Three cool things:
1. Here we are. This probably is No. 1 for more than a few of you.
Let’s walk through Warren Holloway’s immediate steps after he scored the first TD of his career ... on a 56-yard bomb ... with no time on the clock ... to beat LSU ... in the Capital One Bowl (now the Citrus).
One of the first things Holloway said was he doesn’t drink. Probably a good thing for a guy who has a ticket to free beer forever in Iowa City. Or a bad thing. Point of view matters.
“I like Sprite or something,” Holloway said.
Holloway as a Hawkeye was a gregarious senior from Homewood, Ill., an economics major and, in ’04, fifth-year senior workaholic plugger. Wherever he goes, he’ll forever be known as the guy who won the Capital One Bowl.
2004 was a banner season for Holloway, a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder. Going into the Capital One Bowl, he had 25 receptions for 211 yards. Coming into 2004, he had a grand total of four career receptions.
In the bowl game, he scored his first career TD on the last play of the game, the last play of the season and the last play of his career.
“He epitomizes what this program is all about,” then-Iowa receivers coach Lester Erb said. “He’s a hardworking guy, and he’s as tough as they come. He waited for his chance, his opportunity, and when it came he made the most of it.
“There’s probably not a guy more deserving of what he’s going to enjoy over the next couple days.”
Holloway waited and waited and waited for this. He bided his time as a reserve and special teams player.
“You work hard and you don’t quite reach a goal, that was frustrating,” Holloway said. “I never thought about leaving, though. I knew I was on a great team and in a great program. Running away wasn’t going to solve anything.”
Way back in March ’04, after the spring game, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said his receivers were “underwhelming.”
Think this group took that to heart? In the bowl game, Iowa’s receivers caught 18 passes for 246 yards and two TDs.
Holloway could never have been called “underwhelming” during his career. You just didn’t see him that much.
Just when he put himself in position to make a move on the depth chart, he’d get burned by an injury, as he did in camp the fall of 2004.
Even when he made it that year, his assignments were the grunt routes, short and quick. He didn’t get the big, sexy post patterns that pointed to the end zone. He didn’t get the wide receiver screens, a staple in the Iowa offense.
“I’ve been around Warren for four years now, and he’s one of the hardest-working kids you’re ever going to meet,” wide receiver Ed Hinkel said. “He’s the last one off the field in practice every day. He’s persevered for five years now. First touchdown, last game, it’s great to see that.”
Holloway is another one of those Iowa kids who stuck it out, sweating through scout team, working into special teams and finally seeing the light of day.
“The hard work he put in never went unnoticed,” Erb said. “We always knew what we had in Warren. We always liked what we saw. This is his year.”
It took five years for his first TD. Five years of grinding and hoping. Five years of relative anonymity.
“Yeah, I think this will round out my football experience,” Holloway said.
It took five years. The smile on his face that day probably hasn’t faded.
2. The principal’s office. Matt Roth had to go there during this deal. Well, not really, but it probably felt a little like a trip to the principal’s office. (I know those all too well. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped.)
On the day before the game, Roth issued a written apology for a gesture he made during the Hawkeye Huddle the previous night.
If you can’t flip the bird among friends, where can you flip it?
Roth, an emotional, charismatic personality, said, “I’ve got two words for LSU” when he addressed the crowd during the Hawkeye Huddle and then flipped both middle fingers into the air.
The crowd of between 10,000 and 15,000 went nuts. Iowa officials weren’t smiling, however. Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby and UI President David Skorton were not amused. Ferentz had dinner with his wife, Mary, that Thursday night and didn’t attend the event.
He dismissed it as a “spontaneous thing.”
“I don’t think it’s a crisis situation,” Ferentz said. “Matt regrets it and I think it’s time to move on.”
(Ferentz is good at putting the first coat of paint on something we all know is a whoopee cushion, but still treat with the importance of ... I don’t know, the Magna Carta. In this case, he nailed it.)
Roth didn’t face any punishment. Ferentz saw another opening.
