Three cool things:
1. I’m always going to credit Group of Five programs for finding a way to wedge themselves into the conversation.
This was 2003, and the way to do that was with a Heisman Trophy website for your star quarterback. The RedHawks sports info team was all over it.
When a Group of Five program has a star, it has to maximize the attention he brings. You saw it to a lesser extent last year when Wyoming and Josh Allen made their way to Kinnick for the opener. Star QBs in G5 programs bring people to the gates, bring media attention and open recruiting doors.
A little publicity never hurt anyone. OK, maybe it did a little in this game.
Everyone saw Ben Roethlisberger coming. The Hawkeyes were ready.
Roethlisberger is a great player. Two Super Bowls with the Steelers. This was his third and final crack at the Hawkeyes.
Not much more than six months after this, Roethlisberger was drafted No. 11 overall by the Steelers. He threw 37 TD passes as a senior with just 10 interceptions.
In this game, he had no TD passes and four picks.
In 2006, Iowa suffered a shocking 31-28 loss at Indiana. It began an avalanche of L’s that doomed the season. The late Terry Hoeppner was the IU head coach. In the postgame, he took a call from Roethlisberger on the field as the game ended.
On this day in Kinnick, the call was coming from inside the house.
2. Roethlisberger ran a personal winning streak, between Miami and the Steelers, to at least 22 games. This prompted ESPN’s Kenny Mayne to do one of his tongue-in-cheek spoof-type pieces on the last team to beat Roethlisberger, the 2003 Hawkeyes.
It showed the greats of Iowa’s defense from this time in mockumentary interviews. Chad Greenway talking about watching Roethlisberger fire up his team in the pink locker room.
“We’d just gotten cable in Iowa,” Greenway said, keeping a straight face. “These were exciting times.”
Sean Considine had a fishing joke. And then there was Matt Roth.
“Two words: Iowa Hawkeye pride.”
This was made in 2004 while Roethlisberger started his career in Pittsburgh in sensational fashion and the Hawkeyes were prepping for the Capital One Bowl vs. Nick Saban and LSU.
This was fun stuff. On one hand, why isn’t there more mockumentary? On the other hand, football players acting is a risky casting choice.
3. You guys might not remember punter David Bradley. He had a rough go early in his career, but found his stride and was very effective later. In this one, he averaged 48.4 yards on five punts.
Bradley is one of a handful of Californians who’ve made their way to Iowa during Kirk Ferentz’s 20 years. Punter is a tough spot at Iowa, I think we all can agree on that. Before Bradley graduated from Torrey Pines (Calif.) High School, both of his parents, Dennis and Cheryl, had passed away.
He had a support system in his aunt and uncle and he made his way.
“We’re there, but his dad was his coach and mentor and best pal,” Jack Bradley said. “Dennis laid the foundation for him. David has always been in sports and I think he’s learned a lot about adversity through sports.
“He’s had adversity on and off the field. But he’s always been a gamer. He keeps coming back.”
He keeps coming back. Of course, Bradley fit in perfectly with the Hawkeyes.
Quote: “I was surprised we didn’t see as many blitzes as we expected, but I guess when you’re just sitting back intercepting balls, you don’t have to blitz much.” — Ben Roethlisberger
Note: This was the first time in 93 games Miami was held without a TD. This defense could do that to you.
Why No. 68? — This one probably should be a little higher. Has Iowa faced a better QB in the Ferentz era?
OK, maybe Carson Palmer in the Orange Bowl.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2003
IOWA CITY — Any conclusion worth having is worth jumping to.
Iowa just might have a quarterback. Iowa definitely has a defense. Iowa takes special teams as seriously as any team in the country.
Iowa has Fred Russell and Mo Brown. Iowa has Matt Roth and Howard Hodges. Iowa has kicker Nate Kaeding and punter David Bradley.
Iowa had all of the above and more in Saturday’s 21-3 victory over Miami (Ohio).
Senior Nathan Chandler played a smart and efficient quarterback, completing 12 of 19 for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and Iowa’s defense rolled up four sacks and four interceptions before 54,128 fans at Kinnick Stadium.
