Hail to the victors, indeed. What a tremendous victory for the Hawkeyes on Saturday, defeating mighty Michigan for the second straight season on national television. Iowa is still in the hunt for the Big Ten title…and the Wolverines appear to be in the hunt for a punting formation.
Here are some of my thoughts following this terrific game at Kinnick Stadium…
* Iowa has a TREEEEEEEE-mendous coaching staff. All you need to do is look at the blue-chip talent on the Michigan roster compared to the "no-namers" and "walk-ons" that play for the Hawkeyes to realize how sharp Coach Ferentz and his staff are. It's amazing. Seriously, how many Hawkeyes would start for the Wolverines on offense? Two? Three?
If nothing else, Coach Ferentz has this team believing in the team as a whole…and not the sum of its parts. He likes to say that the players believe in each other, trust each other and play hard. And he's right. What he's NOT saying is that these players are a reflection of Iowa's head coach in everything from work ethic to attitude. But, that would also be correct.
Nothing seems to rattle Coach Ferentz—not this year, not his first year, not ever—and his teams definitely reflect this ability to focus and give a great effort, regardless of the situation.
* Here's how much confidence Iowa fans have in Coach Ferentz these days. Even my dad thought that the Hawkeyes would win the game on Saturday. To understand the significance of that, you must realize that my dad is a lifelong Cubs fan—a trait he passed along to five of his sons—and as a result, he can't help but constantly prepare himself for things to suddenly go sour.
Believe me, if the Hawkeyes were playing the 8th-grade team from Solon, my dad could put a spin on it that would make it seem like Iowa was the underdog. Something like, "Oh yeah? Well, Solon has a kid by the name of Ratchenbelger—his grandpa was a hog farmer—who won the Eastern Iowa Region 14 Punt, Pass & Kick two years ago. That kid is unbelievable. How is Iowa gonna contain HIM?"
But, I heard nothing of the sort on Saturday. Dad actually thought Iowa would beat Michigan. So you can put it in the books…Coach Ferentz has officially moved mountains. * Usually, I don't mind Bob Griese. But on Saturday, his comments became pretty annoying for a Hawkeye fan to listen to. I realize that his son Brian played QB for Michigan several seasons ago, but the elder Griese should try to limit his "cheerleading" in the booth for the Wolverines to a bare minimum, if he can.
Griese was nearing "Bill Walton Level" on Saturday. It was bad when he lamented about Michigan's punt formations to the point of whining about it. It was worse when he stated something to the effect of "Iowa isn't doing anything different defensively…Michigan is just playing poorly on offense."
I was waiting for him to say, "Michigan is the greatest team in the world and if Lloyd Carr would leave town, the Wolverines could probably beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Iowa has Robert Gallery, who has long hair." I don't know, maybe it was just me. But if Griese had some Michigan pom-poms with him, I wouldn't be surprised.
- Has it really been 18 years since the 12-10 victory? Where is Rob Houghtlin these days? How often does he watch the tape of that game?
- How HARD is it to tackle Fred Russell one-on-one? Compare that to catching a fly in mid-air with a pair of Q-Tips. More difficult or less difficult? When Russell gets at least 25 carries, the odds are very good that the Hawks will win…and that three defenders will suffer broken ankles.
- Norm Parker is THE MAN! How many times in the last few seasons has Iowa's defensive coordinator been able to adjust—whether it's early in the game or at halftime—and virtually shut down the opposing offense? He's been able to do this time and time again. I sure hope he stays on Iowa's sidelines for as long as he wants to coach.
- Aren't we all a little too rough on Ken O'Keefe? Like you, there aren't many things I dislike MORE on third-and-11 than a fullback draw, but somehow, O'Keefe has found a way to put a ton of points on the board in the last few Big Ten seasons for the Hawks…using three different QBs. So maybe, it's time to believe in O'Keefe a little bit. After all, who would have thought Iowa could score 30 points against Michigan's defense two years in a row? Now, that's impressive.
- The VCR jinx is alive and well at my house. I try not to videotape very many games because it's been my experience that as soon as I hit the "record" button, my favorite team's performance immediately drops about three notches. Videotaping big games is almost an automatic curse, resulting in a loss that I wouldn't watch again in a million years.
Or…if the Hawkeyes WIN the game, something inevitably happens to the tape. For example, I had Iowa's overtime victory over Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament in 1987 on tape for about a week before my younger sister taped "The Sound of Music" over it. Strangely, she had two tapes ALREADY that featured "The Sound of Music"…so I'm not sure what the deal was there. Just chalk it up to the VCR jinx.
On Saturday, I decided to tape the game with Michigan. After the game, I wanted to watch a few key sequences again…but of course, something was wrong and the tape was all black fuzz. Somehow, the VCR was recording channel 4 instead of channel 3! How the heck does THAT happen? Nobody in my house would make that mistake…as far as I know. The VCR jinx strikes again.
* The 30-27 victory over the Wolverines certainly helped take some of the sting out of the Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Braves. I was really hoping for a Hawkeyes/Cubs sweep on Saturday, but if I have to wait for a Game 5 Cubs' victory on Sunday, then so be it. By the way, if Nathan Chandler ever thinks he's getting booed by the home fans, he should try walking in Antonio Alfonseca's shoes for a week. Yikes.
* Is Iowa one of the very few teams in the nation that emphasizes special teams play? Seriously, how can the Hawkeyes dominate is this all-important phase of the game week after week…after week. It's not like Iowa has a brand-new, wacky scheme for each opponent. And it's not as if Ramon Ochoa is the fastest guy in America.
However, it IS pretty obvious to me that Nate Kaeding is the best kicker in the land. And David Bradley is putting together a very good season as Iowa's punter.
Iowa wants to beat you by getting great field position and not turning the ball over. Time after time, the Hawks' special teams comes through with big plays (Ochoa's long returns and a blocked punt on Saturday) to set up short fields for Iowa's offense.
- Should Iowa scrap the fade route to Scott Chandler? By my count, this play is 0-for-3 the last two weeks. The problem is that it appears to be an all-or-nothing proposition…and the Hawks have got a whole lot of "nothing" to show for it so far.
- Is there anyone the Big Ten quarterbacks dislike MORE than Matt Roth? Most of them must flinch whenever they even think about him. Roth has seven QB sacks already this season.
- Has Iowa ever had two true freshmen at skill positions who have played MORE and touched the ball LESS than Eric McCollom and Scott Chandler? Neither player has a reception yet…and McCollom has one carry for a loss of two yards.
- It was nice to see the emergence of two key receivers on Saturday: Calvin Davis (7 catches for 60 yards and 1 TD) and Erik Jensen (3 catches for 60 yards). It was great to get the tight end involved in the passing attack and Davis looks like a playmaker-in-the-making. When Mo Brown and Ed Hinkel return in a couple of weeks, could the receiver position suddenly become a STRENGTH for Iowa?
- The Hawkeyes have a week off before playing at Ohio State on October 18. I think this should be a great game, with the keys for Iowa being turnovers and special teams, as usual. The Buckeyes have a very good team, but something tells me that as soon as one team knocks them off in the Big Ten, they will lose three out of five games, or something like that.
- In Iowa's last two victories in Columbus, the Hawkeye tight ends made the big plays. Marv Cook and Alan Cross had TD receptions that won the games for Iowa in those contests. Regardless of who is the hero in two weeks, it would be a HUUUUGE game for Iowa to win. Plus, the two games after the Buckeye contest are in Iowa City...against Penn State and Illinois.