Five years before arguably the most memorable Kinnick moment during Kirk Ferentz's 12-plus years at Iowa, the Hawkeyes were a mere party favor.
It was 1999, Camp Randall, Madison. This wasn't just any game at Wisconsin. UW running back Ron Dayne sat on the precipice of the NCAA Division I-A career rushing record. The Badgers were a win against the Hawkeyes from clinching their second straight Big Ten title and advancing to the Rose Bowl. A load of senior all-timers awaited a grand sendoff.
Camp Randall Stadium staffers handed out "Ron Dayne 33" towels. At the end of the game, nearly every fan in the stadium held the towel up in salute. After the game, a Big Ten official presented the Badgers with the league title trophy.
Coach Barry Alvarez and then-UW Athletics Director Pat Richter accepted a bouquet of roses and a New Year's invitation from a Rose Bowl representative.
Five years later . . .
It was 2004, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City.
The Big Ten championship trophy was brought down from the Kinnick press box to the field.
Kirk Ferentz's tears, Jonathan Babineaux's hoist and Drew Tate's grip on the game ball.
"No one ever put their head down. This team never quit," Ferentz said into a microphone and 70,397 fans hung on every word. "They fought to the end."
The No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes dumped No. 9 Wisconsin, 30-7, to finish an improbable run to an unbelievable Big Ten championship.
The Hawkeyes sacked UW quarterback John Stocco four times, with Babineaux collecting two.
Jovon Johnson and Sean Considine had interceptions. Defensive end Matt Roth had three tackles for loss.
It was quintessential Iowa defense. And those guys more than earned their "quintessential."
"We never thought we were out of anything," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We lost like 30 running backs this year (actually seven). We played through the ups and downs and here we are."
So many rough spots - the 44-7 loss at Arizona State. So many ups and downs - seven running backs out at times.
There was one gold football on one Big Ten championship trophy.
And that trophy belonged to Iowa.
The 2004 Hawkeyes are your No. 3 favorite Ferentz team, finishing with 214 votes, well ahead of the No. 4 2008 team (63 votes).
-- Of course, Ferentz's second Big Ten co-championship. It was Iowa's second title in three seasons, at that point. Iowa has won or shared 11 Big Ten titles. The Hawkeyes' last outright championship came in 1985. . . . And, oh yeah, the Capital One Bowl, a season unto itself. (I remember the elevator ride to the field. Norm Parker was on board. This was his first year in the press box after having a toe amputated in the offseason. He was spent. Too exhausted to really speak. A grad assistant gave him a bit of a boost while fending off the press, which, really, sensed the situation and gave Norm space.) . . . Iowa's only victory over Ohio State during the Ferentz era. Spawned the "WOOD SHED, Iowa" dateline from a columnist on the Ohio State beat. 6-4 at Penn State, 23-21 at Purdue and 29-27 at Minnesota.
The 44-7 beating at Arizona State was one of the few and maybe the only time the Hawkeyes shriveled during Ferentz's 12-plus seasons. It's even more perplexing in retrospect. ASU had some talent, but so did Iowa. Prolonged Dirk Koetter's career. . . . The 30-17 loss at Michigan is understandable. It's a tough go any and every year for the Hawkeyes at the Big House, so no real lowlight here. In fact, you could argue that Iowa got a charge out of this game, especially when Drew Tate finished a play without his helmet and with a nasty cut on his lip. . . . No BCS. Yes, this is reaching. Ferentz mentioned the BCS with the '04 team at some point last season. The discussion must've been something BCS. Again, we're reaching here.
What you think
@BenMcCormally #favoriteFerentzteam '04. Just an all around fun year capped off by the Capital One Bowl miracle. #HawkeyeFootball
@6forIowa '04 team for so many reasons. #favoriteFerentzteam
@Schmitty32 Went with 2004. They overcame a whole lot of Murphy's Law and the bowl game had an all-time finish. Still get goosebumps!
@crumes 2004 ~ Cap One Bowl! Amazing year capped by an amazing bowl game finish!
@AirForceHawkeye The 2004/'05 Cap One Bowl Champs. They took at least twenty years off my life, but were so damn fun to watch!
