Three cool things:
1. Iowa really had a million great football players in 2004. OK, not a million, but the defense had a handful of future millionaires lining up.
QB Drew Tate kept a professional football career alive in Canada into his 30s. Mostly, that defense. Greenway, Hodge, Babineaux, Considine, Roth, Luebke, Robinson, Merrick, Paschal, Johnson. You probably can remember their faces.
I want to emphasize this. Iowa had great players in 2004, when it shared the Big Ten championship with Michigan. That was the best defense of the Kirk Ferentz era. 2008 is close. 2009 is really, really close. 2004 was the wild-horse riders of the black-and-gold sage.
And it was Sam Brownlee.
He got the “Rudy” chant during one open practice during a fall camp in the early 2000s.
“It wasn’t a bad feeling, hearing the ‘Rudy’ stuff, but I actually thought, hey, I contributed a little more than an actual ‘Rudy,’” Brownlee joked. “C’mon, ‘Rudy’ made one play.”
Brownlee did do more than Rudy. He led the Hawkeyes in rushing for the 2004 season, gaining 227 yards on 94 carries. Not a lot, but more than Rudy.
Pressed to remember the day he welcomed Brownlee into the Iowa football program, Ferentz drew a blank.
“Not specifically, no,” Ferentz said. “There was no parade that’s for sure.”
Brownlee never rushed for 1,000 yards in his career at Emmetsburg High School. He didn’t break 1,000 yards in his career.
Two years before this, he walked on at Iowa just hoping to see the field on special teams. He saw the field as Iowa’s No. 1 running back in this one against No. 25 Ohio State.
The only thing that said football player about Brownlee during postgame interviews was his muscular bulldog neck. Other than that, he wore a blue sweater with a white oxford shirt underneath that said accountant more than football player.
“He’s just one of those hard-nosed white kids,” Tate said. “He just runs the ball north and south and doesn’t try to do anything with it. He’s a warrior out there.”
Brownlee led Iowa with 35 yards on 10 carries against the Buckeyes.
“If someone doesn’t get nervous before a football game, he shouldn’t be in football, I don’t think,” said Brownlee, who had 35 yards on 13 carries going into the Ohio State game. “I was a little bit nervous.”
Iowa coaches showed a ton of faith in Brownlee on a third-and-1 at Ohio State’s 11 early in the third quarter.
Ferentz called it a “shot” play, meaning coaches thought why not take a shot. Tate faked right and turned left, pitching the ball to Brownlee, who cut upfield for a 3-yard gain and a first down. Tate hit tight end Scott Chandler for an 8-yard TD on the next play, raising Iowa’s lead to 17-0.
It was worth taking a calculated “shot.”
It was third-and-1 against Ohio State. Certainly, Ohio State wouldn’t expect Iowa coaches to call a play they’ve run a handful of times in five years. And definitely not with running back No. 5 in the game.
“They were down to their third or fourth tailback,” OSU linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. “But those guys were pretty decent.”
Decent, steady, solid, hard-nosed. That’s Brownlee.
“In August, I was just looking for the team to do well,” said Brownlee, who had three career carries coming into 2004. “I wasn’t looking for personal success. I was just hoping to get in and see what I could do and see what goes on from there.”
With Brownlee, Iowa went on from here.
2. The 2004 defense was why Iowa shared the Big Ten title. That doesn’t mean Drew Tate wasn’t hella fun to watch.
In this one, the then-sophomore taunted Ohio State’s defense with play-action pass after play-action pass, completing a career-high (I don’t know if that stood or not) 26 of 39 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns and guiding Iowa’s offense to 448 total yards.
He had the stats and he had the intangibles — decision-making, leadership, guts.
“He’s very aware, amazingly aware for a guy who’s played six games now,” Ferentz said. “I think as he grows, he’s got tremendous leadership capabilities.”
Nine players caught passes while Tate became just the third Iowa quarterback to put up back-to-back 300-yard games.
“I’m not sure if I’ve exceeded any of my expectations,” Tate said. “I’ve just wanted to show progress every game.”
Tate finished this year with a 62.1 completion percentage. He finished 62.2 in 2005. Kyle McCann holds the Ferentz era record with 66.3 percent in 2001. At this point in 2004, Tate had a 70.1 percent completion percentage.
If Nate Stanley hits that this year, Iowa is probably 10-2. Or better.
“He’s got the football mentality you’re looking for,” Ferentz said. “He can throw the football, too, that’s obvious. And he’s got some good feet. But to me, it’s the intangibles about him that really impress us.”
These were unprecedented passing numbers for a quarterback during this stage of the Ferentz era, and Iowa coaches ran with that. For the third straight week in 2004, Iowa passed more than it ran. Sense a trend here?
In 2004, you stopped short of calling Iowa’s offense a passing offense because the Hawkeyes were still the Hawkeyes. There was no trendy spread-offense mentality here. No five-wideout formations. There’s nothing that really tilted Iowa’s hand. The Hawkeyes still ran only a handful of formations: the I, a single-back, double tight ends and an empty backfield out of the shotgun. There are never more than three wide receivers on the field at once.
“We basically inverted ourselves,” guard Brian Ferentz said. “It used to be that we used the run to set up the pass. Now, we’re using the pass to set up the run. We’d be ignorant to make Drew just sit back there and hand it off.”
