It's a few minutes before kickoff in Madison and I've decided to record some of my thoughts during this very big game for the Hawkeyes…
Pre-game: Good news, bad news on the broadcasting team. The bad news is that Tim Brant and Ed Cunningham were the guys who called the Orange Bowl last season. The good news is that Brant was the play-by-play man—working with Bill Raftery—when the Hawks beat Oklahoma in the 1987 NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, that will balance itself out in some way.
11:05 First Quarter: (Ramon Ochoa scores on an 18-yard reverse. Nathan Chandler throws a nice block.) GREAT start for the Hawkeyes! Quiet the crowd a little bit. Nice stat…Iowa is 4-0 when scoring first this season. Hope that's not a jinx. Ochoa has really had quite a senior season, coming from out of nowhere. And you've got to credit Ken O'Keefe for a great call on this play…opening things up a bit.
10:51 First Quarter: (Dwayne Smith runs for 30 yards before Tyler Luebke catches him from behind.) Big play for Wisconsin…but what a play by Luebke! How in the world does a defensive tackle run down a tailback 30 yards downfield? How are the announcers not making more of a big deal out of that? An incredible hustle play. That's the type of play that we've seen regularly from Kirk Ferentz's teams.
9:53 First Quarter: (Incomplete pass to #45 Bernstein for Wisconsin.) OK, buddy…what's with all the eye black? It looks ridiculous, so there has to be some goofy reason for it. Are you "Autumn Man" or something? I haven't seen a grown man's face look like that since Putty took Jerry and George to the NHL game. I'm expecting Bernstein to spring up after a play and scream, "GO DEVILS! GO DEVILS!"
9:50 First Quarter: (Sorgi misses a wide open Orr at the 5-yard line.) Dodged a HUGE bullet there. Could that be some sort of payback for Chandler missing Ochoa at Purdue? Hmmm.
8:18 First Quarter: (Chandler picked off by Starks…Gallery makes the tackle.) Another great play by Gallery, who has been knocking his man off the TV screen so far today. How is Iowa going to replace this guy next year? What an animal. By the way, I don't think Chandler has completed a pass yet.
7:32 First Quarter: (Anthony Davis scores on a 1-yard run.) Brant just called Wisconsin a "quick-strike offense." Uh…it was a 2-play, 5-yard drive that took 42 seconds. Is a FIVE-yard drive really a "quick strike" in any way? Was he expecting a 13-play, 5-yard drive that took six minutes? Ever notice how when an opponent scores a touchdown, certain things bother you that otherwise wouldn't?
3:44 First Quarter: It's official. Iowa has ZERO passing yards right now. Not a good sign.
1:52 First Quarter: Note to self…Don't ever commit a false-start penalty when lined up across from Matt Roth. Like that guy needs a REASON to knock you on your butt.
0:02 First Quarter: Chandler just threw a deep, DEEP ball down the middle, incomplete, intended for…Erik Jensen? OK, what am I missing here? Do Maurice Brown, Calvin Davis and all the receivers have the flu today? I like Jensen as much as the next guy, but on a deep route? Not so much. Still no passing yards…and throwing deep balls to Jensen isn't exactly a cure for that ailment.
13:24 Second Quarter: Luebke hit Sorgi as he released an incomplete pass on third-and-eight. Sorgi looks a little rattled. And again, it's Luebke—a junior from Iowa City West and a former walk-on—who is in the thick of things. This is another trademark of Coach Ferentz's teams at Iowa: You never know who's going to come up with the big plays. Everyone seems prepared and ready to contribute. Remember the HUUUUGE interception by Adolphus Shelton to seal the Purdue victory last season?
13:05 Second Quarter: (Chandler intercepted by McCorison…and the Iowa QB misses a tackle on the return.) Not good. Not good at all at this point. I don't like where this train is headed. Chandler is now 0 for 5 with 2 interceptions, one fumble and a missed tackle. He is on pace for one of the worst individual performances in Big Ten history. We've seen him bounce back before, but something needs to happen pretty quickly before this game gets away.
13:00 Second Quarter: Schabert is in at QB for Wisconsin. This HAS to be good news for Iowa. You never want to see someone get hurt, but Sorgi has been on fire in the last couple of games. Maybe the Hawks can force Schabert into a couple of turnovers.