@murphyTweet Went with 2004. They overcame a whole lot of Murphy's Law and the bowl game had an all-time finis... http://bit.ly/ksVCFn
@pkramer23 No doubt the 2004 team. Scothawk says it best! http://tinyurl.com/ybokz64
@CarverCrazy I absolutely loved the 2004 team. Didnt think after 2-2 start that they would be B10 co-champs #findaway #favoriteFerentzteam
Dave Kenkel e-mail: 2004 hands down! In my opinion they had the most heart of any ferentz team past or present. Great defense, and a qb in tate that never got enough credit for a first year starter. I think you could make a case he was the teams mvp. Awesome year!
Eric Pattison e-mail: Has to be 2004. No RB's but Brownlee and Tate was an absolute magician. Those two combined with 5-6? current NFL players and the Cap One finale make it hard to top.
If you ever get a chance watch the Cap One in its entirety (I have the broadcast on DVD) as it is truly one of the BEST college football games ever played. It's also Jamarcus' coming out party and rightfully so.
Ryan Nielsen (a former student manager at Iowa): ’04. Got to watch every game with Norm in the pressbox. Didn’t have a lot of hope after losing all the RBs and getting slaughtered at ASU. Drew Tate gave me reason for hope. He ran that offense and, in my mind, is the most talented QB the Hawks have ever had.
Loved that D as well. Chad and Abdul were men. One play that a lot of people forget – 3rd and about 5 late in the game at Minnesota. Greenway came up with a huge tackle for loss. Forced an even longer field goal attempt that sailed wide. That was a huge play and a huge win against a great Gopher team.
And my fave . . .
@SarahHemann The '04 team was the reason I enrolled as a student in '05! #favoriteFerentzteam
-- The '04 senior class won 38 games, including 24 in the Big Ten. That's a 6-2 average in the conference. Not too shabby. This has happened just once at Iowa, with the 1981-87 teams recording seven or more wins.
-- More special teams greatness: Iowa blocked two field goals and recovered a muffed punt in a two-point win at Purdue. Iowa had two other blocked punts during the season and, of course, Miguel Merrick's blocked punt turned into Sean Considine's 7-yard TD return in the miracle bowl. Ryan Majerus also blocked a punt against LSU. Four blocked punts and two blocked FGs overall in '04.
-- Iowa lost 11 players to season-ending injuries in '04: TE Mike Follett (back), WR Calvin Davis (knee), DB Jonathan Zanders (collarbone), RB Champ Davis (knee), RB Jermelle Lewis (knee), RB Marcus Schnoor (knee), LB Mike Humpal (knee), OL David Walker (triceps), RB Albert Young (knee), DL Ettore Ewen (knee) and SS Marcus Paschal (knee).
From toilet to title for Iowa
Hawks fought through September low to reach November high
IOWA CITY - Imagine the silence on that plane ride home from Tempe.
The Iowa Hawkeyes had been spanked as they hadn't been spanked in five years, a 44-7 full-system shutdown at the hands of Arizona State. The plane didn't leave the Phoenix airport until 2 a.m. Their heads didn't hit their pillows until 6 or 7.
The defense, the bedrock of a wobbly team, was lit up for 511 yards. The offense, an already iffy proposition, sunk to a Kirk Ferentz-era low with just 100 yards. The coaches, so prepared and so steady, didn't have an answer against a fired-up Arizona State team.
Imagine the silence on that plane ride.
"It was like a tomb," linebacker Chad Greenway said.
Sure sounds like a turning point, a turning point into the dumpster.
But no, not these guys.
The No. 12 Hawkeyes (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten) completed their improbable run from the toilet to the Big Ten title with Saturday's dominant 30-7 over No. 20 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) at Kinnick Stadium.
Think toilet is too harsh? Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle didn't.
Maybe mark it down as hokey ploy, but Doyle stuck a toilet in the weightroom the Monday after Arizona State.
The theme was flush it down. And so they did. Just like that.
In one week, quarterback Drew Tate went from the Bambi who completed just 8 of 19 for 44 yards with one pick going for a touchdown against Arizona State, to a helmetless warrior throwing for 270 yards and two TDs against Michigan. He had three turnovers against the Wolverines, but he proved himself.
Tate improvised a 51-yard TD pass to wideout Clinton Solomon that gave Iowa a 14-7 lead with 1:00 left before halftime against the Badgers on Saturday. Wisconsin defensive end Jamal Cooper had Tate in his sights. He dipped his shoulder and spun left, scrambled up field and whipped the ball to Solomon.
"He's so competitive," Wisconsin Coach Barry Alvarez said. "He moves so much and so well it puts you on egg shells, and you're afraid to go after him too hard."
