Three cool things:
1. There’s a line from Bill Murray in the movie “Tootsie” — shaddup, I’m old — that covers this game perfectly.
Dustin Hoffman has just revealed on air that the woman he played on the soap opera about the hospital was actually him. You know, a dude.
Murray played Hoffman’s roommate. He sees the reveal and simply reacts with a perfectly deadpanned line that conjures every bit of what makes Bill Murray Bill Murray.
“That ... is one nutty hospital.”
This was one nutty game.
First things first, this is my first and maybe best chance to rerun some Albert Young stuff. In my head, like after the first day I met him, my nickname for Albert was “Prince of the City.” He had that air.
(Feature story below)
2. This game ended in nutty fashion.
In overtime, the tackle that ends the game is a big deal. Louis Trinca-Pasat got one on Kain Colter to end an overtime game vs. Northwestern in 2013.
Meet Drew Gardner.
Gardner was a walk-on junior from West High School in Cherry Hill, N.J., via Widener University. Widener University is a Division III school in Wilmington, Del.
Gardner was a third-stringer who was elevated by two injuries.
The Spartans faced a fourth-and-13 and a 34-27 deficit in the second overtime. Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw to wide receiver Devin Thomas.
People, that’s future NFL to future NFL.
Thomas looked upfield and found Gardner at his legs. Gardner hung on, and the Hawkeyes had their fourth victory of the season.
“I just wanted to make a play and help out any way I could,” said Gardner, whose meaningful minutes as an Iowa football player were spent on special teams until late in the fourth quarter here.
Senior cornerback Adam Shada hurt an ankle and left the game in the first quarter. Junior cornerback Bradley Fletcher stepped in but had to leave late in the fourth quarter with leg cramps.
Senior defensive end Bryan Mattison knew who Gardner was. He had a locker next to him.
“He stepped up today,” Mattison said. “He made the game-winning tackle. He held him up long enough. He’s worked hard since he’s gotten here. I’m proud of him.”
OK, Mattison knew Gardner. How about you, Kirk Ferentz? How did Gardner end up in Iowa City?
“I never asked, maybe I should’ve,” Ferentz admitted. “He popped up on our team one day and I’m glad he’s here. He’s been a great guy to have on our football team.”
The game-winner was Gardner’s only tackle of the day, just his second that season and the sixth of his career.
“I kind of figured they were going to try to come my way, just because I’m a new face in the crowd out there,” Gardner said. “I was just trying to sink and make a play, don’t let them get a first down.”
I’d like to think this is why we keep coming back with eager expectations for college football.
3. I’m marking this one down as “KF’s passion play.”
You don’t find Ferentz hitting a disingenuous note often. It’s year 20 in the Big Ten. He doesn’t have to mess around with “ploys.”
He never admitted it, but I think he ployed here.
In the first quarter, MSU had 173 yards of offense. The Hawkeyes had minus-1. MSU had 24 plays to six for Iowa.
Going into halftime, Ferentz roasted referee Dave Witvoet, arguing for an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty that wasn’t called. Ferentz didn’t drop it.
My theory was that Ferentz could sense Kinnick was going to bite down on the Hawkeyes and rain boos on the home team. So, he went nuts and got the crowd off his team and onto the referees.
It worked. Kinnick chilled. Iowa, somehow, got it together in the second half.
Quote: “They (the Hawkeyes) have toughness, they have pride. Their players just kept hanging around. And if you hang around, keep fighting, good things are going to happen. And that’s what happened to Iowa.” — MSU coach Mark Dantonio
Note: Ferentz is 4-5 against Dantonio. In five of the games between the two, the winner failed to break out of the teens in points.
Average score when Iowa wins is 26.25-15.5. When MSU wins, it’s 22.4-14.2.
If you enjoy the blocking and tackling, this game is for you. If you like jetpacks, it’s not.