11:13 Second Quarter: (Screen pass to Davis for 31 yards…Sanders hurt on the play.) What could be a WORSE scenario than this? I don't even care so much about the big gain by the Badgers. Sanders looks to be in tough shape. I doubt we'll see him again today…and that could end the Hawkeyes' chances. Geez. So many injuries this season. And to so many key players.
10:08 Second Quarter: (TD run for Smith puts Badgers ahead, 21-7.) I think we've all seen games like this before. Hawks go on the road and nothing seems to go quite right. Why is that? Is it the crowd? The surroundings? The officials? The white jerseys? The weather? What makes a team play so differently on the road?
I'm getting hungry. I wonder if we have some salted-in-the-shell peanuts…Nope. We don't. This day is not getting any better.
8:55 Second Quarter: FIRST COMPLETE PASS! All right. Now we go! Or something. Chandler hit Jensen—the deep threat—for nine yards. The offense needs a jolt of some kind. Hopefully, this will get Chandler rolling.
7:30 Second Quarter: Interception by Jovon Johnson! Great coverage by Johnson, who has been a very good corner this year…and he's only a sophomore. Big play…now the Hawks need to capitalize.
5:57 Second Quarter: (Third down completion from Chandler to Matt Melloy.) HUUUGE play for the Hawks…and look who's on the receiving end…Matt Melloy! When guys like Luebke and Melloy are making big plays for you, you've got to feel good about that, right? Melloy—a sophomore from Mt. Pleasant—is averaging 16 yards per catch this year, by the way. Iowa is at the Wisconsin 10-yard line now…and the Hawks NEED a touchdown.
4:42 Second Quarter: (Chandler throws TD pass to Ochoa.) Nice touch on this throw by Chandler. Maybe the big guy is going to turn it up a notch. You've got to give him credit for hanging in there. This was a good throw. And Iowa NEEDED the seven points. Now, it's a ballgame again. The defense needs to hold the Badgers here for a while.
Ochoa has now run for a TD and caught a pass for a TD. Any chance he'll return a punt for a TD? Did I just jinx the crap out of it or what?
0:15 Second Quarter: (After Wisconsin takes all of their remaining timeouts for this decade, Nate Kaeding drills a 50-yard field goal.) Kaeding is THE MAN! What an incredible weapon! And who is cooler under pressure than this guy? No warm-ups…just the one little kick during the Badgers' ninth timeout. That was absolutely HUUUGE going into halftime. Is the Big Ten a "keeper league?" Can we just keep Kaeding for the next 15 years?
I don't remember a kicker who was more deadly from long distance. I think the announcers said that he is now 5-for-5 in his career from 50+ yards. I would've guessed he's tried more than that, but I could be wrong. And he's NEVER missed. How demoralizing for a defense. Wow. Kaeding is THE MAN!
We've got to have some chips or pretzels around here somewhere.
12:25 Third Quarter: Fred Russell has 10 carries for 98 yards. Geez. The Hawks might want to make a little more use out of him today. Gallery & Co. are really blowing some nice holes open…and Russell looks pretty sharp.
12:00 Third Quarter: (Russell rips off an 11-yard run.) Is it really this EASY?
11:31 Third Quarter: (Brown drops a 44-yard TD pass over his shoulder.) Apparently it's NOT that easy. I'll bet Brown gets a chance to redeem himself before this one is through. It would've been a nice catch, but it's one we expect him to make.
6:24 Third Quarter: (Great tackle by Chad Greenway on punt coverage.) Greenway. How good is this guy? Does he ever miss a tackle? And he always looks like someone just shot him out of a cannon. Just a sophomore.
3:33 Third Quarter: (Howard Hodges tackles Smith for a 3-yard loss on fourth down.) Great play by Hodges! Sort of makes up for his missed tackle earlier today. Big stop for Iowa. It would be tremendous to make the Badgers pay right away.
2:35 Third Quarter: (David Bradley punts 54 yards to the Wisconsin 4-yard line, where it's downed by Sanders.) Huge play by Bradley…he's having a pretty good day. And are there four or five Bob Sanders out there right now? The guy is EVERYWHERE. Talk about your "extra heartbeats." Seriously, is Sanders the defensive equivalent of Tim Dwight?
2:20 Third Quarter: (Interception by Sean Considine returned to the 1-yard line.) YESSSSSSSSS! HAVE to put seven points up after that! HAVE TO.
2:11 Third Quarter: Russell scored to give Iowa a 24-21 lead. I really think the Hawks could win this one. Wisconsin's offense has sputtered without Sorgi. And as usual, Norm Parker's defense has apparently made some key adjustments and really settled in after a shaky beginning. Credit the defense for this touchdown.