“This is a game I was really concerned about,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re extremely, extremely pleased with the outcome of the game.”
Back to the conclusions.
Chandler will have that third-quarter fumble inside Miami’s 10-yard line burning a hole in his head, but he can also look back on what was mostly a mistake-free first start. He threw no interceptions, which can’t be said for his counterpart, Miami QB Ben Roethlisberger, who trampled a modest Heisman Trophy campaign with four picks.
After a three-and-out on Iowa’s first series, Chandler completed his first eight passes and followed the dud first series with a 6-for-6 during an 80-yard TD drive, capped by his 7-yard pass to fullback Aaron Mickens.
“I was impressed with the way Nathan got into the flow,” wideout Ed Hinkel said. “He seemed to get better and better from the first quarter through the fourth.”
Chandler had the cushion of running back Fred Russell’s 167 yards on 22 carries and wide receiver Mo Brown’s seven catches for 78 yards, including a 28-yard TD that gave Iowa a 21-3 lead with 10:43 left.
“Overall, he made some good decisions,” Ferentz said. “He got rid of the ball when he had to. He didn’t hurt us that way. At times, I thought he looked pretty good and, at times, I thought he looked like a first-time player.”
Chandler didn’t force any issues and took few, if any, low-percentage chances.
He stuck to Iowa’s offense, a cautious and conservative mix Saturday and didn’t try to play outside of himself. The same can’t be said for Roethlisberger, who had a career-high four interceptions and didn’t throw a TD pass for just the third time in 25 starts.
“I was surprised we didn’t see as many blitzes as we expected,” said Roethlisberger, who led a Miami offense that didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since November 1993, a 21-0 loss to Ball State — a 93-game stretch. “But I guess when you’re just sitting back intercepting balls, you don’t have to blitz much.”
Chandler’s toughest spot Saturday was greeting the bright lights during postgame interviews.
“This is the easy part,” said Chandler, grinning and sweating through 20-some minutes of interviews. “I think we’re all encouraged and excited. We need to keep this going next week.”
Chandler followed the game plan through the postgame, deflecting praise, hating and mentioning that fumble again and again. If Ferentz and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe have a game plan for Sunday breakfast, rest assured Chandler is on it.
“We played all right,” Chandler said. “We have some things to work on. It’s exciting to win here in Kinnick in front of the fans. We just have to keep rolling.”
For those of you keeping score — and isn’t that what this is all about? — Roethlisberger was the quarterback with the Heisman campaign, fueled by the website, www.WhereHaveYouBen.com.
While no one on Iowa’s defense admitted to clicking on the website, the Hawkeyes (1-0) did plenty of clicking and delivered plenty of hits to the real-life Roethlisberger.
“Sure, we knew about the Heisman thing, but I wouldn’t say it’s a motivation,” said junior free safety Sean Considine, who picked off a pass and had eight tackles. “It’s something that’s definitely in the back of your mind, though.”
Roth had two sacks. Sophomore cornerback Jovon Johnson had two interceptions.
Johnson’s first pick came 23 seconds before halftime, setting up Russell’s 1-yard TD for a 14-3 halftime advantage. With defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux wrapped around his ankles in his end zone, Roethlisberger threw up a cotton ball Johnson gathered on the far sideline and returned to Miami’s 1.
With less than 30 seconds left before half and from their own 6, the RedHawks (0-1) lined up in the shotgun and shot themselves in the foot.
“That’s on me,” said Miami Coach Terry Hoeppner, whose team finished a three-game set with Iowa 0-3. “I made the call to throw it out of the end zone. I didn’t want to give them field position. We didn’t want to give them the ball with (all-Big Ten kicker) Kaeding.”
Iowa’s defense rotated personnel like Jeff Gordon rotates tires.
The Hawkeyes held Miami to 54 yards on 29 carries, a 1.9 average, while rushing for 232 yards on 40 carries.
Whether it was a 4-3 or 3-4, or whether it was a nickel or a dime, the Hawkeyes had Roethlisberger curling into the fetal position all day.
“He went against a great defense (Saturday), and I know how that feels,” Chandler said. “I went against them in camp.”
Iowa definitely has a defense. That is a foregone conclusion.