IOWA CITY -
They wanted to thank their human photocopy machines.
You know, the scout team.
They felt they owed it to the guys who took athletic tape and fashioned the enemy "N" on their helmets. The guys who taped the names "Kustok" and "Anderson" on their practice jerseys and then played Northwestern's dynamic duo in practice last week.
Good job, fake Kustok. Props to you, imitation Anderson.
"If you guys came to practice, you'd see Dave Raih make whole teams out of athletic tape," linebacker LeVar Woods said. "Raih (a red-shirt freshman) was Kustok, the quarterback. For Anderson, it was Jermelle Lewis, a true freshman, and Hugo Herrera, a senior. Those guys were great. They got us ready."
Ready is putting it mildly. Iowa was primed, honed, buffed for No. 12 Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes (3-8, 3-4 Big Ten) for the most part spiked the Wildcats' Rose Bowl hopes with a defensive effort yet unseen in Coach Kirk Ferentz's two seasons.
They kept turbo-charged Northwestern (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) tethered to the planet in a 27-17 victory Saturday before 54,345 fans, the smallest announced crowd at Kinnick Stadium since the 1984 season.
"The scout team gave us a great look at the no-huddle," defensive end Anthony Herron said. "It's not easy to do what Northwestern does. It's kind of crazy, but our guys did a nice job."
All it took was some athletic tape to give Iowa its first victory over a team ranked in the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls since a victory over No. 18 Purdue in 1997. It also was the first time Iowa won consecutive games since beating Indiana and Purdue in '97. And it gave the Hawkeyes three Big Ten victories for the first time since '97.
"Obviously our goal is to go to the Rose Bowl and win the darned thing," Ferentz said. "But first things first."
Quarterback Kyle McCann played a squeaky clean game, completing 17 of 27 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. His 1-yard plunge with six minutes, 58 seconds left in the game sealed the victory, which was punctuated with a midfield mob of happy Hawkeye humanity.
You could swear it's the sound of a corner being turned.
"I'm not going to say we've figured it out," said middle linebacker Roger Meyer, who made a game-high 16 tackles, including three for loss. "Maybe you guys can say that, maybe the fans can, but we still have a young defense and a young team. I'll say we're growing up, a lot these last few weeks."
Can't forget the most photogenic first, the venerable
coach's Gatorade douse.
Ferentz danced a little, but he mostly took it just as he's taken the criticism he's faced during two years of struggles.
He kind of smiled, kind of joked and went about his business.
"They got me, first time I've had one of those," Ferentz said. "We haven't won many games, you know that. And we couldn't afford Gatorade at Maine (Ferentz's first
stop as a head coach)."
They should have saved some Gatorade for defensive coordinator Norm Parker, his staff, every member of Iowa's defense, the scout team, the video guys, anyone connected with Iowa's defense.
Players' mothers, anyone, everyone.
Northwestern Coach Randy Walker had the Wildcats' offense
purring, averaging 486.3 yards a game, good for third in the nation.
The Wildcats flummoxed the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota and just last week hung 54 points and 654
yards on mighty Michigan. Anderson rushed for 268 yards against Michigan, the most one back has gained against mighty Michigan.
The temptation is to say that Michigan isn't so mighty. But the reality is that Iowa's defense is starting to touch mighty.
After taking beatings against the likes of Kansas State, Nebraska, Ohio State, after throwing as many as three freshmen into the secondary, the Hawkeyes' defense is officially hot.
"You read a stat and you say, they're (the Hawkeyes) no
good," said Parker, who brought a 4-3 defense to Iowa last
season. "When you start out like we did, it's like a baseball player not getting a hit for his first 33 times up and then he hits 6 out of his last 10."
Iowa did a lot more hitting than that Saturday.
Anderson entered averaging 178.1 rushing yards, second in the nation. A meaningless 28-yard gain just before halftime boosted his total to 132 yards on 31 carries. The Wildcats needed an astounding 95 plays to gain 377 yards, an average of four yards a play, more than two yards off their average.
"People have been trying to get a handle on our offense all year," Walker said. "(But) I said from the beginning, if we don't pitch and catch, this offense isn't very
The Hawkeyes racked up a season-high seven sacks on Kustok, who completed 25 of 45 for 248 yards. They held Northwestern to 129 rushing yards, beating the season-low they set last week at Penn State.
They did this out of their straight 4-3, very little blitzing, very little chicanery.
"We were as vanilla as you get," Parker said. "You
couldn't go to the ice cream store and get more vanilla than we were."
The Hawkeyes' offensive numbers don't blow your hair
back. Iowa slogged, efficiently slogged, to a 13-3 halftime lead behind McCann's steadiness.
The Hawkeyes scored on three straight possessions between the second and third quarter and took a 20-3 lead on McCann's 42-yard smart-bomb to Kevin Kasper with 10:13 left in the third period.
Kustok capped a nine-play, 44-yard drive with a 1-yard run to pull Northwestern within 20-10 with 1:59 left in the third.
With 12 minutes left in the game, McCann engineered a 10-play, 57-yard gem of a drive, capping it with a 1-yard dive to give Iowa a 27-10 lead with 6:58 left.
Kustok hit receiver Jon Schweighardt for a 10-yard TD with three minutes left, but that was the last time the Wildcats would see the ball.
McCann's 19-yard pass to Kasper gave Iowa a first down at
Northwestern's 25 with just more than a minute remaining. All that was left was McCann kneel, McCann kneel.
McCann kneel on Northwestern's roses.
"It's a lot of fun right now," McCann said. "I wish we had more than one game left. I think we're starting to get it."