At Arizona State, Tate's eyes were red with tears.
"I did a poor job leading the offense, leading the unit," Tate said that night. "I tried to do some things I probably shouldn't have done."
Against Michigan, he came away with a scar on the right side of his mouth, from the play where he had his helmet ripped off. You remember that play, everyone remembers that play.
After Wisconsin, he held the gameball tightly to his chest as he bear hugged his mom and dad, Dick and Martha Olin.
"He has a little magic to him," Ferentz said.
After Arizona State, Iowa's defense just kept being Iowa's defense. The unit put it down as aberration and simply went about its business.
"They did pretty much whatever they wanted to us," defensive end Matt Roth said. "We were their whuppin' boys."
The "Whuppin' Boys" went on to lead the Big Ten in rush defense (90.2 yards a game) and turnover margin (plus-1.27). They also led the Big Ten in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score points just 62.5 percent of the time they moved the ball inside Iowa's 20-yard line.
The Hawkeyes' 31 takeaways (16 interception, 15 fumbles) were second in the nation, behind Troy's 32.
Iowa's defense got whupped once - maybe twice if you count Minnesota's 337 rushing yards - but this unit did the whuppin' after ASU.
"When you get embarrassed like this there is really nothing you can do," free safety Sean Considine said after ASU. "I don't know what we're going to do about it, but we're going to come in on Tuesday with a positive attitude and get past this and learn from it."
Considine after the Wisconsin game: "We had millions of chances to make excuses. You guys came up to us every week and asked us to make an excuse, you wanted to hear it so bad. But it didn't happen. I think good things tend to happen to good people, and this program is full of good people."
Not all turning points come with a touchy-feely pat on the back and "stick with it, son." Sometimes, a humbling experience can go a lot farther.
That's what kind of turning point the Arizona State game was for the Hawkeyes, a kick-in-the-can reality check.
It whiplashed the Hawkeyes into a more focused "one week at a time" mode, something they might've lost before Arizona State.
One week in September, they're 2-2. The last week in November, they're 9-2, co-champions of the Big Ten and unofficially headed to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
"That game (Arizona State) caused us to maybe galvanize our efforts a little bit," Ferentz said. "We started carrying ourselves with a little bit more tempo. We started to practice better.
"It didn't necessarily show up in the Michigan game statistically, but we acted like a football team more so in that game. We hurt ourselves with turnovers. But from that time on we grew each and every week. The turning point would have to be the Arizona State game."
From the toilet to the title, from whupped to winners, that's the turn the Hawkeyes' season took.
Hawks soar highest in trying times
Iowa stays the course despite more than its share of tragedy
IOWA CITY - This season has been a testament to perseverance, fortitude and whatever intangible for grit you want to put in front of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
That can easily be dismissed as ooey, gooey sentiment for a team that's thrived in the face of injuries.
The No. 19 Hawkeyes (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) have a sunny bowl destination in their sights when they head to the Metrodome to play Minnesota (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) on Saturday.
Iowa is down four running backs and two fullbacks. Two offensive linemen are likely out this week. But injuries are only part of the story. Step back, take a look at the whole timeline.
We're talking about life, not just ACLs.
"It's just a credit to our kids," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Strike that. Not kids. Our players. I hate that word. It's a credit to our players because they've been able to stay focused."
It started in February.
During the coaches' annual cruise, Doris Jackson, wife of running back coach Carl Jackson, suffered a heart attack and spent a few weeks in a hospital in Puerto Rico.
"She's fine now, but that was scary," said offensive lineman Brian Ferentz, son of the head coach.
About the same time the coaches returned from the cruise, Brian Ferentz, who had minor knee surgery in February, showed signs of staph infection setting in on the knee.
The infection went full-bore in March. According to Coach Ferentz, amputation of the joint was a possibility.
Brian Ferentz's prognosis went from possible amputation to out for the year to dressed for Arizona State to starting right guard during Week 5 against Michigan State.
"When you're a football coach or a football player, you're involved in a program but you're a human being, too," Brian Ferentz said, "and you have to deal with those things.
"I think it's just part of your job. You don't get to take a year off just because bad things happen to you in your personal life. I think that's the nature of the job."
While Brian Ferentz's staph infection was clearing up, the program was rocked by the death of Jeff Parker, son of defensive coordinator Norm Parker.
