Howe: Bouncing Back

You can call this year's Hawkeyes the comeback kids. In a season of inconsistency, that's been a steady theme.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. It didn't matter.

Iowa came here Saturday saddled with a 5-game road losing streak, including a winless mark on the road this season. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but there wasn't going to be such a thing as an ugly win.

No, for the Hawkeyes, Saturday's outcome here was a thing of beauty. It was much easier to excuse the bounty of miscues in a game filled with bizzarre occurances.

"It's not ugly at all," Iowa senior Broderick Binns. "We'll take them any way we can get them."

The Hawkeyes scored three times out of five tripss to the red zone. They fumbled four times, losing two. They committed five penalties for 40 yards.

Iowa could have folded a number of times on Saturday. Instead, it won, 31-21. It represented the fourth time this season that the Hawkeyes have followed a loss with a victory.

"That's just resiliency," said Sophomore Tanner Miller, who had two interceptions on Saturday. "That's great leadership. There's no quit. That's just the kind of heart we have."

It would be hard to gauge how good is this Iowa team from a talent standpoint. It is safe to say it doesn't rank among the top tier squads in Kirk Ferentz's 13 seasons as head coach.

Iowa's 2005 team was littered with experienced, future NFL talent. It finished the regular season at 7-4, right where the Hawkeyes sit with a game to play at Nebraska.

Followers outside of the Iowa program (present company included) have thrown dirt on these Hawkeyes throughout the season. They blocked it out.

"We can't listen to that stuff," Iowa Sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz said. "We just need to keep going and fighting."

Vegas believed in Iowa, who was favored to win here on Saturday. The linesmakers probably were in the minority as the number fell a point before kickoff. Late money came in on the Boilermakers.

It made sense. Purdue and Iowa entered the contest equally inconsitent this season. Neither team was a major factor in the Big Ten title race.

Saturday was one of those games that only players and fans of the combatants could love. Blocked punts, missed field goals, dropped passes and other things that will keep the film from being an instant classic on the letter network.

The difference on Saturday was the energy and resiliency with which Iowa played. Those traits were missing in last week's loss against Michigan State and three weeks ago at Minnesota.

That's what has made this season, and some of last year, so frustrating for Iowa fans. A consistent effort and being prepared each week could have led to bigger things this season. The Hawkeyes played in parity-laden Big Ten that was there for the taking.

Oh, what might have been.

The players will think about that after the season but being able to avoid dwelling on it this year,like the media and fans, puts them in position for a nice reward if they can knock off Nebraska in next week's regular-season finale.

As has been the case this season, Iowa's upperclassmen have played well during wins. Fifth-year seniors Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels wreaked havoc on the Purdue quarterbacks and running backs. They combined for three sacks, five tackles for loss and broke down the pocket throughout the day.

"They were getting after it," Miller said. "It makes our job a lot easier when they get the kind of pressure they got today."

As is typical of Binns and Daniels, they refused credit.

"It was gang tackling,"Binns said. "We knew that Purdue is a perimeter team. We couldn't take then down with just one guy."

Now, this Iowa team sits in position to become just the sixth one in the Ferentz era to win eight regular season games. That's says a lot about the character of this group. It also reflects there being some poor teams in the Big Ten.

If this column seems a little bit all over the place, there's a reason. This is a jumbled season.

The Purdue game seemed like a microcosim of of this crazy fall - all over the place and tough to figure out.

Is this a good Iowa team? Is this a bad Iowa team? Please don't ask me. I have no idea.

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