“I’m not considering capital punishment at this time,” Ferentz joked. “But again, I don’t condone it and I don’t think anybody associated with the program does. I’m sure if he had to do it over again he would rethink it. He didn’t mean to offend anybody. That was hardly his intent.
“He’s a throwback, you know. (Former Baltimore Colts loquacious defensive tackle) Artie Donovan would’ve been proud of him.”
So would Conrad Dobler. So would’ve Ray Nitschke.
Roth’s statement, issued through the UI sports information department, said, “In speaking to the crowd at yesterday’s Hawkeye Huddle, I said and did some things that may have been offensive to some. For that I am truly sorry and offer my sincerest apologies.”
During Iowa’s walk-through at the Friday before the game, Roth respectfully walked around the LSU-painted end zone.
3. I think in the years since Iowa’s special teams were amazing at blocking kicks, it’s just gotten a heck of a lot harder to block kicks.
Punters are now treating the ball like lava and are getting it into the air ASAP. It’s kind of like sacks. Short drops have made those extremely hard to get.
But, as football observers, let’s salute just how damn good the 2004 Hawkeyes were at special teams mayhem.
They blocked two punts in this one, turning one into Sean Considine’s 7-yard TD return. You can’t get more clutch than blocking a punt in a bowl game.
“It seems like every time we play in a bowl game we’re the underdog,” Ferentz said of the block. “For us to have a chance, I think we all understand that we have to do everything perfect to even be there at the end.
“We feel like we have to (win special teams) every game. We have to pay attention to it or we open ourselves up to some real problems.”
Against LSU, Iowa assistants scouted that star LSU defensive end Marcus Spears took his duty on the punt team lightly, and flooded rushers his way. The blocked punts were overshadowed in a game decided on a last-second TD pass, but they certainly were reflected in the final score, 30-25.
Considine blocked five kicks in his Iowa career. I find that as miraculous as Holloway’s catch.
Quote: “Do we have to, the last series? How ‘bout we fast forward to that last play?” — Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
He kind of wasn’t kidding. I did kind of hector with the timeouts. I thought Iowa fans needed to know why their team dangled from the cliff for those few seconds. But, no, it was worth a question or maybe two and then it was on to the good stuff.
Note: I’m really glad Nick Saban found a home at Alabama. I was getting worried about him.
Why No. 7? — Yeah, I know. Send the emails.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2005
ORLANDO, Fla. — They wanted three points. They got a miracle.
They called “all up.” They got ESPN Classic. They snapped the ball with seven seconds left. They got a play that will go down as one of the greatest in Iowa history.
Not bad for what essentially was a huge screw-up.
Quarterback Drew Tate hit Warren Holloway for a 56-yard touchdown as the stadium clock rolled up four zeros, and the No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes pulled out a 30-25 Capital One Bowl victory Saturday over No. 13 Louisiana State before 70,229 fans at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
“I think what they (Iowa coaches) wanted to do was get to LSU’s 30 and call timeout,” Tate said. “And fortunately, it ended with an ESPN Classic.”
No time for Gatorade baths. The entire Iowa sideline — coaches, managers, the whole mass of Hawkeyes — jumped Holloway, a fifth-year senior and yet another “Rudy” on the Iowa roster, just outside the north end zone.
Let the record show, Iowa was called for an excessive celebration penalty. And oh, by the way, that was Holloway’s first career TD.
“I was at the bottom of the pile, man,” Holloway said. “I got knocked down, I don’t know anything else after that.”
The Hawkeyes (10-3) wanted three points. They got a third straight season with 10 or more victories.
When the final Associated Press poll comes out, they’ll have their third straight top 10.
They wanted three points. They got their eighth straight victory. They got ESPN Classic.
“For this thing to end the way it did today, it’s fitting,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The resiliency these kids have shown, I can’t put it into words.”
The final scene needs some setting, or at least explanation.
LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the third quarterback LSU used, hit wideout Skyler Green for a touchdown with 46 seconds left, giving the Tigers (9-3) a 25-24 lead after a two-point conversion failed. It capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive that drained 4:20 off the clock and left Iowa with 46 seconds.
