Three cool things:
1. The Hawkeyes have had losses during the Kirk Ferentz era that I wondered if they could come back from.
No. 1 on the list is, of course, coughing up that hairball in the desert at Arizona State in 2004 and then rebounding the next week at Michigan. The Hawkeyes had every reason not to show up the next week in Ann Arbor. The ASU game was going to be a shutout until Walner Belleus squeaked out a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
The Hawkeyes didn’t win the next week at Michigan — competitive, but a 30-17 loss — but that was the game when QB Drew Tate had his helmet ripped off and still finished a play. I think they changed some rules about playing without a helmet after that one.
It put wind in the Hawkeyes, who didn’t lose another game that season.
Illinois 2014 probably doesn’t make your list. But for the record, this did come after a 51-14 loss at Minnesota. There was a legit, definitive trophy run and it was all maroon and gold.
The Hawkeyes still showed up the next week at Illinois.
2. Sometimes, you have to poke your head out of the press box and check out what’s going on.
This was the same weekend Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon did baaaaaaad things to Nebraska and was headed to Kinnick the next week.
Yes, 2014 was an unsatisfying Iowa season by any measure, but the Big Ten was muscular that season. Wisconsin had Gordon. Nebraska had Ameer Abdullah. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman had a game and a half at Kinnick.
Iowa went into that Wisconsin game with a shot at the West Division. The Hawkeyes lost 51-14 at Minnesota and still had a shot at the division.
Yes, but it would’ve been a heckuva a comeback and you would’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.
Also, it snowed like crazy in the Big Ten region that weekend. It didn’t hit Champaign. I talked with a couple of guys from Fairbank and joked with the long drive ahead.
Hey, when you have a long drive ahead on the road, so do I. I think these guys could’ve driven snowmobiles home (snowmobiles are big in Fairbank).
3. I’ve never ranked Big Ten stadiums. I’m not sure how productive that would be, but I think most would agree Illinois’ Memorial Stadium is close to the bottom. Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium and Northwestern’s Ryan Field are down there.
Keeping it real.
Quote: Had some fun exchanges with TE Ray Hamilton over the years. He liked to give us crap. It always ended with laughs.
“As much as we love you guys, we’re going to ignore you guys. We’re just going to focus on what we can control in our building. That’s our preparation for Wisconsin this week.”
Note: Iowa’s 587 yards was the fourth-best in the Kirk Ferentz era at the time. That was five years ago now! And, yes, I need to compile a top 10 or top 20 list of most total offense in games for and against the Hawkeyes.
Why No. 83? — There are two Illinois games left on the list. They’re both more interesting than this one.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Kirk Ferentz listened to questions and really did seem interested in talking about the game the Hawkeyes had just played.
It was a 30-14 victory over Illinois, a sagging program with a coach whose seat is hotter than lava and a mostly disinterested fan base, at least according to the 50,373 attendance at Memorial Stadium.
Iowa did a lot of good, fun things Saturday. It played defense, something it completely forgot in last week’s debacle at Minnesota. The offense, fueled by senior running back Mark Weisman’s 134 yards, did offensive things, real offensive things and not things that were offensive.
The Hawkeyes rolled out 587 yards offense, the fourth-best total in Ferentz’s 15-plus seasons, and ran the Fighting Illini into basketball season.
“Our second fourth down, I’d like to think we could convert that one, for sure,” Ferentz said. “It was bad execution on our part.”
Ferentz was talking and tapping his fingers on the side of the oldest of old-school lecterns deep in the dungeon of what passes as the opponent’s locker room area in Memorial Stadium. He tapped his fingers and his feet. He seemed interested in discussing what just happened. He even said, no, no way, not looking forward to next week, not at all.
“We’re going to enjoy tonight,” said Ferentz, sounding like a man who most definitely wasn’t going to enjoy this one. “We’re going to go back to Iowa City, hopefully be smart, put our feet up and relax a little bit and enjoy it. Tomorrow we’ll critique the film like we always do and then we’ll get on to Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin did a demolition job Saturday on Nebraska, 59-24, behind an FBS-record 408 rushing yards from Melvin Gordon.
Saturday was nice for the Hawkeyes, too. It was a total full-body detox after last week’s 51-14 loss at Minnesota. Some of the fun included Weisman’s first 100-yard effort in 18 games (since 147 vs. Minnesota last season).
“The offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks, receivers blocking downfield, it was awesome out there,” Weisman said. “All working together, everyone really understanding the big picture.”
Quarterback Jake Rudock completed 14 of 21 for 210 yards and two TDs, both to tight end Ray Hamilton (1 and 6 yards), the first TDs of the senior’s career.
Hamilton gets it. It was nice to score and yada, yada, yada ...
“As much as we love you guys, we’re going to ignore you guys,” Hamilton said of next week’s matchup with Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium. “We’re just going to focus on what we can control in our building. That’s our preparation for Wisconsin this week.”
More fun numbers: Tight end Jake Duzey caught three passes for 110 yards. He caught a 53-yarder from backup QB C.J. Beathard, who entered in the fourth quarter after Rudock scored on a 6-yard TD run. Rudock shook his shoulder and arm after the play, but Ferentz said he was OK.
Iowa’s defense held the Illini to a season-low 235 yards. The Hawkeyes held quarterback Wes Lunt to season lows for yards (102) and completions (14).
And the Hawkeyes definitely shut the door on the jet sweep, a play that worked repeatedly for Minnesota last week.
“I don’t think so,” strong safety John Lowdermilk said when asked if there was any way in H-E-double hockey sticks this defense would be burned by the jet sweep against the Illini. “We were well-prepared for that play today. We got off blocks and were ready for it.”
That’s enough from Illinois. Let’s get to the Wisconsin hype. And, heck, let’s dive headlong into the Nebraska game, too. Iowa trails by one game in the Big Ten West Division with the leaders coming to Kinnick in the next two weeks.
It’s on, so let’s pump it up in here.
“Next week, it’s a big game,” Rudock said. “Every single game we play is the biggest game and now that’s the biggest game on our schedule.”
OK, let’s try this again.
“The good thing is we’re not too excited, so to speak, for this,” senior defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat said. “It’s a win, but we’re trying to finish strong and after tomorrow, we’ll focus on our next opponent.”
No matter what they don’t say, the Hawks are in position to have a say.