I’m joining in with Morehouse’s On Iowa series of naming the top 10 Iowa football games from the Kirk Ferentz era as head coach.
Morehouse invited me, for one thing. And this seems like gold, where everybody has different opinions. What do humans like more than arguments?
My criteria has nothing to do with whether Iowa won the game or not. I’m picking the 10 games that stand out the most in my mind. Two are Iowa defeats. And the Hawkeyes’ Orange Bowl loss to USC didn’t make the cut, nor did other Iowa losses like a 28-27 game at Northwestern late in the 2005 season that may have been the beginning of a two-year stretch of mediocrity.
But my No. 10 game was an Iowa win, albeit barely.
2002: Iowa 31, Purdue 28 at Kinnick Stadium.
It was just the Hawkeyes’ second Big Ten game en route to their 8-0 league record. This game didn’t tell the world Iowa was headed for a BCS bowl. But it showed what Brad Banks, Dallas Clark and company could do when the chips seemed down.
From my column that day:
IOWA CITY – A clinical mental-health term sums up Iowa’s Big Ten football season to date. Crazy.
Really crazy, actually. To be even more specific, it’s been really, really, really crazy.
Since when do Iowa students flood the field and linger on it after a victory over an unranked conference opponent in early October? Maybe it was the last time the Hawkeyes gave up 30 first-downs, acquired 14, and still prevailed.
Maybe it was the last time Iowa’s guest ran 88 plays to the Hawks’ 59, piled up more than 500 yards, brought an 18-year- old quarterback off the bench to drive the Hawks nuts, and still couldn’t get out of town with a win.
Well, football has countless statistics, but only two matter. They are the score of your most-recent game and your record. In Iowa’s case, those are 31-28 over Purdue Saturay at Kinnick Stadium and a 2-0 Big Ten mark. …
The Hawks may not be great, but they are great fun. My, oh, my. You’re down 28-24 and you get the ball at your own 13-yard line (after a huge defensive stand) with 2:16 remaining and no timeouts left. Your offense has accounted for 10 points all day, three on a 51-yard field goal and seven more on a 95-yard pass play from Brad Banks to Dallas Clark .
So what time was it? Winning time.
“Some guys are just winners, that’s the way it is,” Ferentz said. “Winners find a way to win.”
He was talking about his team in general and Banks in specific. Banks injected instant hope into his team’s last drive with a 44-yard keeper on its first play.
The next play was a 20-yard Banks toss to Mo Brown to the Purdue 23. Soon it was first-and-goal at the 9. Three plays later, it was fourth-and-goal at the 7.
Then came the Banks sprint to the right that sucked in the Boilermaker defenders, followed by his soft, perfectly aimed pass to wide-open Clark in the front right-corner of the end zone with 1:07 left.
“A little wobbly,” Clark chuckled. “I’ve got to talk to Brad about that.”
“Sometimes you’ve got to have the wobble,” was Banks ‘ semi-serious reply. …
“You’ve got to handle adversity,” Ferentz said. “I think we’re getting decent at that. Prosperity, we’ve got some work to go.”
But they can whistle while they work this week. Again.