It also put Russell’s name on the Capital One MVP trophy, if only for the 46 seconds LSU had that lead.
The redshirt freshman directed two scoring drives after Iowa running back Marques Simmons scored on a 4-yard run with 12:48 left to give Iowa a 24-12 lead.
“I think the last 14 or 20 seconds of this game somewhat tarnishes the things that this football team accomplished over the last four years,” said LSU Coach Nick Saban, who’ll begin his job Tuesday as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. “We came from behind and won five times this season. I thought it would be the sixth today.”
Iowa took over at its 29. First down was an 11-yard pass to Ed Hinkel. Second down was a 9-yard pass to Holloway.
And now, this is where things started to unravel. Tate spiked the ball, thinking he stopped the clock. But the Hawkeyes were called for a false start with nine seconds left.
They went into their huddle thinking they had a dead clock. Referee Hal Dowden stuck his head in to remind them the clock was ticking. After a penalty, the clock starts after the official spots the ball.
“I blew it not taking the timeout there,” Ferentz said. “I didn’t realize after a penalty, they start the clock.”
When Tate took the snap with seven seconds left, that was it. It was over. Any Iowa play inbounds and the clock would likely have run out with the Hawkeyes the proud owners of two timeouts.
“From my point of view, I’m just wondering why we’re not calling a timeout when the clock was running,” defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. “I’m like, do we see the clock running? And they hike the ball, and I’m like, OK, this is it.”
It was it.
No need to dwell on the timeouts, right, Coach?
“Do we have to, the last series?” Ferentz said. “How ‘bout we fast forward to that last play?”
Sure, let’s get to that.
The play was “all up,” where Iowa’s four receivers run vertical routes down the field.
Tate looked off wideout Clinton Solomon, whose 57-yard TD grab gave Iowa a 7-0 lead. He looked off tight end Scott Chandler, whose two catches for 41 yards led to Kyle Schlicher’s 20-yard field goal. Tate found Holloway. LSU didn’t.
“We ran that play six times today, I think,” said Hinkel, who caught 10 for 93 yards. “That was the first time it went Warren’s way.”
The confusion at the end of the game actually worked in Iowa’s favor. Cornerback Ronnie Prude missed the defensive call. He rolled toward Chandler and left Holloway uncovered.
“Drew saw it the whole time,” said Holloway, who caught four passes for 72 yards. “He saw defense wasn’t ready. He saw a gap in the coverage. And he took advantage.”
Tate brushed off two early interceptions to complete 20 of 32 for 287 yards and two TDs. He won the game MVP award.
“We’ve got a great quarterback,” Solomon said. “Don’t ever count this kid out.”
Except for running back Alley Broussard’s 74-yard run at the end of the second quarter, Iowa’s defense held. But Iowa’s lack of a running game — the Hawkeyes gained 47 yards on 29 carries — kept the defense on the field too long.
LSU owned a 34:12 to 25:48 advantage in time of possession. The Hawkeyes held LSU to 346 yards offense, but ran out of gas late in the fourth quarter.
And LSU finally found a QB it liked. LSU senior quarterback Marcus Randall left with a rib injury after linebacker Abdul Hodge crushed him in the second quarter. Randall left the game after junior cornerback Jovon Johnson picked off a pass in the third quarter.
Redshirt freshman Matt Flynn gave it a try but completed just 1 of 4. Finally, Saban went to Russell, who completed 12 of 15 for 128 yards and two TDs.
“He had a game,” Johnson said. “I think if they might’ve gone to him earlier, they might’ve been in better shape at the end. But we’ll never know that now, will we?”
We’ll never know where the Hawkeyes would have been if they hadn’t blocked two punts, with free safety Sean Considine returning one 7 yards for a touchdown and a 14-12 halftime lead. We’ll never know what Ferentz would have done with those two timeouts.
You know, if “all up” doesn’t work, if Warren Holloway doesn’t catch it and break a tackle and score the first TD of his career on the last play of his career, if this Disneyworld miracle doesn’t happen.
“It’s all irrelevant right now,” Ferentz said.
They wanted three points. They got a miracle.