Going 8-0 in the Big Ten … you don’t see that any old year.
I’m not just talking Iowa, I mean everyone in the conference.
But the Hawkeyes did it in 2002, and went to an Orange Bowl in the bargain. If you’re an Iowa fan, you know the story. The 42-35 overtime win at Penn State in the league-opener, the 44-16 home savaging of Michigan State and the stunning 34-9 domination of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The rabbit-out-of-a-hat 31-28 home win over Purdue, otherwise known as the Dallas Clark game. The virtual offensive perfection in a 62-10 drubbing of Northwestern.
The insane on-field postgame celebration at Minnesota after the 45-21 win there wrapped up the perfect Big Ten record.
Friday, over 50 members of that team attended the practice of the 2012 Hawkeyes. The ’02 Hawks lost to Iowa State, too. But that was their third game, and they had scored 117 points after the 36-31 defeat to ISU.
What is striking is when you go over the roster of the ’02 team and see how many guys didn’t just go to NFL training camps, but played in the league from anywhere from a few to several years.
Clark, Nate Kaeding and Jonathan Babineaux are still in the NFL. Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Matt Roth and Bob Sanders just left. And there were Jared Clauss, Colin Cole, Derek Pagel. Bruce Nelson, today’s honorary captain, was the center and a draft pick of the Carolina Panthers, but injuries cut short what probably would have been a long pro career.
Others on that team either had cups of coffee in the NFL or never got there at all, but were darn fine college players. You start with quarterback Brad Banks. Second in the Heisman voting says it all.
The running back tandem of Fred Russell and Jermelle Lewis featured two players of different sizes and specialties who both had some big days. Maurice Brown and C.J. Jones were a very good pair of wide receivers. Fred Barr had a terrific senior season at linebacker. Howard Hodges, Grant Steen and George Lewis were sound defenders. Antwan Allen was a freshman defensive back who had a big first season. David Porter, Sam Aiello, Andy Lightfoot and Ben Sobieski were capable offensive linemen.
Underclassmen like Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge, Sean Considine, Jovon Johnson, Brian Ferentz and Ed Hinkel had great players to learn from and practice against.
It was a terrific team. Anniversaries are feel-good occasions. Hawkeye fans should and will feel really good seeing the players from that 2002 squad in Kinnick today.