Three cool things:
1. The 2003-04 seasons were the zenith of Iowa’s special teams under Kirk Ferentz. Kicker was going great. Punter was OK. And the Hawkeyes were blocking kicks like mad men.
I’m sure the numbers have shifted, but at the time, I thought it was a great find that the players volunteered how much time they spend a day on blocking kicks.
The answer was three minutes. Those must be three of the most efficient minutes in the history of college football practices.
2. We need to spend a second on Drew Tate’s escapability. Remember when that was a thing? That word?
When his 2004 world collapsed around him, Tate had a plan.
During Iowa’s first drive, Purdue defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Ray Edwards had Tate for a sack. They converged and Tate dipped his shoulders and bent his knees, spinning free and squirting ahead to find tight end Scott Chandler for a 28-yard gain.
The play touched off Iowa’s first touchdown. The game was filled with snapshots of great Tate escapes.
First down at Purdue’s 2, defensive tackle Rob Ninkovich had Tate in his sights. Tate dips and spins, buying time to find tight end Tony Jackson wide open in the end zone for a 14-0 lead. Then there was the great escape in the fourth quarter.
On third-and-16 from Iowa’s 35, Purdue cornerback Antwaun Rogers rushed unblocked with a free shot at Tate. Tate dipped, shuffled, pump faked and again found Chandler, this time for 46 yards to Purdue’s 18. The drive ended with an Iowa field goal. Believe it or not, Tate had a plan when defensive ends are flying over top of him.
“I can’t really explain it,” he said. “It’s just reaction. It’s just trying to get low, get underneath a strong tackler.”
Dip, spin, scan the field and throw, that’s the plan you saw over and over in this one.
“I don’t know what his 40 (-yard dash) time is and I’m not going to time him now, I’m not going to worry about it,” Ferentz said. “He’s got excellent feet, but a lot of his escapability is beyond athleticism. It’s just having a feel, a sense, a savvy, whatever it might be.
“The second part is when he comes out of there, he has the ability to make plays. He gets his eyes downfield. When you face a guy like that, it gets a little bit interesting, so I’m glad he’s on our side right now.”
3. Four running backs and two offensive linemen were out in this one for the Hawkeyes. Yeah, I know. How did 2004 happen? That defense was spectacular.
Quote: “I wouldn’t say we’re rolling. We’re winning. We’re finding ways to win.” — Drew Tate
Note: Purdue was one of the Big Ten’s best defenses in 2004. It held the Hawkeyes to 45 rushing yards on 32 carries. That was one rushing yard for every Tate pass.
Why No. 53? — They’re getting good now. This probably should be higher, but where? Maybe, just maybe, I got this one right.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2004
IOWA CITY — As it turns out, the Iowa defensive linemen are a bunch of pretty nice guys.
While floating through a sea of high-fives Saturday evening, defensive end Derreck Robinson reminded one well-wisher to have fun and be careful.
Five minutes after Robinson and his pals finished smashing anything Purdue in their path, it’s hey, have fun and be careful.
The No. 20 Hawkeyes had fun during a 23-21 nail-biter Saturday over Purdue before 70,397 at Kinnick Stadium. There’s nothing careful about this team. Iowa’s defense ran up six sacks and caused five turnovers, and quarterback Drew Tate played like he was out on a ledge, dodging defenders and whirling the Hawkeyes (7-2, 5-1) to their fifth straight victory and 17th straight at Kinnick.
Sophomore kicker Kyle Schlicher booted three field goals, including two in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes blocked two Ben Jones attempts, from 32 and 27 yards. You can’t worry about careful when you’re just trying to find a way.
“We’re just going out and playing hard, fighting for everything all of the time,” said defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who led Iowa with three sacks. “To win, we have to go out and play aggressively. That’s the name of the game.”
If the Hawkeyes are going to go down, they’re going to go down swinging. Sure, the Hawkeyes are down to four running backs and Saturday lost two offensive linemen (center Mike Elgin and tackle Lee Gray) for at least half the game.
And, yeah, after the Boilermakers (5-4, 2-4) scored to pull within 17-14 with 1:41 left in the third quarter, the Hawkeyes got a bad bounce on the kick and faced first down from their 2-yard line. First down at their 2, with Purdue looking as if it wants to get back in it, without having moved the ball at all in the second half, Tate threw three straight completions to wideout Clinton Solomon.
“We’re not quitting, we’re not giving up,” said Tate, who completed 24 of 45 for 270 yards and two touchdowns. “We had a 2-2 record at one point, now we’re rolling.”
Then Tate caught himself.
“I wouldn’t say we’re rolling,” he said. “We’re winning. We’re finding ways to win.”
The Hawkeyes burst for 17 points in the first quarter and took a 17-7 halftime lead. But the Boilers caught their breath and put the clamps on. In three third-quarter drives, the Hawkeyes ran 16 plays for 30 yards.
After Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch hit wideout Kyle Ingraham for a 22-yard score to pull the Boilers within 17-14, the ensuing kick bounced down the Iowa sideline and somehow stayed in bounds. With Purdue’s kick team rushing down, freshman running back Damian Sims had no choice but to jump on the ball at Iowa’s 2.