Why No. 67? — Nutty game but I think Twitter friend @HawkinIL kind of nailed it with this tweet: “Worst Big Ten Network classic game ever.”
It was the forgotten 2007 season and that just won’t come off.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2007
IOWA CITY — Albert Young walked out of the locker room, cellphone to ear. He made a quick spin move and wanted to know if one of his eyes was bigger than the other.
He took a face plant on his last carry, going helmet first into the Kinnick Stadium turf under the weight of three Michigan State tacklers. He was stopped 1 yard short of the end zone and a lead in the second overtime.
One of his eyes was slightly bigger than the other. One of his eyes could’ve popped out, and Young probably wouldn’t have felt a thing Saturday afternoon.
Young rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ 34-27 double-overtime victory over Michigan State before a crowd of 70,585.
On fourth-and-13, convert or shove off for East Lansing, walk-on cornerback Drew Gardner, a third-stringer playing only because of two injuries, tackled Michigan State’s Devin Thomas short of the first down.
Fans stormed the field. Players got the customary Kinnick conga line of backslaps. ESPN’s postgame interviews were plundered.
“How does it look?” Young said, opening his eyes wide. “Is one bigger than the other?”
A slightly swollen left eye was the only blemish that stuck on the Hawkeyes (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten), who were an eyesore for two quarters Saturday.
In the first half, the Michigan State Spartans (5-4, 1-4) were preparing their victory speech. At the end of the first quarter, MSU had 173 yards of offense. The Hawkeyes had minus-1.
MSU had 24 plays to six for Iowa.
MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer had eight completions, more than Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen would have the entire game.
But the Spartans had only a 7-0 lead. Key stat, the scoreboard.
Going into halftime, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz roasted referee Dave Witvoet, arguing for an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty that wasn’t called. It wasn’t a warm-up for a halftime tongue-lashing directed toward his team, which trailed 17-3 at half.
No yelling, Ferentz claimed. No broken clipboards. No steam shooting out of his ears.
“You guys would be disappointed,” he said. “The paint didn’t come off the walls. I just said, `Gosh, gee, fellas.’”
Gosh. Gee. Wow.
This game went through an Extreme Makeover, football edition, in the second half.
An ugly Iowa turned to its handsome leading man, who, with a little ice, will be the same pretty face today as he was Saturday.
A quick three-and-out and a 15-yard late-hit penalty gave the Hawkeyes first down at MSU’s 30. Young cruised around right tackle, ran behind a brilliant block by wideout James Cleveland and scored from 26 yards, pulling Iowa within 17-10 with 10:07 left in the third quarter.
The next drive was this: pass to Cleveland for 10, Young for 5, Young for 6, Young for 5, Young for 15, Jevon Pugh for 2, Young for 29 and then Young for 3 and a 17-17 tie with 3:57 left.
Young rushed six times for 63 yards. Starting with Christensen and an offensive line that treats pass blocking like square dancing, the Hawkeyes were officially on Young’s back.
He rushed 26 times for 143 yards in the second half.
“You can’t really describe it, he just played his butt off,” Christensen said. “He put us on his back today. He’s our leader. He’s obviously the most experienced guy and it showed out there today.”
After the first half that Christensen and the passing game put up, Iowa had nowhere to go but the ground game. And with senior running back Damian Sims sidelined with a sprained foot, Iowa had nowhere to go but Young.
“Yeah, and I think that’s not asking too much out of the seniors,” said Young, who broke 100 yards for the first time since going for 144 in the season opener. “They pretty much told (fullback) Tommy (Busch) and myself we’re going to pound it at them. We definitely embraced that. The line set the tempo.”
Michigan State won this game everywhere but the scoreboard. The Spartans ran 96 plays to 59 for Iowa. The Spartans had 468 yards of offense to Iowa’s 283. MSU had a nearly 13-minute edge in time of possession (36:26 to 23:34).
All of that is statistical confetti today.
