things:

1. I’m 51 and have had two scopes on my left knee. I’m living on maybe a dime’s worth of cartilage for the rest of my life.

So far, so good. It gets sore, but if you baby it, you’ll be OK.

No one has brought up an osteotomy. At least not yet. Mike Humpal had one of those. And then he played really great football as a senior for the Hawkeyes in 2007.

Former Detroit Red Wings center Steve Yzerman made it back from that. Kind of.

Humpal did, too.

After this one, he was named the Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week with 18 tackles.

“Coach Doyle (strength and conditioning coach Chris), he always jokes around,” Humpal said. “He says, I’m the only one in the world with an osteotomy who’s still playing football. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but he thinks it is.”

Osteotomy is a procedure that is commonly used to realign the structure of the knee if you have arthritic damage on only one side of your knee. The goal is to shift the body weight off the damaged area to the other side of the knee, where the cartilage still is healthy.

When surgeons remove a wedge of your shinbone from underneath the healthy side of the knee, the shinbone and thighbone can bend away from the damaged cartilage. An osteotomy is also used as an alternative treatment to total knee replacement.

Humpal was a month shy of his 20th birthday when he underwent his in January 2005.

“I had a bad area in my (right) knee where my cartilage was bad and it kept falling off,” Humpal said. “So, they straightened my leg out so that the weight wasn’t all pounding on that bad area. It was more even throughout the rest of my knee.”

Humpal stopped short of calling it a career-saving operation, but it made his life as a linebacker in the Big Ten livable.

“I didn’t have to deal with everyday pain once I came back from that surgery,” Humpal said. “It was just an everyday ache. It was an arthritic feeling. Pretty close to bone-on-bone. It’s a lot better now. I’m glad I had it done.”

How can you not gain something from following these guys?

2. This game probably stirred Illinois. The Illini ended up in the Rose Bowl after this season. Ron Zook was somewhat celebrated. Yes, he was intense and a bit of a cartoon at times, but sometimes, the cartoons hang around long enough to be interesting.

So, yes. This stirred Illinois and it all culminated in the Hawkeyes’ 27-24 loss at Illinois in 2008. It was a great, great game. The field-goal unit Illinois was able to hustle on to the field looked like something from a “big underdog” movie. It worked.

And Illinois had its respect.

“Iowa is a team that thinks it’s so much better than us, so much better than us and we just came on and beat them,” Illinois sophomore wide receiver Arrelious Benn said.

Iowa had beaten Illinois five straight times dating to 2000. Illinois was particularly upset with Iowa after the 2007 loss, which ultimately cost the Rose Bowl bound Fighting Illini a 10-win season.

Benn, who led all players with seven catches for 96 yards, said Iowa’s players had bad-mouthed Illinois last week, although it was unclear where he had read the material.

“It has a lot to do with last year,” Benn said. “Our team’s never beat Iowa, and it’s just something about Iowa that I personally don’t like. Through the week they talk a lot of trash through the media and stuff, talking about ... I just hate Iowa. That’s our last time playing them, some of us won’t be playing them again.”

Benn was done with Iowa. That 2008 game is the “1” in Illinois’ 1-8 record vs. Iowa dating back to 2003.

3. Getting the O-line right in 2007 took work. Freshman Bryan Bulaga rotated series with sophomore Travis Meade, who suffered an arm injury and didn’t play in the second half. Sophomore Dan Doering replaced freshman Julian Vandervelde in the second half.

Of course, some of that changed in 2008 and Iowa did have one of its best Kirk Ferentz era O-lines that season.

Quote: “I get the chills even thinking about it. It’s just a great feeling, getting this first Big Ten win. The emotion just kind of got the best of us. We weren’t trying to show up Illinois. We just wanted to let our fans know we appreciated them.” — QB Jake Christensen

Note: This snapped an eight-game Big Ten losing streak. I hope I’m gone before there’s another one of those.

Why No. 51? — Lots of suspense, but only 67 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. The 10-6 score is too much for this film to overcome.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME

Game story from 2007

IOWA CITY — The joyous energy radiated to Kinnick Stadium’s highest perch. The way they flapped their arms, pulling the 70,585 fans into the huddle with them, they sort of looked like ducks, pumping away for takeoff.

You can argue the Iowa Hawkeyes took flight Saturday.

