This team showed you what was possible at the University of Iowa.
An 8-0 record in the Big Ten. A BCS bowl. Some national championship buzz. Second place in the Heisman Trophy race. The Orange Bowl. And, yes, the 2002 Hawkeyes showed you that you can still riot in college football.
Before the 2002 Hawkeyes, it had been 80 years since a perfect Big Ten campaign. Howard Jones coached the 1922 Hawkeyes to 5-0 in the Big Ten. Eighty years, later Kirk Ferentz guided Iowa to 8-0.
Quarterback Brad Banks won the Davey O'Brien Award and finished behind USC's Carson Palmer in the Heisman race. Tight end Dallas Clark won the John Mackey Award. Nate Kaeding won the Lou Groza Award. Guard Eric Steinbach was a consensus all-American.
Ferentz won the Associated Press national coach of the year honor.
The damn broke and everyone took home some sort of hardware. Including some of you. The Metrodome was stripped bare after the Hawkeyes clinched their 8-0. The goalposts came down. All Iowa logos went missing. If you didn't get actual booty that November day, you probably got arrested.
And probably thought it was totally worth it.
(BTW, this was No. 2 with 256 votes -- 29 percent.)
-- First undefeated Big Ten season since 1922 and first ever 8-0 season. . . . Five Hawkeyes were named to all-American teams. . . . Eleven Hawkeyes earned first-team all-Big Ten (and Ohio State won the national title). . . . Iowa finished No. 8 in the AP and USA Today polls, its highest since No. 3 in the AP in 1960. . . . Iowa's 58 percent grad rate was No. 2 among the eight BCS schools in '02. . . . Iowa rushed for 1,719 more yards than its opponents. . . . Iowa's 484 points were the most ever scored by an Iowa team and sixth best in Big Ten history (that's a tremendous stat). . . . Iowa's special teams blocked four kicks and all resulted in points.
No doubt Iowa State's 36-31 victory over the Hawkeyes in Kinnick is a lowlight for '02, but don't let that diminish the singular performance Seneca Wallace put on that night. He completed 27 of 33 for 361 yards, an interception and a TD. He kept plays alive with his feet. He kept ISU in it after a 24-7 halftime deficit. Maybe the best Iowa-ISU game in my years covering the game (12 at The Gazette and three at the Telegraph Herald). . . . Iowa spent the first half clawing to stay in the Orange Bowl against USC and then fell apart in the second half, bowing 38-17. That was a tremendous USC team that got a lot out of a visit from former USC star RB O.J. Simpson earlier in the week. . . . No Rose Bowl. Remains a empty space on Ferentz's resume. BTW, the answer to that trivia question is Oklahoma and Washington State.
What you think
@TomKsobiech Gotta be '02, right?
@BFRIZ09pta 2002 Banks and co. Served in Enduring Freedom in the Navy. Made the deployment so much better.
Thank you for your service, sir!
@BFRIZ09pta No prob!!! Was on the Carl Vinson, first ship to bomb after 9-11. Fitting that it also with Osama dead on board.
@TomKsobiech I will always believe that they were an uncalled facemask in the endzone from being 12-0.
@HawkeyeZim I'd have to take 2002. We owe alot as fans to that team.
@HawkeyeZim So many Hawkeye greats on that team. It was the beginning of Hawkeye Football as we know it now.
@funnyfletcher 2002 for sure! Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Brad Banks great team.
Sam Paxton, millionaire, owns a mansion and a yacht: 2002 … I still feel robbed that we didn’t get a shot at Ohio State this season. What more is there to say than please check out the tape of the Wisconsin game and look at how bad we not only beat them, but beat them UP. Banks, Clark and that O-line. They brought us back from the dead. Love ‘em.
-- A shared Big Ten title was worth $75,000 in Ferentz's 2002 contract. If the Hawkeyes win one this season, it's worth $175,000 (an outright nets $250,000).
-- Speaking of coin, the goalposts you guys tore down in the Metrodome cost $5,000 to replace, which Iowa happily paid. "We can't take responsibility for everything our fans do," Bowlsby told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "but it's a good bet Gopher fans did not tear down the goal post."
Ferentz was Big Ten and national coach of the year in 2002. If he earns those in 2011, it's $50,000 for the Big Ten award and $100,000 for the national.
-- Iowa's average starting field position in '02 was its 35. In the final two games of the season, it was past the 40-yard line. That's mind boggling.
Look at Ferentz now
Reflection a little different as his kids explain the BCS
IOWA CITY - There are arrival news conferences, as in first day on the job and "Hello, my name is ..." And there are arrival news conferences, as in thanking folks, calling out the non-believers and taking a peek at what's ahead.
When the smoke cleared from last year's semi-breakout season, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz brought a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, highlighting last season's accomplishments.