0:48 Third Quarter: (Interception by Sanders.) Is this guy an All-American or what? Imagine if he was healthy this season. Incredible. How many turnovers is he responsible for this year?
14:04 Fourth Quarter: (28-yard FG by Kaeding.) HUGE for Iowa to put points on the board right now and force Wisconsin to have to score a TD to retake the lead. Credit the defense for those points, as well.
13:58 Fourth Quarter: (John Stocco enters the game to play QB for Wisconsin.) Who the heck is THIS guy? I think he might be a science professor or something. Alvarez is looking for ANY way to put some points on the board. Stocco? I'll bet he's a turnover waiting to happen.
12:33 Fourth Quarter: Luebke just recorded another tackle for a loss. What a stud.
7:16 Fourth Quarter: (49-yard pass to Lee Evans to Iowa's 30-yard line.) Come on! How does Evans get BEHIND anyone? Geez, Louise. This is it right here. The defense needs to dig in and hold them to three points on this possession. No more than that. John Stocco?
5:15 Fourth Quarter: (Wisconsin has to punt and it's downed at the 6-yard line.) That's the difference that Kaeding makes for a team. The Badgers should have definitely gotten three points out of that drive. Iowa would have. Now, the Hawks have to push the ball out away from their end zone.
If they can't do it, do you have Bradley take a safety on the punt formation? That would make it a four-point game. The Badgers would still need a touchdown to win. And I doubt they can put together TWO field goal drives in less than four minutes. Something to consider.
3:38 Fourth Quarter: (Bradley punts 34 yards to the Iowa 48-yard line…fair catch by Wisconsin.) OK, defense. I guess it's up to you right here. Time to finish the job.
2:48 Fourth Quarter: Great tackle by Sanders! Forces a one-yard loss for Smith at the 43-yard line. Time is ticking away.
2:04 Fourth Quarter: Great catch by Darren Charles at the 20-yard line. OH NOOOO. This smells bad. Very bad.
0:21 Fourth Quarter: Third-and-goal from the 5-yard line and Stocco throws a swing pass to Smith, who is tackled in bounds by Sanders and Johnson! The Badgers have no timeouts left!
0:01 Fourth Quarter: Stocco to the end zone for the win…BAAAAAHHHHHHH!…Knocked away!….YESSSSSSS! Another January bowl game for the Hawkeyes! What a game. Unbelievable! Trailing 21-7 and then go on a 20-0 run to final 40 minutes.
Coach Ferentz is THE MAN!
Bob Sanders is THE MAN!
Robert Gallery is THE MAN!
Norm Parker is THE MAN!
Sean Considine is THE MAN!
Abdul Hodge is THE MAN!
Tyler Luebke is THE MAN!
Matt Melloy is THE MAN!
Fred Russell is THE MAN!
Chad Greenway is THE MAN!
Nate Kaeding is THE MAN!
Another bowl game in Florida most likely. What a tremendous victory for the Hawkeyes. You know, I never had much doubt about it.
Yeah, right. Sure I didn't. In fact, this was the first game all year I didn't pick Iowa to win.
Looking back at it, this game reminds me of three Hawkeye games in recent history…
- There was an Iowa victory at Indiana in the mid-1980s—Chuck Long was a young QB—that was sealed on the last play of the game when Devon Mitchell (I think) made a tremendous one-on-one tackle inside the five-yard line against the Hoosiers' big tight end. Great road win that was put away with a fantastic defensive stop on the final play.
- The Hawkeye victory at Ann Arbor in 1990 when Paul Kujawa—that's right, Paul Kujawa—scored a pair of TDs, leading Matt Rodgers, Tony Stewart, Nick Bell & Company to the top of the Big Ten pack. Another terrific road victory that helped define a great season.
- Iowa's last-minute victory over Purdue last season. That game included some huge plays throughout, including several heroics on both sides of the ball in the final minutes. With the win, the Hawkeyes were able to take the 2002 season to a different level. I feel the same way about this victory in Madison.
Somehow, some way, despite all the graduation losses, the injuries and the much more difficult schedule, the Hawkeyes have a chance to put together a second-consecutive season with double-digit victories.
Coach Ferentz and his staff have done it again. Iowa is now 18-3 in its last 21 games. And the Hawks are looking at playing in January for the second straight season.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)