Freshman free safety Brett Greenwood picked off an Eddie McGee pass at Iowa’s goal line with 1:12 left, saving the Hawkeyes’ 10-6 victory over No. 18 Illinois. Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen hit tight end Brandon Myers for the go-ahead touchdown with six seconds left in the third quarter.

Led by linebacker Mike Humpal’s superhuman effort, Iowa’s defense made the four-point margin stand. And there they were, running down the clock, taking a knee and flapping their arms.

“I get the chills even thinking about it,” said Christensen, who came into Saturday’s game leading the Big Ten in maligned. “It’s just a great feeling, getting this first Big Ten win. The emotion just kind of got the best of us. We weren’t trying to show up Illinois. We just wanted to let our fans know we appreciated them.”

The Iowa football program can stand up straight now. It dumped a bus load of gorillas off its back. Let’s start with the Big Ten losing streak. That stopped at eight straight.

Next was the four-game losing streak this season. The Hawkeyes (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) will go into Purdue (5-2, 1-2) with the glow of a victory, their first Big Ten win since Purdue last season, more than a year ago.

It also was Iowa’s first victory over a ranked opponent since a 20-10 win at Wisconsin in 2005. The win also snapped an 0-for-7 streak for Iowa in games decided by four points or less.

“We haven’t talked about our losing streak all season, except with you guys,” defensive tackle Mitch King told reporters. “I don’t know if it was on purpose or not. We just know we haven’t been winning and we had to turn the page.”

This was a 1,000-pound page. They needed a little help turning it, and the Fighting Illini (5-2, 3-1) obliged.

The Hawkeyes had the ball and first down at Illinois 10-yard line with 9 1/2 minutes left. The center-quarterback exchange went awry. Center Rafael Eubanks snapped the ball after Christensen called an audible.

“I was feeling horrible about that,” Eubanks said. “If we wouldn’t have won that game, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now. I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

On their second play after recovering the fumble, Illinois Coach Ron Zook went for it. Iowa cornerback Adam Shada got caught looking in the backfield and Illinois receiver Joe Morgan wandered wide open. McGee hit him for what was an 83-yard TD pass and a 13-10 lead.

At least it was for a few seconds. A flag was dropped near the Iowa sideline. The penalty was ineligible receiver downfield. Tight end Micheal Hoomanawanui covered up another receiver and got the penalty.

“That was probably as devastated a locker room as I’ve been in after a loss,” Zook said.

This was one of those classic “Oh no, oh yes” moments for Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, whose emotions flowed to near tears as the clocked ticked down.

“I just had my fingers crossed, I had my fingers crossed,” Ferentz said. “You just hope that’s the situation. You hope that’s the call they make.”

The turnaround Iowa’s offense made from last week’s dismal effort at Penn State to Saturday’s gritty performance will give you whiplash. Iowa needed three quarters to produce two first downs last week. It got two on the first drive Saturday.

The Hawkeyes rang up 10 of 17 on third-down conversions, won time of possession (34:26 to 25:34) and gouged out 141 rushing yards.

Last week, it was eight first downs and 48 yards rushing. Last week, it was three-and-out on nine of 14 possessions. This week, there were no three-and-outs. This week, the 323 yards and one touchdown were just enough.

Iowa’s offensive line did a 180-degree pirouette. It was a turnstile last week. It was the difference this week. Freshman Bryan Bulaga and sophomore Dan Doering replaced Travis Meade and Julian Vandervelde at the guard spots. It seemed to make a difference.

“Everybody came with a better attitude today,” said running back Albert Young, who rushed for 99 yards, his best total since week 1. “We just took it to them, really.”

Humpal and the Hawkeyes’ defense made that point over and over again. Illinois had the Big Ten’s top rush offense, averaging 261.2 yards, fifth-best in the nation. The Hawkeyes held the Illini to 137 on 35 carries.

The Illini’s 287 total yards and six total points were their lowest outputs this season.

“We’ve got a day to enjoy this one and we definitely will,” said Humpal, whose day included a career-high 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and fumble recovery.

Illinois marched to Iowa’s 2 and was held to a 23-yard field goal. A 28-yard McGee-to-Arrelious Benn pass fueled Illinois’ last-gasp drive before Greenwood stepped in.

“He kind of reminds me of (former Hawkeye Sean) Considine,” King said. “He might not be the fastest guy or the most athletic, but he knows where the ball will be and where he should be.”

Going in, they led the league in maligned. Coming out, the quarterback got a ride off the field thanks to the students.

They flapped their arms. They got off the ground.