Iowa Football is back!
|While ESPN and others are busy stirring the Kirk Ferentz to Cleveland Browns rumor mill, the return of Iowa Football prominence is being overlooked. After last season’s 6-6 season which finished with the embarrassing home loss to Western Michigan, and 3-3 start to the 2008 campaign, how many would have predicted the Hawkeyes celebrating a huge New Year’s Day Bowl victory today?|
The lackluster finish in 2007, coupled with off the field issues, had some calling for Kirk Ferentz to resign. For some, this year was seen as a “make or break” season for Ferentz at Iowa. No one quite knew what to expect going into the season. The defense figured to be strong, but offensively there were more than a few question marks. The quarterback position was up in the air until the final day of fall practice. Iowa had no clear option at running back. Shonn Greene was a player who looked good his freshman year, but that was a few years ago. He spent last season, not in a Hawkeye uniform, but rather delivering furniture for MacGregor’s. Thirteen 100-yard rushing games later, and Shonn Greene is the 2008 Doak Walker Award winner on his way to the NFL.
Greene and the Hawkeye’s solid offensive line helped rotating QB’s Christensen and Stanzi lead Iowa to three straight wins to start the year. Then 3-straight losses by a combined 9 points to Pitt, Northwestern, and Michigan State dropped Iowa to 3-3 in early October. It appeared at the time that Ferentz may have reached his peak at Iowa, and the Hawkeyes were looking at another year of disappointment. Stanzi took over full time after the Pittsburgh loss, the team struggled with turnovers, and fans were getting restless. Thankfully, better days were soon to come.
In the next 3 games, Iowa took care of business against over-matched Indiana and Wisconsin but dropped a tough one in Champaign to Illinois after the bye week. At 5-4, #3 ranked Penn State was coming to town and it looked as though the Hawks were headed back to .500. Instead, Iowa gave Penn State their only regular season loss of the season in one of the all-time great games at Kinnick Stadium, thanks to this kick by Daniel Murray:
After a home win over Purdue, Iowa headed to the Metrodome one last time and sent it off as only the Hawkeyes could with a 55-0 pummeling of Minnesota. Suddenly, Iowa had won their last three games and five of their last six. The Hawkeyes finished 8-4 on the season and 5-3 in conference play. The Outback Bowl came calling, and Iowa was invited to play in their 5th New Year’s Day bowl since 2002.
It was business as usual in Tampa today, as Shonn Greene again rushed for over 100-yards (121 on 29 carries with 3 TDs), and the Iowa defense held South Carolina scoreless for 3+ quarters of football. The Hawkeyes jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. It was domination is every aspect of the game.
Get ready to hear more about Kirk Ferentz possibly leaving for the NFL in the hours and days to come, but for now Hawkeye fans should sit back and enjoy the 31-10 whipping Iowa gave South Carolina in today’s Outback Bowl. Whether Ferentz takes that job in Cleveland or not (and for the record, HSN’s gut tells us he won’t), what he has done in his 10 years at Iowa should be applauded. This 2008 season ranks up there with his best.
On the field after the Outback Bowl, Ferentz told ESPN’s Rob Stone, that he feels “fortunate” to be coaching at such a great place as Iowa. We think we speak for all Iowa fans when we say that WE are fortunate to have Kirk Ferentz as our coach. It certainly makes it easier to be proud to be a Hawkeye with Ferentz at the helm. Kirk, please stick around and give us some more reasons to be proud in the future.
As for now, Happy New Year and enjoy 2009 Hawk fans! It couldn’t have gotten off to a better start!