It’s so not about careful anymore. Third-and-16 at Iowa’s 35, Purdue cornerback Antwaun Rogers blitzed and had Tate dead to rights. But Tate spun, scrambled and lofted a perfect pass to tight end Scott Chandler for a 46-yard gain.
“Drew put the pass right out there and laid it on my hands,” said Chandler, who had a career day with four catches for 122 yards. “I just wish I could get a little faster and run it into the end zone for him.”
The drive stalled at Purdue’s 4, but Schlicher hit a 22-yard field goal and the Hawkeyes had points after marching 94 yards on 12 plays, their longest drive this season.
“I thought that was as big a sequence as there was in the game,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Purdue blitzed Tate a huge percentage in the second half. Tate mesmerized the crowd and the ESPN national audience with his escape-ability.
“When I first met Drew, he said I was lucky he didn’t have speed or he’d be out there at wideout,” said receiver Clinton Solomon, who led Iowa with eight catches for 76 yards. “He’s got great hands, great moves.”
Tate did catch a pass, from Sims, for an 8-yard gain, helping set up his 2-yard TD pass to tight end Tony Jackson that gave Iowa its 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Where Tate escaped, Kirsch was mauled. Iowa’s front four — Babineaux, Robinson, Matt Roth and Tyler Luebke — overran Purdue’s offensive line, accounting for all six sacks.
Kirsch subbed for Altoona native Kyle Orton, who sat out with injured hips. Pressure keyed two major fourth-quarter turnovers. Roth bore down when Kirsch was picked off by cornerback Antwan Allen, setting up Schlicher’s 26-yarder with 6:03 left and giving the Hawkeyes a 23-14 lead.
Babineaux and Robinson chased Kirsch to the sideline when linebacker George Lewis picked him off. Iowa scored 13 points off Purdue turnovers.
“If you turn the ball over, I don’t care who you are, you’re going to have a tough time winning the game,” Purdue Coach Joe Tiller said. “We made some rookie mistakes and sort of dug a hole for ourselves.”
Flip that around for Iowa. While losing key offensive players to injury during the Big Ten run, the Hawks have called on plenty of rookies.
“I don’t know about magic, maybe the word `chemistry,’ I’m not sure what it is,” Ferentz said. “But we’re kind of a corny team if you look at it. We’re getting contributions from a lot of guys in a lot of different spots.
“It’s the only chance we’ve got.”
It’s totally corny, but it might be time to say something magical is going on here.
Blocked kicks sidebar from 2004
The Hawkeyes blocked two Ben Jones field goals in this one. In a two-point game, it’s obvious those were major, super-mega plays. But they were also two gimmes for Jones, a preseason all-American with his own website, www.jones-for-3.com. Iowa’s special teams had a website-type day.
Strong safety Marcus Paschal blocked a 32-yard attempt in the first quarter. In the third quarter, Jones had a 27-yarder in front of him, but free safety Sean Considine broke through and got his right hand on it.
“It’s part of our daily procedure, to work on blocking field goals and getting them off,” Ferentz said. “To answer your question, about three minutes a day. It’s every day, but it’s about three minutes.”
Iowa has blocked four kicks this year, two punts and the two field goals in this one.
Iowa kicker Kyle Schlicher doesn’t have a website. His name rhymes with “kicker,” so he has that. Maybe after this one he got a website now. The sophomore from Ankeny made 3 of 6 field goals to provide Iowa with its winning points. He made field goals of 34, 22 and 26. Kickers are perfectionists, so Schlicher is kicking himself for the three misses.
But his first field goal in this one did give him a streak of eight straight before he knocked a 47-yard attempt in the third quarter off the right upright.
“The misses just aren’t my style, missing three field goals just isn’t my style,” said Schlicher, who accounted for 10 points against the Boilermakers. “In a way, maybe it’s a good thing. You make a field goal, you don’t go back and look at it. The ones you miss, you go back and really analyze and break it down.”
Iowa’s special teams delivered the game’s first turnover. Freshman defensive back Charles Godfrey recovered Dorien Bryant’s muffed punt to give the Hawkeyes a first down at Purdue’s 18 with 6:21 left in the first quarter. Schlicher finished the drive with a 34-yarder, giving Iowa a 10-0 lead.
“You could get the feeling early on that this was going to be one of those games where one little play would be huge,” said Schlicher, who’s 9 of 9 from 20-39 yards. “That’s one of the things about special teams, you don’t know at the time how big the play is.”
Schlicher had a 31-yarder blocked by defensive tackle Brent Grover with 1:40 left. Kyle Smith recovered and returned the ball to Iowa’s 42. The Boilers eventually scored to pull within 23-21. Then Jones tried an onside kick, but Iowa receiver Ed Hinkel cradled the ball and collapsed with 24 seconds left.
Hinkel’s play sealed the victory. Or was it Paschal’s block? Or Considine’s? Or Schlicher’s kicks?
“I can’t say that all of a sudden our special teams have disintegrated,” Purdue Coach Joe Tiller said, “I just don’t believe that.”
Between the blocked kicks and the onsides failure, it was a long day for www.jones-for-3.com. Blocks aren’t the kind of hits you’re looking for on your website.