Jeff Parker died March 20 after complications from a number of strokes. Parker, who had Down syndrome, was 33. He worked part-time in the Iowa football equipment room and was a constant presence at Iowa football functions.
The Iowa sports information staff dedicated the back cover of the media guide to him.
"I don't think anyone was ready for that," Brian Ferentz said.
In August, Norm Parker, 62, had a toe amputated from complications due to diabetes. An infection set in during the latter stages of camp. Parker needed vascular surgery to help circulation in his leg and foot.
He missed Iowa's first three games. Game days, he's coached from the press box since the Sept. 25 Michigan game.
"It's hard because we're a big family," defensive end Matt Roth said.
Oct. 17, Ferentz's father, John, 84, died in Pennsylvania after a lengthy illness.
John Ferentz died the Sunday after Iowa's win over Ohio State. The Hawkeyes faced a road trip to Penn State the next Saturday.
Kirk and Brian left the team Tuesday and didn't join the travel party until Friday afternoon. The Iowa coach delivered the eulogy at his dad's funeral Friday. Saturday, he coached the Hawkeyes to a tense, 6-4, victory over Penn State.
"What he did, how he handled (it), just showed that he doesn't want us thinking about him. He wants this about the team," wideout Ed Hinkel said. "That shows how strong he is. I'm so proud of him.
"Anyone would want to play for a coach like that."
A lot of these events change lives. They're something you think about when you go to bed at night. Or things you can forget only for those 20 hours a week you get on a football field.
"No matter what's going on, you get to come over here for four or five hours and get a chance to step away with what's going on in your life," Brian Ferentz said. "I think football can help. It's therapeutic."
Coach Ferentz praised his staff, which has stayed nose-to-the-film study throughout.
"We've had a few more obstacles and challenges this year than what you might expect, but the guys are doing a great job," Ferentz said. "None of them has complained in a meeting."
Injuries entered the picture, too. The Hawkeyes have had more than their share of season-enders, losing 10 players. In a four-game stretch, Iowa lost its top three running backs (Jermelle Lewis, Albert Young and Marcus Schnoor) to torn ACLs.
Marques Simmons, the No.-4 running back, has been out with a high-ankle sprain since Oct. 16. He's not expected back until December.
Fullback Champ Davis suffered a torn ACL against Illinois. Fullback Aaron Mickens suffered a concussion in the same game and is doubtful this week.
After starting Iowa's first nine games, offensive linemen Mike Elgin (ankle) and Lee Gray (knee) are likely out this week.
The injuries are ripples in the pond. They affect the team daily, on every level.
"Ultimately, it comes down to the kind of individual you're coaching and working with," Coach Ferentz said. "By design, you want to get guys who stay the course. Nothing is 100 percent, but ultimately, we have a lot of guys who have the right stuff inside.
"What's impressed me the most is that I haven't heard anybody offer up an excuse or look for an alibi. They've really been more focused on finding answers, guys coming in and asking what they can do to help."
Perseverance, fortitude, grit, sure, they can be dismissed as ooey, gooey praise.
But in this season of above-and-beyond, those also could be names on the backs of their jerseys.
Tate-to-Holloway gives Hawkeyes miracle finish
ORLANDO, Fla. - They wanted three points. They got a miracle.
They called "all up." They got ESPN Classic.
They snapped the ball with seven seconds left. They got a play that will go down as one of the greatest in Iowa history.
Not bad for what essentially was a huge screw-up.
Quarterback Drew Tate hit Warren Holloway for a 56-yard touchdown as the stadium clock rolled up four zeroes, and the No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes pulled out a 30-25 Capital One Bowl victory Saturday over No. 13 Louisiana State before 70,229 fans at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
"I think what they (Iowa coaches) wanted to do was get to LSU's 30 and call timeout," Tate said. "And fortunately, it ended with an ESPN Classic."
No time for Gatorade baths. The entire Iowa sideline - coaches, managers, the whole mass of Hawkeyes - jumped Holloway, a fifth-year senior and yet another "Rudy" on the Iowa roster, just outside the north end zone.
Let the record show, Iowa was called for an excessive celebration penalty.
And oh, by the way, that was Holloway's first TD as a Hawkeye.
"I was at the bottom of the pile, man," Holloway said. "I got knocked down, I don't know anything else after that."
The Hawkeyes (10-3) wanted three points. They got a third straight season with 10 or more victories. When the final Associated Press poll comes out, they'll have their third straight top 10.
They wanted three points.
They got their eighth straight victory.
