MillerTime: Hawkeyes Have the Heart of a Champion

'MillerTime' is back, and's Jon Miller offers up this thoughts on the ramifications of the win against Michigan and the ingredients that Iowa has cooking for them in 2003: A lot of character, a big portion of heart and a dash of courage.

I think it is beginning to sink in just how big of a win that was for the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday.

This was the Michigan team that folks in that program had been building towards as their next National Champion. Michigan still had a shot at that goal before Saturday's contest in Kinnick.

And this was an Iowa team that had been punchless on offense the week before in East Lansing, a team that has been riddled with injuries this year after going nearly injury free last year.

Ramon Ochoa hauled in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Chandler in the fourth quarter and Kinnick Stadium erupted. Ochoa was the #3 receiver heading into this season, and now he is the #1 receiver with Mo Brown and Ed Hinkel sidelined with injuries.

Iowa's two through six receiving options had never taken a D1 snap prior to this season, and three of those players were in high school last year.

Iowa was without arguably its second best offensive lineman in David Walker for the third straight game and outside of Robert Gallery and Sam Aiello, the guys doing the blocking are very, very green, or at least they were to start the year.

Iowa has just one ‘go to' running back that is healthy.

And yet, they found a way to score more points than Michigan.

The Iowa defense and special teams once again answered the bell on Saturday, setting the offense up with several short fields.

But the final touchdown drive of the game for Iowa was a thing of beauty; a ten-play, 79-yard drive.

Chandler found tight end Erik Jensen for 24-yards on 3rd and 11 and again found him for a 13 yard gainer on third and nine.

One of the biggest plays on that drive was a third and one where Iowa went against their tendencies.

All game long, Michigan would bring in their nickel package whenever Fred Russell went to the sidelines, knowing that Iowa likes to pass the ball with Edgar Cervantes as the lone back.

I had a feeling that the Hawkeyes might go to Cervantes in this situation, based on what had been taking place all game with the substitution pattern.

And they did, but Michigan played it well and first contact would have seen Cervantes stopped short of the first down.

But Cervantes kept at it, kept his legs moving and would not go down and he gained two yards on the play which kept the drive alive.

That play embodies the heart and character of this Iowa football team.

Last year was a flashy, big play year. This is a ‘grind it out' type of year. We knew that coming in and we know that more now.

The feelings that I had after the game were hard to describe. When you see a less talented group of players, from a ‘recruiting ranking' and pro-potential perspective, physically dominate Michigan for the third straight game, it makes you proud.

When you see lesser known players such as Ochoa, Cervantes and Jensen come up big, it makes you proud.

When you see freshmen like Calvin Davis grow up before your eyes, it makes you proud.

When you see the special teams do their thing, again, it makes you proud.

Nathan Chandler has been a lightning rod on the message boards since the loss at Michigan State.

But he showed the courage of a champion on Saturday with his six yard TD run in the first quarter and in completing five of his eight fourth quarter passes, including the beauty to Ochoa.

Iowa has had some successful quarterbacks throughout its history. Chuck Hartlieb, Chuck Long, Matt Sherman, Matt Rodgers, Mark Vlassic, Gordy Bohannon, Randy Duncan, Gary Snook and Brad Banks.

Chandler joined some elite company on Saturday, as only he, Long and Matt Szykowny have ever walked off of the Kinnick Stadium turf victorious against Michigan.

He has another daunting task in front of him in two weeks at Columbus, Ohio, as Iowa has won there just four times in the last 54 years.

But he and the rest of the 2003 Hawkeyes will listen to none of that, because they believe in each other and I don't think they fear any opponent or venue. Many of this year's players have won at Penn State and at Michigan. If they didn't play in those games last year, most of the players on this year's team dressed out of those games.

They are the bullies of the Big Ten, and no team leaves an Iowa game without bruises and being dead dog tired.

In it's last three meetings against Michigan, Iowa has been the more physical team.

Michigan fans are now saying that Iowa did to them on Saturday and last year in Ann Arbor what Michigan used to do to its opponents.

They beat you with sound and simple football. Iowa does not go deep into the playbook on offense and they primarily run their base 4-3 defense at you with little variation.

Regardless of the opponent, Iowa is playing to its strengths, and they have won 19 of their last 23 football games doing that, including 11 of 12 in the league.

And while Ohio State will be preparing for a 9pm night game at Madison, Wisconsin this week, Iowa will be breaking down its own tendencies from this season and will have at least six solid days of practice to prepare for the defending National Champions.

The Hawkeyes are still very much in the race for their second straight Big Ten Championship. A loss on Saturday would have been disastrous, being 0-2 in the league with OSU on the horizon.

But they won and they believe they can go into the Horseshoe and knock off the Buckeyes.

And why not?

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