Three cool things:
1. Ever read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”? It’s perhaps the single most depressing and bleak book I’ve ever read. The words come with weight. The scenes are impossible. It makes “Breaking Bad” look like a saucy episode of “Archer.”
In the early and mid-2000s, I’m pretty sure I channeled Cormac McCarthy when writing about Iowa and Wisconsin games.
It’s the gravitational pull of brutality. It’s different.
I DVR’d the 2015 game at Camp Randall. It was on ESPN and it was a prime crew with Steve Levy and Brock Huard. They looked nervous, like, “how are we going to entertain a couple of million people if it’s a 10-6 game decided by a 5-11 nose guard blowing up a handoff?”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Does it glorify? I know we’ve covered this topic. Maybe. I’m not arguing. Author intent goes out the window as soon as you hit post.
But really, it’s what you see. You see blocking and tackling and five sacks and one team’s offensive line physically breaking the other team’s front seven.
That’s who wins the Iowa and Wisconsin games. The team with the O-line that breaks the other team’s defense. It is what it is and I write what I see. And, yes, I get emails if I even use the word “bully,” which is kind of the whole point of football.
So, let’s look at it this way: Iowa and Wisconsin games are a chapter in “The Road.” People are going to eat people.
2. Shonn Greene got one shot at this. He won the Doak Walker Award and had the greatest single season a running back has ever had at Iowa with 1,850 yards and 20 TDs.
And he was very insistent every step along the way to credit the O-line. He was right to do that. Rob Bruggeman, Seth Olsen, Julian Vandervelde, Kyle Calloway and Bryan Bulaga were damn good. If this group had one more season together, Iowa would’ve had its first 12-win season in 2009.
3. Iowa is always going to be a step slow on major-award campaigns. I don’t think that’s anything more than Kirk Ferentz sticking with letting the play on the field do all of the talking.
I can respect that. I’m not sure how much a campaign would help an Iowa player. If an Iowa player is in contention for a major award, Iowa will have to have won more than eight games. You guys saw how the Butkus Award blew right past Josey Jewell in 2017.
Sorry, I don’t make the rules. Iowa players are going to have to go above and beyond and the Hawkeyes are going to have to win big for a Hawkeye to make it into major-award conversations. You know this.
Should Iowa be a little more proactive? When I started this, schools sent Heisman baubles to keep their players in writers’ minds. Marshall sent a Byron Leftwich bobblehead to like 500 sports writers. Memphis sent what looked like an expensive metal racecar. I didn’t vote for either of those guys.
Quote: I figured you guys would want to hear from Bret Bielema. I think he would’ve worked as a coach here. We’ll see how his career rehab goes in New England. No way have we seen the last of him. And you know what? I love it when he’s in the game. He’s fun. Sue me if you disagree.
“I think the two particular touchdown runs were really poor tackling and support at the line of scrimmage.” — Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema
Note: Greene scored four touchdowns. That’s happened at least three times under Ferentz — Greene, Akrum Wadley (Northwestern 2015) and Jordan Canzeri (North Texas 2015). I’m thinking I’m missing one or two.
Why No. 74? — Not every win over Wisconsin deserves to be bronzed. Now? Yeah, it does kind of feel like it should.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2008
IOWA CITY — Iowa was big brother. Wisconsin was little brother.
Big brother had his palm firmly planted on the forehead of little bro. Little bro kept wailing away, but big bro lowered the boom.
When you have Shonn Greene, you are the big brother and you have the boom.
The junior running back rushed for 217 yards and four touchdowns in Iowa’s 38-16 bludgeoning before 70,585 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The yards were the most for an Iowa back since Albert Young rushed for 202 against Northwestern in 2005. Greene’s season total stands at 1,154 yards, eighth on Iowa’s season list.
The Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2), who took back the Heartland Trophy, have four more games for the boom to do some damage.
Greene’s four rushing touchdowns tied a school record. The last time it happened was by Tavian Banks against Iowa State in 1997. The four TDs tied a Kinnick Stadium record for an Iowa player and 24 points tied a school record held by eight others. His 10 rushing TDs are the sixth most by an Iowa player in a season.
“Best ever at Iowa” talk? Check.
“My scope’s pretty small,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s right there with anybody and I say that with an awful lot of respect. We’ve had so many good guys, starting with Ronnie Harmon (1982-85). That’s probably why we all still have a job. He really did so many dynamic things for us. These guys are really different type guys certainly, but Shonn in his own right is playing at a high level. I don’t know if I’ve been around a back playing at such a high level. It’s fun.”
Heisman Trophy talk? Check.
“It’s premature,” Ferentz said. “I don’t even know who else is in contention and I’m not saying our guy is. That’s like Brad Banks (quarterback, 2002). Nobody knew who Brad Banks was in August and obviously the guy finishes second and very close ballot and he did it because he played well for 12 games, and that’s how you win awards.”
Brushing off Heisman talk and crediting your linemen? Check.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ll let Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso and all those guys talk about that stuff,” Greene said. “I think my offensive line is. I think they’re worthy of that (Heisman talk). The whole offense as a matter of fact.”
Iowa played without senior guard Seth Olsen, who sprained an ankle in practice and most likely will miss a couple of weeks.
Greene’s TD runs weren’t your garden variety 1-yard plunges. He scored on a 12-yard run to give Iowa a 7-0 lead. In the second quarter, he gave Iowa a 14-0 lead with a 34-yard “Chariots of Fire” music-cueing, jaw-dropping, Heisman chatter-starter-upper thing of beauty.
Here’s the list of Wisconsin (3-4, 0-4) players who missed tackles on this one: free safety Chris Maragos, strong safety Aubrey Pleasant, cornerback Allen Langford and cornerback Mario Goins.
Woodshed, Iowa. Big brother and boom all on one play.