Monday, Ferentz showed up with a one-page agenda, wearing a yellow V-neck sweater and a white oxford shirt. The V-neck look contrasted Ferentz's usual shirt and tie for his news conferences. That alone said it all about this season's accomplishments.
The No.5 Hawkeyes (11-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten) finished off their perfect Big Ten run with a 45-21 victory last Saturday at Minnesota. They clinched their first 11-win season and their first undefeated conference record since 1922.
Iowa moved up a spot to No.7 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings released Monday. With BCS factors hanging overhead, Iowa's bowl destination might not be known until Dec.8, when the final BCS poll is released.
"I've been doing some recruiting, but really, I will be a fan this week," Ferentz said. "I'll try to figure out what the BCS means.
"It is weird, but that's the generation we're in right now. The BCS has turned college football a little bit. My sons (Brian, James and Steve) were explaining it to me last night."
The day after the Hawkeyes finished their magic carpet ride, Ferentz met with his coaches and debated the team's postseason awards, which will be announced during Friday's team banquet. And he reintroduced himself to his family with what must have been their first sit-down Sunday dinner since August.
The BCS has the Rose Bowl winking and nudging the Hawkeyes. But the Rose can't offer an official invite until Iowa clinches a BCS at-large bid. Now, the Hawkeyes are caught between the Rose and Capital One Bowls.
There's also the thin possibility that Iowa could end up in the national title Fiesta Bowl. For now, the Hawkeyes are in the clubhouse watching the field.
"There were three teams last year that were probably worthy besides Miami, who was the No. 1 team," Ferentz said. "That's a problem with the system we have. That's probably the problem of not having a playoff.
"But all that being said, it hasn't worried me a great deal. It's not going to worry me this year."
He didn't name names, well, except for sports radio talk show host Jim Rome, but Ferentz also settled some old scores.
First, he mentioned a column written while he assembled his coaching staff back in 1998-99. Ferentz thought the column was "very unfair" and "went over the line."
"I got a response from the author and, basically, I thought it was a well-written response," Ferentz said. "The author said he hoped that in time, he'd be proven wrong. I hope that's been verified."
Ferentz also mentioned a comment made in the last year by "someone I'd consider part of the Iowa community" that said something to the effect that "the best we'll ever be at Iowa when I'm here is a seven-win, eight-win team, mainly because I'm a pro-mentality coach," Ferentz said.
Ferentz didn't say who made the comment. He did say that "it was put out there to at least one person, so I assume it was put out there to several people."
Ferentz took the "pro" inference as a statement that he and his teams lacked emotion.
"I'm not a great fan of pro sports, I've been there and done that, so to speak. But I do remember as a kid watching the Packers and the Celtics, cameras going into their locker rooms," Ferentz said. "Things don't change. Winning teams have a certain charisma or chemistry. They all have a great love for each other. There's a great feeling.
"So, to me, that comment was really a statement of ignorance. That person obviously didn't understand what pro sports, or winning pro sports, are all about."
Ferentz said he'd wish the person would come forth and clear the record.
"It's not about winning, it's about what comes with winning, what it takes to win. That's really what's important," Ferentz said. "I resented that comment a little bit. I really thought that was disappointing. But I didn't let it ruin my day, I promise you that."
Ferentz was also asked about the time he thought it might not work out at Iowa.
It was the 2000 season. The Hawkeyes had just been blown out, 31-0, at Illinois. The next week they hosted nationally ranked Ohio State. Then-redshirt freshman offensive lineman Sam Aiello suffered a back injury during Wednesday's practice.
Aiello had already been through various injuries, including a surgical procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat.
"That was one moment where I kind of went into the tank a little bit," Ferentz said. "That really struck me in practice. What else could happen to us? We were injury-riddled in the line at that point. And I really thought we made good progress with our line that season. That was a devastating blow."
After wilting, 38-10, against Ohio State, the Hawkeyes played Wisconsin toe-to-toe before losing 13-7. The next week, Ferentz signed his contract that went nearly two seasons without being signed and Iowa won at Penn State.
Ferentz's job status also came up in Monday's news conference. It did in the good way, for Ferentz, at least.
After last year's 7-5 season, Ferentz's named was linked to openings at Notre Dame and the Indianapolis Colts.
Logic says, with 11 wins this year, there will be another round of name-linked-to-job.
"I'd never say never," he said.
Then, he listed all the reasons he wouldn't leave Iowa, including his Chevrolet dealer, athletics director Bob Bowlsby and the UI's chain of command and the autonomy.
Last July, Ferentz signed a contract extension that pays him $910,000 annually. With Iowa's success on the field and in the classroom this year, Ferentz could earn as more than $1.7 million with incentive bonuses this season.