Let’s leave it with the quote from the offensive coordinator.
3. Kinnick, you can be savage.
This is a little detail, I think you’ll get a kick out of it.
There was a pocket of Hawkeye fans after this one who started chanting “Mo-tor Ci-ty” at the Buckeyes. This wasn’t a great Ohio State team. It sat 3-3 after this defeat at Kinnick. But it did finish 5-1 with wins over Michigan and a convincing win over Les Miles’ Oklahoma State team in the Alamo Bowl.
So, it wasn’t the Motor City Bowl for the Buckeyes, but I’m still going to throw “Mo-tor Ci-ty” a high five.
Quote: “I think it was over after that third TD. They weren’t going to come back from that.” — LB Abdul Hodge
Note: Next up? Penn State. You know which one. And no, you haven’t seen that one yet.
Why No. 9? — The crown jewel of the 2004 regular season. Opened the door to a Big Ten title. When’s the next Big Ten title? I don’t know. Don’t worry about it. It’s a nice day. Probably.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME
Game story from 2004
IOWA CITY — This was men and boys.
From a coaching staff that had its team prepared to the hilt to the quarterback who whirled and dished like a like someone forgot the lid on the food processor.
From a defense that leads the nation in attitude to the fifth-string running back making plays like a fifth-year senior.
This was varsity and junior varsity. Hammer and nail. Sack and quarterback.
Quarterback Drew Tate threw three touchdown passes and Iowa’s defense held No. 25 Ohio State to 177 yards in the Hawkeyes’ 33-7 victory Saturday before 70,397 at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) snapped an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten) with its largest margin of victory over the Buckeyes.
Iowa’s high was 23 points in a 35-12 victory in 1960. OSU is 0-3 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1988.
“They didn’t give up,” said Iowa defensive end Matt Roth, who led the charge with two sacks. “We just kept getting better and stronger and faster and stronger and we just fed off the crowd and fed off our performance.”
That covers all the bases.
The Hawkeyes were better and stronger and stronger and better. Iowa’s defense allowed the Buckeyes to cross the 50 twice, once against the second team when OSU scored. Against Iowa’s first-team defense, OSU had 102 yards.
The only debate was when the Hawkeyes knew they had Ohio State. Might have been the fast start, the 10-0 halftime lead and the 86 total yards OSU had at halftime.
“We jumped on them and that really helped,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “We knew if we jumped on them early we’d be all right.”
Might have been free safety Marcus Paschal’s interception with 2:32 left before halftime. The Buckeyes drove 68 yards to Iowa’s 13, but on third-and-8, Paschal picked off a lazy pass from quarterback Justin Zwick to preserve the lead.
“I think that got to them,” defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. “They had something going, feeling good about themselves and then they didn’t get anything out of it.”
It very well could have been the offense’s explosive third quarter. Iowa scored on four of its first five possession in the second half, scoring 10 points off two turnovers and racing to a 33-0 lead with 9:28 left in the game.
“I think it was over after that third TD,” said linebacker Abdul Hodge, who led the Hawkeyes with 12 tackles. “They weren’t going to come back from that.”
Ten minutes left against Ohio State and it was not if but by how much for the Hawkeyes. Of course, the coaches never thought they had it. That’s just coaches.
Maybe when the Elvis impersonator, during the mayhem of the postgame field rush, strolled up the steps to the Iowa locker room did the coaches allow themselves to enjoy it.
Maybe they took a breath when Herky broke out two PVC tubes strung together with the name “Buckeye Buster” scrawled in black marker.
“I’m not sure when exactly I started to feel comfortable today,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It was somewhere in the fourth quarter, I promise you. We’re not that good. We’re not good enough to start feeling good about anything, including the next five weeks.”
You can forgive Ferentz’s trepidation. Iowa was, after all, down to its No. 5 running back. When junior Marques Simmons left with a sprained ankle in the first quarter, the Hawkeyes were down to sophomore walk-on Sam Brownlee, who started the season No. 5.
Brownlee responded with 35 yards on 10 carries and a reception for 10 yards. But it was clear early that running back doesn’t matter as much as Tate.
The sophomore completed 26 of 39 for 331 yards and three TDs. He ran for a 1-yard TD that gave the Hawkeyes a 30-0 lead with 14:53 left in the fourth quarter.
Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe rolled Tate out nearly every pass play, stopping the Buckeyes from drawing a bead on him.
“He’s obviously a competitor and a tough guy,” Ferentz said. “I think the thing that impresses us most is his pride and commitment to being a better football player. He’s got the football mentality you’re looking for.”
Junior wideout Clinton Solomon caught seven passes for 131 yards, including TD catches of 11 and 36 yards. Receiver Ed Hinkel caught six passes for 76 yards. Senior Warren Holloway caught five for 64, including a 28-yarder that led to Kyle Schlicher’s career-long 45-yard field goal.
Iowa passed its first seven plays. It’s clear the Hawkeyes have transformed from run-first to pass-first-second-third and so on. With Tate, why not?
“I’d say right now we’re a team that’s going to do whatever it needs to do to win,” Tate said. “That’s it.”
“He’s a great athlete,” OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “We had an idea of what he was going to do. He just came out and performed and nobody could stop him.”
It wasn’t just Tate Ohio State couldn’t stop. The Hawkeyes, all the Hawkeyes, were better and stronger and stronger and better.