“They (the Hawkeyes) have toughness, they have pride,” MSU Coach Mark Dantonio said. “Their players just kept hanging around. And if you hang around, keep fighting, good things are going to happen. And that’s what happened to Iowa.”
The Spartans tied the game at 20-20 with Brett Swenson’s field goal with 4 seconds left in the game. They took a 27-20 lead on their first possession in overtime, with Jehuu Caulcrick crashing in from 3 yards.
Christensen then blew off one of the most forgettable days an Iowa quarterback has ever had and lasered a 23-yard TD pass to freshman receiver Paul Chaney. It was second-and-20 and it was out of nowhere.
“We never lose confidence,” said Christensen, who finished 5 of 15 for 53 yards and one TD. “It’s hard to do, once in a while. Human nature is to get down on yourself and get down on the offense and things.”
Iowa’s defense rotated personnel like a hockey team changes lines. The Hawkeyes set up MSU’s fourth-and-13 after backup defensive end Adrian Clayborn and backup linebacker Bryon Gattas sacked Hoyer for a 7-yard loss on third down.
Then comes this guy Drew Gardner. Walk-on, third stringer. He’s 5-foot-10, 178 pounds. He tackled Thomas, a 6-2, 218-pounder with all-Big Ten all but written on the back of his jersey.
“I was hanging on for dear life,” Gardner said.
Hanging on for dear life. That’s what you’ll find on the backs of Iowa jerseys.
Albert Young feature from 2007
Right on track
MOORESTOWN, N.J. — The kitchen holds Albert Young, Uncle LeRoy and a Passariello’s giant cheesesteak sub sandwich, fresh from the microwave, full of beef and smelling like food heaven.
The living room is alive with Aunt Dee and Aunt Shirley and a few cousins sitting at a dining table just outside the kitchen. Marjorie Young, Albert’s sister, is on one couch. An American flag, in the official fold, sits at the top of the couch, encased in glass.
Saturday is family day for the Youngs. That means a packed house at 47 Beech Street, Apt. 1.
That means chatting and updating. There’s an ease, a comfort level that only family members can understand.
“This is my stalker crew,” joked Albert, a star running back at the University of Iowa.
“Our family is really close,” said Darlene Young, Albert’s mom. “It’s not just football season, it’s every Saturday. We take turns going to different houses. We make Saturday our day.”
An entertainment center, with figurines and a Philadelphia Eagles bobblehead, has a good-sized TV with ESPN turned down. The lights are low. The day outside is leaning toward 100 degrees and Albert wants the lights dimmed to help keep things cool.
Probably a good call.
Darlene Young sits on the other couch. She sorts through old pictures of Albert. The wall next to the TV holds plaques, pictures and articles.
“I knew when he was young,” Darlene said. “He always had a football in his hand. It got into him and never got out.”
Albert Young was the tallest Moorestown Phillie. He was the fastest and strongest Moorestown Quaker. He was the Moorestown Weightlifting Club’s most diligent employee and patron.
He’s also his family’s best shot at the other side of the tracks.
Right on cue, there are train tracks, maybe a block up from Beech Street. The tracks are a prop here.
The socioeconomics of Moorestown, N.J., population 20,400, tell it better than the “tracks” cliche. Moorestown has money. The typical single-family home costs $375,000.
According to Money Magazine, which placed Moorestown No. 1 on its list of “best places to live” in 2005, home prices are up about 50 percent in the past five years. A four-bedroom home within walking distance of town goes for $400,000 to $500,000, which, compared to other northeastern suburbs, is a bargain.
Moorestown, situated 30 minutes from the Philadelphia International Airport, is home to several professional athletes. Former Eagle Terrell Owens once lived here. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb lives here. Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse lives here, as do several Philadelphia Flyers.
There are developments professional athletes can’t afford, we’re talking elite, elite Hedge Fund types. The main street is actually called Main Street, a blend of colonial-Americana and Starbucks.
