Inside the Numbers: 2003 Hawks Stack Up Well

Now that the dust has settled and the book is closed on the 2003 Iowa football season, it's time to perform an ‘inventory' to decide just where this team will rank in Iowa history. Given that Iowa won 10 games this year, the 2003 Iowa Hawkeyes put themselves in elite company, becoming just the 5th team in Hawkeye history to win 10 or more games in a single season. felt the 2003 team would compare favorably to the 1981 Hawks that shared a Big Ten title. How did they stack up?

Around February of 2003, I was writing and saying that the 2003 Iowa Hawkeyes would very much resemble the 1981 Hawkeye team that shared a Big Ten title and made it to the Rose Bowl.

I felt that Nathan Chandler was similar to Gordy Bohannon; a gritty competitor that might not always look pretty, but someone that would get the job done at the end of the day. Each of those players will always have a special place in my Hawkeye heart.

The 1981 team had Tommy Nichol, one of the best kickers in Iowa history. Of course, this year's team had Nate Kaeding, the BEST kicker in Iowa history and one of the best in Big Ten history.

Let's take a look at some statistical comparisons from the 1981 and 2003 season:


1981: 23.6/11.7
2003: 28.7/16.2


1981: 182/161
2003: 223/220


1981: 195.7/86.9
2003: 172.4/92.7


1981: 129.3/166.7 (421 attempts by opponents, or 2.27 yards per attempt)
2003: 161.2/221.8 (480 attempts by opponents, or 2.5 yards per attempt)


1981: 325/253.6
2003: 333.5/314.5


1981: 21-14/30-15
2003: 20-11/22-12


1981: 7-10/7-21
2003: 19-10/11-13

As you can see, the rushing defenses compare favorable, Iowa had a more potent offensive attack and scored more points. The 1981 defense was more opportunistic, forcing 36 turnovers to 25 for the 2003 squad.

I did find it interesting that the 2003 defense faced nearly 60 more rushing attempts by opponents. You would think that number would at the least be reversed, given the style of football that is played in today's Big Ten compared to the three yards and a cloud of dust style that was still the rage back in 1981.

The 1981 defense still holds its crown as being the best ever in Iowa history, but the 2003 defense has to rank somewhere in the Top 10.


That seems to be a popular sentiment on the boards, as we are debating what Nathan Chandler's place in Iowa history will be.

In the 25 years of Iowa football since Hayden Fry took over the program the 2003 team's points per game ranks ninth out of 25. 39 of Iowa's 45 TD's were scored by the offense, so not all of those points get chalked up to that unit. But that is the case in every season. Take away those six TD's and Iowa's offense averaged 25.9 points per game.

Last year's team scored 60 touchdowns, but nine of those did not come from the offense, for what that is worth.


Through the first five years of the Hayden Fry era, Iowa averaged 21.7 points per game and allowed 17.3 points per game, a differential of +4.4.

Through the first five years of the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa has averaged 26.4 points per game and has allowed 23.7 points per game, a differential of +2.7.

Fry was 34-24 in his first five seasons at Iowa, a winning percentage of .586. Ferentz is 32-29 in his first five years, a winning percentage of .525. Fry had his first 10-win season in year seven of his program. Ferentz got his in year four. It should be pointed out that Iowa played mostly 11 game regular seasons back in the 1980's, with the exception coming for the exempt pre-season kickoff classic games.

Fry was 27-14 in Big Ten play through his first five years, Ferentz is 20-20.

Each coach missed playing in bowl games in years one and two, and each coach led the program to three straight bowl games in year's three, four and five.

Fry lost the Rose v Washington 28-0, won the Peach against Tennessee 28-22 and lost the Gator to Florida 14-6. Ferentz won the Alamo against Texas Tech 19-16, lost the Orange to USC 38-17 and won the Outback against Florida 37-17.

In Fry's 6th year at Iowa, the Hawkeyes went 8-4-1 and beat Texas in the Freedom Bowl 55-17.

Fry's 1981 team ended the season ranked 20th in the AP Poll. They were unranked in 1982 and finished 1983 ranked 14th in both wire services.

Ferentz's 2001 Iowa team finished the season unranked, but finished both the 2002 and 2003 season ranked in #8 in both polls. Fry had two Top Ten final ranking in his career, as Iowa finished 9th & 10th in the AP and UPI polls in 1985, respectively and 10th in both polls at the end of the 1991 season.

After the 1991 season Fry would have just two more teams finish the year ranked in the Top 25 until his retirement at the end of the 1998 campaign.

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