"I like to think at least now that people would agree that I've been good for Iowa," he said. "But I can tell you this, Iowa has been pretty good for me too."
Running with the rabbits
It's what kids do in southeast Florida
IOWA CITY - Gene Murphy's search for a quarterback took him to Belle Glade, Fla., which bills itself as "the gateway to the Everglades."
On U.S. Highway 27, Murphy wound through the southeast Florida terrain. On both sides of the road he couldn't help but notice burning sugar cane fields. Whole fields burned. The smoke was thick.
He saw kids chasing rabbits out of the brush. When he met up with Brad Banks' family, they told him all about rabbit chasing.
"They told me kids growing up here are football players and rabbit chasers," Murphy said. "Now, I thought about rabbit chaser. I thought that one was different. Real interesting."
That's what they do in southeast Florida. They chase rabbits.
They catch rabbits. And they sell them or they eat them.
"Guys up here think we cheat a lot. They think that's where we get our speed," Banks said, letting out a belly laugh. "It's just how it is at home. You grow up around that kind of environment. Everybody is chasing them and eating them and selling them."
The rabbits would go for $3.50 a pop. Banks said a good day would be 30 rabbits.
"It happens in the fall, mostly," Banks said. "If you go down there, you'll see smoke all around the town. My town's surrounded by sugarcane fields."
C.J. Jones, Banks' cousin a couple of times removed, loved chasing the rabbits and eating the rabbits.
"They taste like chicken," said Jones, who is from nearby Boynton Beach. "Grandma would make them with rice and gravy. It's making me hungry just thinking about it."
He hated the fields, though. In Florida, they call mud "muck." Jones hated the muck.
"The worst part is falling in it," he said. "You have to go home with all that stuff all over you."
At Kinnick Stadium last Saturday, quarterback Banks and wide receiver Jones hooked up twice for touchdowns in the No.15 Iowa Hawkeyes' 44-16 victory over Michigan State.
A world away from burning sugarcane fields in Florida, the two are still having fun on a field.
They might be having the most fun in what has been a barrel-of-fun season so far for the Hawkeyes (6-1 3-0 Big Ten). They're having the most fun because they've taken the longest road to Iowa City.
Murphy did snag Banks on that recruiting trip, but it was more Banks selling himself to Murphy. Banks began his career at Central Florida, a Division I school, but he was derailed by grades.
Banks needed a place to prove himself. He needed Murphy and Hinds (Miss.) Community College.
Jones failed to get a qualifying test score coming out of high school. He had no choice but to go juco. He wound up at Garden City (Kan.) Community College. They lived through last-chance stops at jucos.
"Players have to know the situation when they come here," Garden City Coach Bob Larson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I tell them, 'This is your last chance. It's not like you can go back to your mother's womb or back to high school. Mess up here and you're done. Go find out what the real world is like."'
Every day for two years, Banks and Jones lived a regimented life.
School, practice, more school and then maybe a trip into beautiful downtown Hinds or Garden City.
"Every day was the same, they planned everything," said Jones, who would have gone to Auburn had he earned a qualifying test score. "Everything was scheduled. You had a schedule you had to abide by.
"You've got to keep a busy schedule. If you don't, you tend to get in trouble, you tend to fall off. It prepared me. I know I can't be fooling around, like I did in high school. If I wouldn't have fooled around in high school, things might've been different."
The Iowa seniors think of their time at Iowa as a second chance.
"We've got to take advantage of this," Banks said. "We want to try to do something good with it. That's how we think about it. We've been to some pretty tough places, so we want to take advantage of this."
In his first season as Iowa's starter, Banks is more than taking advantage.
He's fourth in the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 158.0. He's completed 57.7 percent of his passes (90 of 156). He has 14 TD passes to just three interceptions.
Jones leads the Hawkeyes with six TD receptions. He caught just one last season.
"At first it (having to go junior college) felt like a setback, but it's turned out into a positive thing," Banks said. "I knew that I needed to go to juco to pick up some more things for life. I knew that it would help me in the long run, which it did. I'm stronger for it."
Banks is one of Charles and Vida Banks' 13 children. That's a lot of kids clamoring for his grandma's rabbit stew.
You grow up in the home of a Bible Church of God preacher with six brothers and six sisters, you know to take advantage of every opportunity.
ALL YOUR GOALPOSTS ARE BELONG TO US
Iowa basks in perfect league run
MINNEAPOLIS - They paused to touch the trophy, the Big Ten championship trophy, there in the winning locker room. It was real. It was theirs. The season of dreams was now indelible. And there was the hardware, golden and shiny and permanent, to confirm it.
From doormat to winner. In one implausible leap. Iowa. Yes, Iowa.
