Monday, August 2, 2010

Top Ten Most Memorable - #1

2004 Iowa 30 - Wisconsin 7 - The Iowa Football team has been around for over 120 years and their opportunity to be presented a Big Ten Championship trophy in Kinnick Stadium has been few. Under the twenty year leadership of Hayden Fry, the Hawkeyes either won or shared the championship three times, two of those were in Iowa City. Kirk Ferentz' Hawkeye team shared the title in 2002, but were presented the trophy in a locker room of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. In 2004, the opportunity presented itself on the final Saturday of the season with rival Wisconsin coming to town.

The 2004 Hawkeye team started out strong with two good wins in Kinnick Stadium and to finish their non-conference season a trip to the desert awaited them. A year earlier the Hawkeyes dominated the Arizona State Sun Devils, but a rainy night in Tempe proved a complete different result. The black and gold were humbled, and a week later a trip to Ann Arbor would be where we would see what they were made of. Although a loss, the Hawkeyes bounced back and gave the Wolverines a fight showing promise for good things to come, but it was unclear how good it could be.

The following week Michigan State came to town, and it was a Hawkeye win over a decent Spartan team. An off-week came at a good time giving the Hawkeyes time to regroup and prepare for a home date with Ohio State. Perhaps not the best Buckeye team in the Jim Tressel era, but it was still Ohio State, a team with much more talent than Iowa. And on that October day the Hawkeye team began to make believers out of its fans and those around the county as they went on to win 33-7.

As seen in an earlier "Memorable" game post, the Hawkeyes won a tough battle on the road at Penn State and it was then one more road trip to Champaign to face the Fightin Illini. Special teams, defense and offense all contributed to the win and it was the sixth win on the season for the Hawkeyes making them bowl eligible. Typical of road trips the SID staff are usually the last ones to board the team bus. On this day Phil Haddy, Iowa's Sports Information Director stated that we have earned the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, and with every win, that bus will keep moving.

While Iowa kept winning, so did the Michigan Wolverines and Wisconsin Badgers. Each were undefeated in the Big Ten and they would not play each other. For the Hawkeyes to win the Big Ten, the possibility was there, but some work by other teams would have to play a part.

On the second to last Saturday of the season the Hawkeyes won an hard-fought game against Minnesota in the Twin Cities on a last-second field goal being wide right. Later in the day the Wisconsin Badgers visited East Lansing and were soundly defeated by the Spartans. Now it came down to one game of the season as two one-beated conference teams would face each other in Iowa City, while Michigan had to win at Ohio State that same day to win the Big Ten Championship outright.

As the week of the game started out, there was little talk of the possibility a Big Ten Championship Trophy would be presented in Iowa City. Many expected the Wolverines to come out victorious in Columbus. But fans of the Hawkeyes and Badgers knew it would be tough for Michigan to win the game in the Horseshoe.

The night before the Iowa - Wisconsin game a video was shown to the team. A video like the one shown to the team prior to the last game in Kinnick every year - seniors declaring what it meant for them to be Hawkeyes over the last 4 -5 years. But what made this one different was the six-minute confessional of Matt Roth. The defensive lineman who was known for his strength and brutality on the field dug deep and shared his feelings. And as serious as he was, the more comical it was for his teammates and coaches. Roth had that trait to him that any time he tried to be serious, those around him found his mannerisms and descriptions quite funny. It may have the been the best way to break up the serious mood of the team.

Waking the next morning I knew something special was going to happen. I knew we would be playing for a share of the Big Ten title as Michigan would not beat Ohio State in Columbus. As players began to filter down to the meeting rooms for their last talk by the coordinators, the mood was light, yet focused. But the talk that Norm Parker gave to the defense is one I would not forget. He challenged the players to play this game for someone they love. He then referenced three individuals who had passed on within the past year, his son Jeffrey, Kirk's Dad, and Kirk's mentor, Joe Moore. He said they were all watching what they were going to do that day on bar stools together. After Norm concluded I looked at our graduate assistant and said, "We're going to win."

What also made this day special is that it would be the last in Kinnick Stadium before the renovation would begin. The last time in the locker room that coaches Ferentz, Fry and Evasheski each talked to their team.

