College Football

Outback Throwback (2006): Florida, Iowa, and Conference USA officials

Jan. 2, 2017 will mark Iowa’s fifth Outback Bowl appearance since 2004. This week, we’re taking a look back at the Hawkeyes’ first four Outback games, continuing today with 2006.

It was the second meeting in three years between Iowa and Florida at the Outback Bowl, with the Hawkeyes taking the 2004 game 37-17.

The 2006 version is an infamous one in Hawkeye history. A YouTuber was motivated to call that Conference USA crew’s performance “the worst officiating in college football history.”

Iowa fell behind 31-7 in the third quarter, only to rally in the fourth and cut the lead to 31-24. But what’s remembered most is an incorrect offside call against Chad Greenway on an onside kick with 1:24 left. Iowa had recovered, but the penalty meant it didn’t get a chance to tie the game.

The Hawkeyes finished the season 7-5, their last three losses (Michigan, Northwestern, Florida) coming by a combined 11 points.

The MVP

Despite what the Wikipedia page says, it was Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker, who caught 10 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

The Story

Here's Marc Morehouse's story that ran on The Gazette's sports front the next day.

The entire sideline leaped in Broadway perfect choreography.

Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby sported his 3-inch vertical.

Quarterback Drew Tate had his chinstrap snapped.

Wide receiver Clinton Solomon threw his arms in the air and screamed at the top of his lungs.

They recovered the onside kick.

They had the ball and a puncher’s chance to tie the Outback Bowl with a little more than a minute left against a Florida team that dominated for the first 59 minutes Monday at Raymond James Stadium.

They saw salvation. And then they saw a flag.

 

They heard the referee Barry Anderson call linebacker Chad Greenway offside. They, for the millionth time Monday, cursed the officiating crew from Conference USA. They saw Florida receiver Chad Jackson scoop up the do-over.

They watched the Gators run off the final 1:24.

They lost the Outback rematch, 31-24, before 65,881 fans, a house that included an estimated 25,000 Iowa fans.

“I didn’t feel like I was (offside),” Greenway said. “But you can’t blame the game on the refs. (Stuff) happens out there.”

A lot of (stuff) happened to the No. 25 Hawkeyes (7-5), who rode a wave of emotion, Tate’s arm and rejuvenated defense to make a game out of it.

With 5:23 left in the third quarter, No. 16 Florida (9-3) took a 31-7 lead on quarterback Chris Leak’s 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dallas Baker, who used his 6-foot-3, 204 pounds for 10 catches for 147 yards and two TDs.

The Hawkeyes were dead, deader than they were in last year’s Capital One Bowl. This time, instead of one flashpoint of a play, the Hawkeyes took babysteps.

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With 13:51 left, Tate hit wideout Ed Hinkel for a 4-yard score, pulling Iowa to within 31-14. Almost seven minutes later, Tate hit Hinkel for a 14-yard score. With 1:24 left, Kyle Schlicher kicked a 45-yard field goal to bring it to an excruciating onside kick, which was recovered by tight end Scott Chandler on the first try.

“Boy, I hoped they were offside,” Florida Coach Urban Meyer said. “To make a call like that, that was a tough call.”

And the offside that, replays showed, really didn’t look like offside. Greenway didn’t put a foot across the 35-yard line. His helmet might have broken the plane of the 35, but a frozen replay image showed Greenway didn’t really look offside.

“I’m a little biased,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He looked a lot onside to me. I’m biased.”

Ferentz had a tug-of-war with the officials all day.

It started with a questionable late hit on Iowa wideout Calvin Davis. It boiled when Hinkel was called out of bounds with a tackler knocking him out of the air on a catch that would have been a first down. It steamed when special-teamer Marcus Schnoor was called for running into the punter. It burst when defensive end Kenny Iwebema was called for a helmet-to-helmet personal foul.

Replays showed Iwebema hit Leak with his shoulder pad.

Ferentz came as close as he’s ever come to calling out officials in the postgame.

The Conference USA crew was assigned to the Outback by the NCAA. An Outback official said the game was played under general NCAA rules.

ESPN analyst Chris Spielman blasted the crew during the telecast.

“I’d say it was a very consistent performance,” Ferentz said. “That’s neutral, right? That’s pretty non-descript.”

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Iowa’s defense was called for “disconcerting” when someone earned a flag for barking out adjustments, causing a Florida O-lineman to jump.

“We’ve made that same call all four of my years here and two years before that,” said linebacker Abdul Hodge, whose 19 tackles broke the Outback record. “We’ve always done it and it’s never been a penalty.”

Photos: Iowa's Outback Bowl history

Adding insult to injury was the defensive back impersonation umpire Rimas Kozica threw on wideout Herb Grigsby. Late in the third quarter, Grigsby broke open for what might have been a 12-yard TD pass. Instead, he ran into Kozica, who was only doing his job. The drive ended with Schlicher missing a 30-yard field goal.

“That was the story of the day,” Grigsby said. “You want the play back because it was so wide open.”

The Schnoor and Iwebema penalties massaged a Florida drive that culminated with Leak’s 24-yard TD pass to Baker with one second left before halftime. Baker outleaped cornerback Jovon Johnson and the Gators went from punting to a 24-7 lead.

“You can’t put it on the officials,” Iwebema said. “It wasn’t the officials fault. We had something to do with how things went.”

 

Don’t forget, Florida did a lot of (stuff) to Iowa, too. A minute and a half into the game, the Gators returned the favor from the 2004 Outback. Jamelle Cornelius blocked an Andy Fenstermaker punt that Tremaine McCollum picked up for a 7-0 lead.

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With 1:57 left before halftime, Vernell Brown picked off a Tate pass and returned it 60 yards for a TD and a 17-7 lead.

Leak was sharp, completing 25 of 40 for 278 yards and two TDs. Baker was tremendous earning bowl MVP. Florida’s defense was rock hard, holding Iowa to 64 rushing yards.

With running back Albert Young held in check (13 carries, 34 yards), Iowa was forced to the air. Tate responded with a career day, completing 32 of 55 for 346 yards, all career highs.

“It (the gameplan) was balanced, but they took it away pretty early,” Tate said. “When we went one dimensional, they figured out our protections and made us go hot.”

Meyer was insane, but in a brilliant way. With Florida leading 31-21, Meyer called for a fake punt on a fourth-and-1 from the Gators’ 19. Yes, the Gators’ 19. Junior fullback Billy Latsko took a direct snap and gained 5 yards up the middle. Florida ran eight more plays and forced the Hawkeyes to use all three timeouts.

“That play is crazy or it’s great,” Greenway said. “I was shocked they tried it.”

A lot of crazy (stuff) happened out there.

The Stats

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