With no major road trucking through, urban sprawl stops at the city limits.
Lockheed Martin’s radar-systems division is based here. Computer Science Corp. and PNC Bank are major local employers. There’s a Peter Pan Bakery. All the streets are lined with huge, amazing oak trees.
“It’s a nice, friendly town,” Darlene Young said. “Down to earth. Quiet town. Coming up, everybody knew everybody. Now it’s different. It’s grown a lot. It’s a nice town. School-wise. It has beautiful homes.”
A trip to the Jersey Shore, which is front and center on 21-year-old Albert’s mind this gorgeous late July Saturday, takes less than an hour.
Driving into town off I-95, the “Moorestown” water tower catches the eye. A stand selling corn on the cob sits at an intersection.
“There really doesn’t seem to be (a big economic divide),” Albert said. “I guess from here to Church Street, it’s different. There’s no like poor section. But there’s the `really well off’ on one side, probably like a lot of towns anywhere.”
For 16 years, the Youngs — Darlene, Albert and Marjorie, 19 — lived two doors down in Apt. 3 at 47 Beech Street.
Albert had a room there. He doesn’t in Apt. 1, a two-bedroom. They make room when he’s home. Four two-story apartments share about a 10-yard porch. It’s basically one big building with beige vinyl siding and a nice-sized courtyard.
The Beech Street apartment became home. Darlene Young waited nearly a year on the Section 8 housing list. Albert was 5 and Marjorie 3 when they moved in.
Albert is the first to bring up the obvious parallel between Section 8 housing and Iowa football. In 2003, Iowa football players living in Pheasant Ridge Apartments, a Section 8 complex in Iowa City, were at the vortex of a political maelstrom.
President Bush recently signed legislation to end the practice of college athletes living in federally subsidized housing while receiving scholarships and stipends that make their income too high to qualify for subsidized housing.
Some families eligible for Section 8 pay a reasonable amount of rent, a percentage of their income. Darlene Young worked as a processor at Goodwill in Moorestown for years. She’s on disability now. She has problems with her feet and needs to have both knees replaced.
“We’ve been up here a long, long time,” she said.
Woe doesn’t live at 47 Beech Street, Apt. 1. Envy doesn’t live here, either. You can’t fake the laughter and love of family day Saturday.
The motivation for a better life is here. It burns in Albert Young. In a town of haves, he lived the life of “have enough.”
“Can’t be blind to it,” said Young, who, after losing 2004 to injury and ‘03 to an injury and redshirt, burst on the Big Ten with 1,334 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
“If you aspire to get a Division I scholarship, which a lot of guys do, the next thing that goes along with that is making it to the next level and making a nice living for yourself,” Young said. “It becomes a problem when guys let that become their first objective. When you’re in college, you’re here for an education, to learn about life and how to live. But you can’t be blind to the fact.
“You look right here and then you see all the big houses on the other side of town, you want to be on the other side of town. It’s as simple as that.”
Football is one way to cross the tracks.
Albert Young was going to play his freshman year at Iowa in 2003. He broke a leg in camp. When he returned to practice, he decided to take a redshirt year. In 2004, Young tore an ACL in the second game against Iowa State. His season was over.
The broken leg wasn’t a season-ender. Obviously, the ACL was.
“I’d like to thank the Iowa coaches out there for not giving up on him,” Darlene said. “It’s been God’s gift for him to be able to come back like that. That’s the Lord right there. He bounced back. He’s a fighter.”
Before his first game last season, he had 27 carries for 92 yards in two seasons at Iowa. The Ball State game, Iowa’s season opener, was a personal Super Bowl. He had his legs. He was the starting running back.
Before Ball State week, Young got a call from home. It wasn’t one of those late-night calls. It was one you just knew wasn’t good. His dad, Carson Miller, had died of a massive heart attack at age 51.
“I was probably trying to be around the team more than the coaches would let me,” Young said. “They’re like, ‘Just take your time, come back when you need to.’
