Howe: Hawks Like It Ugly Sometimes

Sometimes they're not masterpieces. File Saturday's 18-13 win against Indiana into that category for Iowa. HI Publisher Rob Howe says the result and how the Hawkeyes arrived out it shouldn't shock anyone who knows them.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Walking past some Indiana fans after Saturday's game here, one Hoosier commented to another that he couldn't believe Iowa had only lost one conference game this season.

The Hoosier fan based his question off of what he saw at Memorial Stadium. Indiana dropped a pass in the end zone in the closing seconds. Iowa walked away with a 18-13 win.

The Hawkeyes were favored by 18 points. Indiana was winless in the Big Ten. Iowa mopped up then-No. 5 Michigan State, 37-6, last week.

The Indiana backer and probably a lot of Hawkeye fans need to make sense out of what happened here. Most of those folks perceive the Hoosiers to not be very good. You are what your record says you are. So, in conclusion, maybe Iowa isn't as good as we thought.

It really doesn't matter what any of us think. Iowa is 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes leave Indiana in the shame shape as which they arrived - in the conference title hunt.

"We were hoping we'd score more touchdowns today," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I don't want to call it a surprise, but I thought we'd execute better in the red zone. We didn't."

Understatment.

"When you play a 12-game season, when you play in a conference that's competitive and tough, when you play in the road, if you think things like this aren't going to happen, you're a fool," Ferentz continued. "It's how you handle these kinds of games. Can you come out on the right side of them? If you do, you have a chance to have a good season. If you don't, you probably don't. It's all the what-if game. That's about what it shakes out to in conference play, typically."

We see it all over the country, throughout the season. Teams that are heavily favored escape by the skin of their teeth. In this day and age of parity in college football, you'll likely be able to find at least one of these on most resume at season‘s end.

The what-if game to which Ferentz refers was being played out in the Indiana locker room following the game. "If" Damarlo Belcher comes down with the ball in the end zone with :28 on the clock, the Hoosiers taste their first conference victory and it's against the 15th-ranked team in the country. He dropped it.

"If" Iowa doesn't block two field goals in last year's season-opener against Northern Iowa, its not celebrating on the Orange Bowl field in January. When the Hawkeyes ran the Big Ten table in 2002, they needed three Grant Steen interceptions to escape Bloomington with a win. A week later, they embarrassed Michigan in the Big House.

Sometimes games unfold unlike you expect. You figure 445 yards of offense would be enough for the Hawkeyes on Saturday. When you settle for three field goals in four red zone chances, that puts the kibosh on that success.

"Up until today, we've been pretty successful getting in there and converting on the touchdown," Ferentz said. "Today, clearly, we didn't have much success. Had we lost the game, to me, that would have been the story of the game."

It still was the story of the game. It's why you need a minor miracle to sneak out of the basement of Big Ten football with a win.

"We knew coming in we couldn't let them stick around because they're a much better team than people give them credit for," Iowa Guard Julian Vandervelde said. "We knew that if we gave them hope and let them hang around all day, then we were going to be in trouble at the end, which we did and we were. But we found a way. And honestly, after last year, I don't know how we're not used to this.

"It feels good to get the win. It almost feels like a loss. But I feel we can learn everything we could have from a lost in this and we still came out with a win,"

It's college football. Like the NCAA basketball tournament, it's survive and advance.

Usually when a team wins March Madness, you'll see results from the journey where an underdog almost knocked off the eventual winner. If Iowa goes on to win a Big Ten title, which would mean a win against Ohio State in two weeks, people will forget at least partially the difficulty here on Saturday.

Look how quickly people forgot the good fortune that found Iowa last year against the Hoosiers. A Ben Chappell pass ricocheted off several bodies before Tyler Sash picked it off for a touchdown and a huge momentum swing. Nobody talked about that game or the UNI contest in Miami.

Having said all of the above, is Iowa in for another battle when they go to Northwestern in a week? The Hawkeyes again will be a solid favorite against another team, like Indiana, who has given them fits in recent years.

The Wildcats will come into the contest off of back-to-back victories at Kinnick Stadium the last two seasons. Few people should not be surprised to witness a close game.

Iowa just needs to do what it did here on Saturday…win. If it's by a point or 50, it still counts the same.

The Hawkeyes aren't the favorite at the beauty pageant. They're kind of like the Nebraska entrant for Miss America.

That's OK. It's working. Iowa is 22-4 in its last 26.

During that stretch, Iowa has lost to teams its was predicted to beat, beat teams to which it was predicted to lose and pulled out games against teams it was predicted to roll.

Doesn't matter. You are what your record says you are.


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