This was one of the few times I had the opportunity to be on the field for a home game. And although introductions of seniors is typically loud, I can't imagine a louder cheer for a Hawkeye than that of Matt Roth. As he ran to the fifty yard line he pumped up the crowd louder and louder until the loudest cheer came at kick-off when the final score of the Michigan - Ohio State game was posted on the Kinnick Stadium jumbotron. Ohio State 37 - Michigan 21. Now the winner between the Hawkeyes and Badgers would earn a share of the Big Ten Championship.

It was a physical Big Ten game that had the Badgers missing a field goal early and the Hawkeyes completing a touchdown pass prior to half time giving Iowa the momentum heading to the second half. But the details of the game are more irrelevant compared to the emotions of the day, as when the fourth quarter began the Iowa student section started the chant of "Big Ten Champs." As the fouth quarter evolved, that chant became louder and louder. Not it was a matter of time until the clock ticked zero, and the trophy to be presented.

As it was my first time on the field, and this time with a camera, I wasn't prepared for what would happen next. When the clock showed zeros, the fans stormed the field quicker than I could ever imagine. Knocked around and looking for the closest path to space. However that path took me to our locker room and I sprinted back to the Iowa Sideline where the Big Ten was waiting for the makehsift stage to be made for the trophy presentation. As I said, it doesn't happen often that the Big Ten trophy is presented in Iowa City, and this was the first time for it to be presented to the Iowa team in front of its adoring fans.

The celebration lasted late into the Iowa City night. Champaign was being popped among the video staff and being shared with Gary Dolphin and Kirk Ferentz. From the complex we moved downtown and continued the celebration with video staff members past and present at Mickey's where we ran into a few Badger fans in denial.

That November afternoon and evening in 2004 will be my most memorable moment of the Kirk Ferentz era, if not my twenty years with Iowa Football. There is nothing more special than being presented a Big Ten Champsionship trophy in Kinnick Stadium.

Amy T #1 - Iowa 21 - Penn State 10 - 2009. The Hawkeyes continued their dominance over the Nittany Lions by winning their seventh in the last eight games.

Phil H #1 - Iowa 24 - Penn State 23 - 2008. In dramatic fashion the Hawkeyes upset the undefeated #3 Penn State Nittany Lions in front of a Kinnick Stadium crowd.

Pete V #1 - Iowa 30 - Wisconsin 7 - 2004.


Anonymous said...

Al's #1 2004 Iowa 30 - Wisconsin 7. The final game of a very long, trying season could not have played out any better for Coach Ferentz, the Iowa Hawkeyes and their fans. Heading over to Kinnick 3 hours prior to kickoff it was easy to see and hear this wasn't your average Saturday in Iowa City. There was a special buzz in the air coming from fans of both teams as all tv's and radios were tuned to Columbus, OH. Suddenly this annual border battle became the marquee game of the Big 10 that day, as the winner would share a peice of the Big 10 crown with Michigan.

This season finale had the same prize on the line as the game two years prior had in Minneapolis, but the 2004 season seemed liked a 12 round heavyweight fight compared to 02. During the spring of 04 the first blow was landed with the passing of Jeffrey Parker. Sadly, that wouldn't be the only time the Iowa Staff had to deal with loss. Close friend and mentor to Coach Ferentz, Joe Moore and then Coach's father would both pass that season.

The emotion of those personal losses combined with the normal feelings of pain, excitement and fatigue of a college football season erupted on the field of Kinnick Stadium and in the cramped locker room that afternoon and evening. Standing among the players and fans watching Coach Ferentz lift the Big 10 Title was one of the greatest moments I had experienced in my life to that date. It was even more special to enjoy that moment with my Father, Mother, Brother and future wife after the game at the Senior Tailgater. It was truly a great day to be a Hawkeye!

Jon Pippert said...

Pip's #1 - 2008 Iowa 24 Penn Sate 23. Penn Sate came into the game undefeated and were thinking they could be playing for the national title. Iowa started very fast in this game and dominated the first possesion on defense. Penn State had to punt from the 1 and Iowa had great field position. Shonn Greene then scored on a TD run. The rest of the half saw Penn State have long drives, but the Iowa defense did a great job of keeping them out of the endzone. In the fourth quarter Shonn Greene had another great TD run and trailed by 2. Penn State saw their final drive end on an interception by Tyler Sash. Iowa then put together a great drive, which set up Daniel Murray's game winning kick. Iowa had struggled in '08 prior to this game in winning the close games. This was the biggest win at home since probably 2004 Wisconsin and the first win over a top five team since 1990.