“I practiced the day I left for like an hour. It wasn’t necessary. The coaches didn’t make me, but it was something I wanted to do. (Iowa) Coach (Kirk) Ferentz, he was, whatever you want to do, the team is cool. The flight was paid for. They sent flowers. They showed support.”
It was a bitter, stinging moment in Albert Young’s life. He loved his dad, of course. But they weren’t close. His death brought the empty feeling of lost opportunity.
“He was around, but not like he should’ve been,” Young said. “It was more of a love-hate thing. I loved my dad, we know that, but he should’ve been around more.
“But we did fine. My mom did fine raising my sister and me. It’s just more missed opportunities, that’s what it is. That’s what really hits you the most. You don’t realize how close you should’ve been. All the opportunities you missed out on. But just being stubborn and everything, myself, I was like, ‘Hey, you weren’t around,’ so block him out. And then when he’s gone, you go on a guilt trip for a while.
“You beat yourself up. You wish you wouldn’t have been so hardheaded about things.”
Young didn’t start against Ball State. He played, and he scored. Every game last season he wrote “RIP, dad” on his cleats.
During his freshman year at Moorestown High School, Ryan Ricketts took the star athlete home. The star athlete met Ryan’s dad, Mike Ricketts. Mike Ricketts played football at the University of Florida from 1979 to ‘81. He was a star athlete. He became a successful businessman in Moorestown, owning a pharmaceutical packaging company. He could relate to the star athlete.
He knew what it was like to have everyone wanting a piece of you. His first conversations with Albert Young were about grades, not touchdowns.
“First question I asked him was, how are your grades?” Ricketts said. “I don’t think anyone ever pushed him on that. That was our initial bond. After that we started talking about life, what it takes to succeed.”
Young calls Ricketts his mentor and father figure. Ricketts is interested in Albert Young the person, not Albert Young the running back.
“I told him, ‘I don’t care if you make it in football. You’ve got to get a degree. I don’t care if your degree is in tiddlywinks, you’ve got to get a degree.’” In Iowa’s two Outback Bowls against Florida, the former Florida Gator has worn a black (Iowa) and orange (Florida) hat.
Ricketts allows Young to use his Lincoln Navigator when he’s in Moorestown. The Youngs don’t own a car.
Mike Ricketts lives on the other side of the tracks in Moorestown. He wanted to make sure Young got exposed to that side. He wanted to make sure Young took something away from it.
“All these houses he was in, all these families he met, he wasn’t envious,” Ricketts said. “Kids don’t know how you get there. I told him, ‘You’re hanging around these wealthy kids, start talking to their parents. Ask them how they got there. How hard they work. What they do.’ And he started doing that.
“That’s when his eyes opened up. He’s not envious. It’s not about things. He wants success.”
The NFL and its riches are a touchy thing. Iowa coaches acknowledge it can be a motivator. But they’re also quick to note the fleeting nature of such dreams.
“Quite frankly, we want to recruit guys who want to play in the NFL because they’re going to be motivated to work hard,” Ferentz said. “But it’s that perspective part of it. It’s our job as adults to remind players that it’s a pipe dream.”
Ferentz isn’t the only Iowa coach with ties to the NFL. Running backs coach Carl Jackson was the San Francisco 49ers running backs coach from 1992 to ‘96. He thinks the NFL dream is healthy, as long as the player is grounded. He says Young has the tools to make the league, but adds they’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
“I think different players are motivated by different things,” Jackson said. “Albert will tell you, he grew up in Moorestown, but he grew up on the other side of the tracks. I think that’s good. We want them to be motivated by that.
“At the same time, we constantly remind them that they’re one knee injury away from being a normal person.”
The average NFL career is in the range of 3 1/2 years.
“I tell them there are only a few 40-year-old football players,” Jackson said. “That means you have the rest of your life to live. If you’re lucky enough to play in the league and have a five- or 10-year career, that’s a means to get you started in life.”