They got ESPN Classic.
"For this thing to end the way it did today, it's fitting," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "The resiliency these kids have shown, I can't put it into words."
The final scene needs some setting, or at least explanation.
LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the third quarterback LSU used, hit wideout Skyler Green for a touchdown with 46 seconds left, giving the Tigers (9-3) a 25-24 lead after a two-point conversion failed. It capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive that drained 4:20 off the clock and left Iowa with 46 seconds to work with.
It also put Russell's name on the Capital One MVP trophy, if only for the 46 seconds LSU had that lead. The red-shirt freshman directed two scoring drives after Iowa running back Marques Simmons scored on a 4-yard run with 12:48 left to give Iowa a 24-12 lead.
"I think the last 14 or 20 seconds of this game somewhat tarnishes the things that this football team accomplished over the last four years," said LSU Coach Nick Saban, who'll begin his job Tuesday as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. "We came from behind and won five times this season. I thought it would be the sixth today."
Iowa took over at its 29. First down was an 11-yard pass to Ed Hinkel. Second down was a 9-yard pass to Holloway.
And now, this is where things started to unravel.
Tate spiked the ball, thinking he stopped the clock. But the Hawkeyes were called for a false start with nine seconds left. They went into their huddle thinking they had a dead clock.
Referee Hal Dowden stuck his head in to remind them the clock was ticking. After a penalty, the clock starts after the official spots the ball.
"I blew it not taking the timeout there," Ferentz said. "I didn't realize after a penalty, they start the clock."
When Tate took the snap with seven seconds left, that was it. It was over. Any Iowa play inbounds and the clock would likely have run out with the Hawkeyes the proud owners of two timeouts.
"From my point of view, I'm just wondering why we're not calling a timeout when the clock was running," defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. "I'm like, do we see the clock running? And they hike the ball, and I'm like, OK, this is it."
It was it.
No need to dwell on the timeouts, right, Coach?
"Do we have to, the last series?" Ferentz said. "How 'bout we fast forward to that last play."
The play was "all up," where Iowa's four receivers run vertical routes down the field.
Tate looked off wideout Clinton Solomon, whose 57-yard TD grab gave Iowa a 7-0 lead. He looked off tight end Scott Chandler, whose two catches for 41 yards led to Kyle Schlicher's 20-yard field goal.
Tate found Holloway. LSU didn't.
"We ran that play six times today, I think," said Hinkel, who caught 10 for 93 yards. "That was the first time it went Warren's way."
The confusion at the end of the game actually worked in Iowa's favor. Cornerback Ronnie Prude missed the defensive call. He rolled toward Chandler and left Holloway uncovered.
"Drew saw it the whole time," said Holloway, who caught four passes for 72 yards. "He saw defense wasn't ready. He saw a gap in the coverage. And he took advantage."
Tate brushed off two early interceptions to complete 20 of 32 for 287 yards and two TDs. He won the game MVP award.
"We've got a great quarterback," Solomon said. "Don't ever count this kid out."
Except for running back Alley Broussard's 74-yard run at the end of the second quarter, Iowa's defense held. But Iowa's lack of a running game - the Hawkeyes gained 47 yards on 29 carries - kept the defense on the field too long. LSU owned a 34:12 to 25:48 advantage in time of possession.
The Hawkeyes held LSU to 346 yards offense, but ran out of gas late in the fourth quarter.
And LSU finally found a QB it liked.
LSU senior quarterback Marcus Randall left with a rib injury after linebacker Abdul Hodge crushed him in the second quarter. Randall left the game after junior cornerback Jovon Johnson picked off a pass in the third quarter.
Red-shirt freshman Matt Flynn gave it a try but completed just 1 of 4. Finally, Saban went to Russell, who completed 12 of 15 for 128 yards and two TDs.
"He had a game," Johnson said. "I think if they might've gone to him earlier, they might've been in better shape at the end. But we'll never know that now, will we?"
We'll never know where the Hawkeyes would have been if they hadn't blocked two punts, with free safety Sean Considine returning one 7 yards for a touchdown and a 14-12 halftime lead.
We'll never know what Ferentz would have done with those two timeouts.
You know, if "all up" doesn't work, if Warren Holloway doesn't catch it and break a tackle and score the first TD of his career on the last play of his career, if this Disneyworld miracle doesn't happen.
"It's all irrelevant right now," Ferentz said.They wanted three points. They got a miracle.