IOWA CITY –
Curtain calls fit into Kirk Ferentz’s playbook like a helmet fits into a glove compartment. They sit right next to double-reverse double-naked triple bootleg left.
Basically, with Ferentz’s team-first philosophy, they don’t exist.
They improvised Saturday.
Senior quarterback Brad Banks handed off and jogged off to a standing ovation and “Heisman, Heisman, Heisman” chants.
The five senior offensive linemen blocked a straight 31-dive and jogged off, hand-in-hand. The message being they came in together and they’re going out together.
This was late third quarter during No. 6 Iowa’s 62-10 blowout over Northwestern before 68,728 fans.
This was also closing credits at Kinnick Stadium for Iowa’s seniors, most of whom were in the midst of completing a full- circle ride from 1-10 in 1999 to 10-1 in ’02, with one more game and a Big Ten title on the line next week.
“Well, these guys have done a great job. And well, you know ..,” Ferentz said before a pause, eyes down at the stat sheet and a catch in his throat. “I think it was appropriate.”
Banks set a school record for pass percentage, going 10-for-10 for 197 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores to lift the Hawkeyes (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten) to their record-tying 10th victory. Iowa also won 10 games in 1985, ’87 and ’91.
Northwestern (3-8, 1-6 Big Ten) tried an onside kick on the opening kickoff. It didn’t work. And it was T-ball for Iowa after that.
T-ball and curtain calls.
“Believe it or not, I am an emotional person,” Ferentz said. “Senior day is tough on me. Always has been.”
You go 10-for-10, account for five TDs and lead your team its ninth straight Big Ten victory, Iowa’s longest since a 13-game streak from 1921 to ’23, yes, of course, you get a curtain call.
“I was surprised he took his helmet off,” wideout C.J. Jones said. “But that’s OK. You have 70,000 people giving you a standing ovation, you’re going to get caught up in that.”
Toward the end of the game, ESPN2′s cameraman stood about two feet from Banks and pointed the camera right in his face. The wideouts egged him to mug, but he turned away, leaving ESPN2 with the back of his neck.
“I was just trying to stay into the game,” said Banks, who has 2,617 total yards this season, the fifth-best total in Iowa history. “Plus, I knew if one of the coaches saw me, he’d get me.”
Two plays after Banks threw his helmet off and arms into the air, it was the offensive line’s turn.
Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe told them they’d be in
for one more play. They figured something was up when senior Ben Sobieski, who’s been the sixth man all season, replaced junior Robert Gallery at left tackle.
Sobieski hadn’t played left tackle all season.
The five – center Bruce Nelson, guards Eric Steinbach and Andy Lightfoot and tackles Sobieski and David Porter – held hands as the jogged to the sideline.
“We told Gallery to take a seat,” senior guard Eric
Steinbach joked. “To run off and get the ovation we got from the fans, I wish I could just take a picture, look up and soak it all in.”
Now, here’s the weird part. Banks had a perfect day and put his name on the Heisman ballot in permanent magic marker. But the O-line received the same or nearly the same amount of love, a standing ovation and loud cheers.
But, let’s face it. “Heisman, Heisman, Heisman” is
more harmonious than “Lombardi Award, Lombardi Award, Lombardi Award.”
“Everybody loves the O-line, right?” Nelson said.
Saturday’s game was over when NU cornerback Marquice Cole
dropped that opening onside kick and Iowa’s Sean Considine
recovered. It was really, for sure over when, trailing 14-7, NU wideout Kunle Patrick dropped a fourth-and-6 pass, giving Iowa the ball at its 33.
Iowa took a 35-10 halftime lead on Banks’ second TD run, a
“They took it to us in every aspect of the game,” NU
Coach Randy Walker said. “We took some chances coming out of the blocks. We felt they were good enough we had to do that.”
Iowa outgained the Wildcats, 475-298, and held NU to 99 rushing yards.
Russell returned after sitting out last week with a hand injury. He rushed 17 times for 100 yards, raising his season total to 1,025 and becoming the 10th Iowa back to put up a 1,000-yard season.
“I don’t know who I’ll miss more, Brad or that O-line,” Russell said. “You’ve got to love both.”
Wide receiver Mo Brown caught four passes for 129 yards and two TDs (40 and 65), all in the first half.
The second half was when the Kinnick crowd got whiff of what was going on in West Lafayette, Ind., where Purdue had No. 3 Ohio State on the ropes.
First, the crowd reacted to the scoreboard, which flashed 3-0 Purdue, then 3-3 and then 6-3 Purdue late in the fourth quarter.
Ingenious fans near the press box turned and watched as Ohio State’s Craig threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on fourth-and-1 with 1:36 left, giving OSU a 10-6 victory.
A Purdue victory would’ve given Iowa control of its Rose Bowl destiny.
“You might think I’m lying, but I really am not concerned
about what happens with Ohio State,” Ferentz said. “All I
know, if we play week in, week out like we’re supposed to, if we prepare week in, week out like we’re supposed to, what else can you do?”
That was West Lafayette. This was Iowa City.
The human Heisman trophy guy who sprang from the crowd during an exploding, joyous celebration didn’t seem to care.
Shirtless, he spray painted his body gold with a big red
“7″ – Banks’ number – and wore a leather helmet for good measure.
Human Heismans and curtain calls. Hey, this is new territory for everyone.