“I think the two particular touchdown runs were really poor tackling and support at the line of scrimmage,” Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema said.
After the 34-yarder, Wisconsin, which has dropped four straight and is 0-4 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1996, answered with three field goals from Philip Welch, pulling within 14-9 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
But then, boom. This time Greene took a draw into a safety blitz, followed a brilliant block by tight end Brandon Myers and sneaked behind Andy Brodell’s block on the last defender and scored from 52 yards for a 21-9 lead with 5:06 left in the third.
“He’s a big back and he’s a tough-minded back, but he’s also (got) pretty good speed, and he’s always had good speed,” Ferentz said. “That’s one of the things you get kind of fixated on is his tough running. You forget he can pick them up and go pretty well.”
After tight end Allen Reisner made it 28-9 on a spectacular one-handed 16-yard catch and run, Iowa went back to Greene and he delivered the knockout punch.
This time it was a 34-yard run on a toss sweep to the left. After running zone play after zone play, Iowa slipped in a toss sweep that pretty much pantsed the Badgers. Iowa had two blockers out on the perimeter with nothing to do.
The sweep was put in for this game. The draw also went way against Iowa’s tendencies. Ferentz credited much-maligned offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe for the calls.
“Just for the record, Ken O’Keefe put the play in and made the call,” Ferentz said.
Linebacker Pat Angerer, who had 16 tackles and two interceptions, knocked tailback P.J. Hill out of the game in the first half. The Badgers ended up with 158 rushing yards, but most of it was in “mission accomplished” mode.
Iowa players ran to the UW sideline for the big, brass bull trophy. The day’s marquee players had enough for one day.
Angerer, the leader in the clubhouse for Big Ten defensive player of the week, walked off the field with Greene, the front-runner for Big Ten offensive player of the week.
“I just gave him a hug,” Angerer said.
Good thing you did it now, Pat. That’s going to be a long line.
Shonn Greene feature from 2008
IOWA CITY — For the last year of his life, Shonn Greene lived the way we do.
He worked at McGregor’s Furniture Company. He studied at Kirkwood Community College. He dreamed of a different life, one of a Division I college football player.
Greene got a belly-full of life on the “outside.” He’s glad to be back.
“Yeah, you appreciate it more. This stuff can be taken away from you just like that,” said the University of Iowa’s newest old running back. “It’s a privilege to be a Hawkeye. It’s a blessing.”
Don’t feel bad for Shonn Greene, a junior. He knows he has himself to blame for a year’s exile from the Iowa football program. Academics derailed him in the summer of 2007. His grade situation didn’t clear up until this summer.
He took in just two games last season. His best connection to the team was former running back Albert Young, a fellow South New Jersey resident. The two roomed together. The only time Young mentioned Greene, who turned down multiple interview requests during his hiatus, was after a game.
This is the now infamous TV quote. Asked what Greene was up to, Young said something about watching a lot of TV. This did not inspire confidence that Greene would earn the necessary grades to return.
“I did sit around a lot and watch TV,” Greene said with a laugh, “but that was after my books. My books always came first. I had nothing else to do but books and that, but (the Young comment) was funny though.”
The TV comment only fed into the other part of the “Shonn Greene offseason, off-campus training program” legend. The weight rumor sprouted in April. It started with Greene weighing in at 250-plus and ended with him a biscuit shy of 300. It was never that bad. But it wasn’t good, for a while, either.
Greene said he got as heavy as 249. Once he was able to practice at Iowa this summer, strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle put him through a regimen that gradually introduced him to the workload of a major-college running back. Greene said last Saturday he’s at 228 and hopes to play this fall at 225.
Greene didn’t get too hung up on the rumors. He never had to buy a pair of “fat” jeans.
“That’s just naturally going to happen when you take a year off,” Greene said.
Life on the outside included paying his own bills, thus the job at McGregor’s. He was pretty much banished from the football complex. His first hit during fall camp was his first since Iowa lost to Indiana in October 2006.
He is clear about his motivation.
“Football, basically,” he said. “I love football. That’s my life right there. Without football, I didn’t even know what else I was going to do. That’s all I wanted to do is play football, so basically football and then watching the guys last season on TV. I used to be at work and I’d see them on the screen playing, so that was good motivation, too.”
But he also knows the football comes along with school. Even though he turned 23 Thursday, Greene has two more seasons of eligibility.
“Most definitely,” Greene said when asked if he feels he has something to prove academically. “That’s my main goal besides football, getting to the classroom, getting the job done.”
Academics is how Greene has become Iowa’s “new old” running back. He was initially part of the 2004 recruiting class, signing with the Hawkeyes out of Winslow Township High School in Sicklerville, N.J. He failed to receive a test score and ended up at Milford (Conn.) Academy prep school for a year.
At Milford, Greene took weight training seriously and went from 190 pounds to 225. He also could’ve gone somewhere else. He was a recruitable athlete at Milford, where he gained 1,274 yards in his one season.
But he stuck with Iowa.
When he returned to Iowa City in 2005, Greene rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries in a victory over Ball State — his first game as a Hawkeye. In his 69 career carries at Iowa, Greene averages 5.5 yards a carry.
Then, last summer, another academic exile. This time, Iowa stuck with him.
Young stuck with him.
“He knew I was coming back, too, because he saw the desire in my eyes that I wanted to come back,” Greene said. “We had a little talk here and there.
Coach Kirk Ferentz stuck with him.
“That’s one thing I’ve really appreciated,” Greene said. “He accepted me back here, hands down, no hesitation.”
And here he is. Again. This time, he’s the “new-old” guy.
“I don’t know about rookie, but yeah, kind of,” Greene said. “Guys joke around about it. It’s a funny joke thing, but I’m just happy to be back.”