Then, there’s the making it. About 15,000 players are eligible for the NFL draft each year. Three hundred thirty-six are drafted and about 160 actually make a final roster.
“You don’t want to dampen anyone’s dream, but you really have to look at the pyramid,” Ferentz said. “It’s really a tough funnel. Realistically, it’s not really a good place to bank all your effort.
“The education is what’s going to be there when you’re 35. And you may never use your education, but if you have a chance to get one, it’s silly not to get it.”
Degree talk leads to a humorous discussion during the Youngs’ family Saturday. When Albert graduates in May with a degree in health and sports studies, he won’t be the first Young with a college degree.
Five minutes of talk brings up a ton of aunts, uncles and cousins.
“OK, I might be one of the first ones to finish,” Albert joked.
There’s a lot of Moorestown in Albert Young. When mom worked at Goodwill, the kids played basketball at the rec center. As Albert got a little older, he went from the rec center to the Moorestown Weightlifting Club.
The building is an old school. The club is in the basement. The brick walls are painted white. The place smells like sweat, but it’s neat and well organized.
Weights of all kinds line the room in rows. Machines and racks dot the outside. Albert had a job here in high school. He drove a van back and forth from the high school and dropped off kids at home.
“This is where I got an edge on everybody,” he said. “When I was young, I was a lot stronger than everybody else.
“But it was just a grind. Nothing was fun about it.”
There was one particular session in eighth grade. The young bucks were losing to a 100-pound dead lift. Albert had it.
“My son was 5 then,” said Joe Delago, who runs the gym. “He watched and wanted to jump in. Albert took him aside and showed him the technique and coached him up. Pretty soon, Danny was doing it. That got the rest of the eighth-graders going.”
Russ Horton, his coach at Moorestown High School, has known Young since he was a third-grader in gym class. He watched Young progress through the Pop Warner ranks in south Jersey. As a sixth-grader playing 105-pound midget football, Young led his team to a 12-0 record, scoring all but one of the touchdowns.
“Even going back to third grade and elementary school, you could tell he’s just had that ability,” Horton said. “He’s always been built like a running back. His work ethic was always geared toward being a running back. He’s really born to be a running back.”
Young was New Jersey’s offensive player of the year his senior year. He was the first running back in south Jersey to rush for more than 2,000 yards in two seasons.
It’s more than just the skills, though, Horton said. Horton never needed to line up his sixth-grade 105-pounders for stretches and warm-ups. Young organized and ran the pre-practice.
But there’s also the story about the time Young didn’t clean his room in the fourth grade. Darlene made him sit out the entire season. No one can remember why.
“I didn’t play one year because she thought I was bad. One whole year,” Albert said. “Yeah, lesson learned. Me and Marjorie were probably arguing too much and fighting.”
Darlene couldn’t remember for sure.
“What’d he do, Marjie? You remember?” she asked. “There was one year they kept calling me at work.
“He did this, she did this. She was mean to me. He was mean to me. Mom, he’s messing with me. Now they miss each other and everything goes fine. She waits for him to come through the door.”
In an interview a few years ago, Horton said, “People who didn’t know him as a football player knew him as a nice kid. Everyone in town knows him. Even the people who aren’t traditional football fans know him. It’s not that big a town, everybody recognizes him.
“He could run for mayor.”
“The town got behind Albert,” Delago said. “But it wasn’t because he was a star athlete. I’d like to think it was because he was such a likable person.”
Young doesn’t make it back to Moorestown as much as he used to. When he’s back, Ricketts puts him to work.
Ricketts runs some youth sports programs. He makes sure Albert is there to coach and counsel.
“He gives back,” Ricketts said. “I make sure he gives back and he doesn’t mind giving back, running the camps out there helping out and doing that kind of stuff.
“He was supported by the entire town, raised by the whole city. He had a gift for athletics, but that was just the in.”