"I stood with my arms around that thing (the trophy)," senior free safety Derek Pagel said. "I had my picture taken with it. A lot of us did that. It was beautiful.
"I just wish I could hit pause right now and run over this about 100 times."
The Hawkeyes rushed for 365 yards and converted three Minnesota turnovers into touchdowns in a 45-21 victory before a sellout crowd of 65,184 at the Metrodome.
Or was that Kinnick Stadium? Iowa City?
Some 32,000 Iowa fans gave the Hawkeyes (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) what must have felt like a homefield advantage over the Golden Gophers (7-4, 3-4).
"This place today was Kinnick with a roof on it," tight end Dallas Clark said.
First Big Ten championship since 1990. First undefeated Big Ten season since 1922. First Big Ten commissioner giving a speech and giving a trophy in the Iowa locker room maybe ever.
"I think you can argue that the Big Ten is the strongest conference in the country," Conference commissioner Jim Delany said. "Iowa is the undefeated champion of the strongest conference in the country.
"But we'll see what happens with Ohio State. They may be the undefeated champion of the strongest conference in the country."
No one within an arm's length of a rose or a Hawkeye seemed to care this is a shared championship, for another few weeks anyway.
Ohio State controls the BCS and Rose Bowl by virtue of a better overall record.
Iowa can win the Big Ten title outright and qualify for the Rose Bowl if No. 2 Ohio State (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) loses to Michigan next at Columbus. Iowa doesn't play Ohio State this season.
"No one cares a bit," said center Bruce Nelson, with the tag from his "Big Ten championship" ballcap dangling over his left ear and the tag from his "Big Ten championship" T-shirt dangling over his collar.
"Rose Bowl, shared title, no one cares."
And no one seemed to care.
A Metrodome maintenance crew worked long after the game trying to piece together the south end zone goal posts. They had no idea.
This doesn't happen with the Gophers or Vikings.
Seriously, they were flummoxed, trying three times before finally figuring it out for Saturday night's game between Concordia-St. Paul and Southwest State.
Yes, Iowa fans, after years of never touching the collapsible goal posts at Kinnick, made quick work of the Metrodome goal posts.
Minnesota also Gopher-izes the Metrodome with banners hanging on the upper deck facade for every Big Ten team. The Iowa banners were conspicuous by their absence after the game, long gone, in Cedar Rapids, Epworth or Des Moines by now.
Metrodome security tried about everything. The P.A. announcer issued two "final warnings." They also tried blasting a high-pitched squeal from the loudspeakers. The Minneapolis police arrested a handful of fans on the field.
"We're getting used to Hawkeyes fans running out on the field," said defensive end Howard Hodges, whose sack and fumble recovery turned into a 14-7 Iowa lead in the first quarter.
"We know the fans are just as happy as us. They've been waiting for something big to happen for Iowa and it did today. They (Iowa fans) can drop in with us at the bowl game, I don't care. They can drop in at my house, it doesn't matter."
The fans took their bounty, an upright, for a couple of laps around the field, finally dropping it in the stadium concourse.
Negotiating the revolving doors might have been a bit too much.
"Someone said they got the goal posts," guard Eric Steinbach said. "I knew they (security) had their hands full when our fans started lifting the O-line and carrying us around."
First 11-win season in Iowa history. First nine-game winning streak in one season. First mosh pit for Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, who was carried off the field by linebacker Tony Burrier and Clark.
"I'm kind of wondering how I got up there. I was a little bit embarrassed," Ferentz said. "That was a pretty good view, pretty good, I can say that."
Quarterback Brad Banks threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, and running back Fred Russell rushed for 194 yards to spur the Hawkeyes, whose nine-game conference winning streak since is their longest since stretching a nine-game streak over the 1956-57 seasons.
Banks started his college career at Central Florida. He was a red-shirt freshman and No.3 on the depth chart behind Daunte Culpepper, now the Minnesota Vikings QB.
They met up Friday night in Minneapolis.
"He was watching today," Banks said. "I hope he liked what he saw."
Banks completed 9 of 17 for 100 yards and two TDs, including a 31-yarder to Mo Brown. He rushed seven times for 39 yards and two TDs.
For the second straight week, he left the field in the fourth quarter to chants of "Heisman, Heisman, Heisman."
Russell left in the third quarter with a bruised left shoulder. Sophomore Jermelle Lewis carried the rest of the way, rushing for 101 yards and a TD.
The bowl reps were there, and there was bowl talk.
"You win the Big Ten, you want to go to the Rose Bowl," Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby said. "But like coach has said, it's going to be pretty hard to disappoint us."
After the final gun they were swallowed. The young men who made magic couldn't find their way out of the madness.
The Big Ten championship trophy was theirs. And they had the pictures to prove it.