Iowa Beats Penn State; More Than Just Another Win

If you live to be 100 years old, you might never see another example of heart, character and courage on a football field greater than what you witnessed today. Iowa won a football game against Penn State on Saturday, 6-4. Yes, 6-4. But this game will be remembered more for it's human experience than anything else. Folks, you just saw one of the most memorable games in the history of Iowa football.

To quote the late Jack Buck, former broadcaster of the St. Louis Cardinals, "I can't believe what I just saw!"

Buck said that after watching Kirk Gibson defy the odds to hit a game winning home run to lift the Dodgers over the A's in the 1988 World Series.

Gibson could barely walk, and was only available for pinch hitting duty. If he had hit the ball to the outfield, any fielder, they might have thrown him out, because he simply could not run. But he hit one out, and trotted around the bases.

It's one of the most memorable plays in sports history.

While Iowa's 6-4 win over Penn State will not be remembered on a national basis, unless it set some type of modern day Big Ten and/or college football for fewest points scored, yards gained or first downs gained, this game will live on in Hawkeye lore forever.

Forever, my friends.

I am in the business of telling stories. Painting word pictures is something I sincerely enjoy doing.

What we all just had the pleasure of witnessing was among the greatest displays of character, heart and determination that we might ever see in sports.

It was truly a privilege to watch that game, even though the national media will poke fun at the score.

We all know the injury story that has affected this Iowa team. The top three running backs are out for the year with ACL injuries, and that happened by the fifth game of the season. The number four running back might be lost for the season due to a severely sprained ankle in the sixth game of the season.

Then this week, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and starting right guard Brian Ferentz lost a father and grandfather when John Ferentz passed away on Sunday at the age of 84. They missed most of the game week prep spending time with family in Pennsylvania.

When I broke this game down late Thursday night, I felt that Drew Tate would struggle on the road, as he had in Iowa's two previous road games this year. Tate did struggle, completing just 14 of 31 passes for no touchdowns and one interception. He also fumbled the ball at midfield late in the game.

I felt that the Penn State crowd would play a huge factor in this game, and they were. Iowa called its final timeout of the game with 8:42 to go in the 4th quarter, mainly because of not being able to communicate on audibles. The PSU faithful did their part.

I felt that there would be problems with Iowa's kicking game, and there were. Iowa's first punt attempt of the game, on their opening possession, resulted in a safety for the Nittany Lions, as Kody Ausmus' snap sailed over David Bradley's head. On his next punt, Bradley kicked it low and short, giving Penn State great field position. But Penn State would have troubles of their own, missing two field goals and never capitalizing on their trips to Iowa's defense.

I felt that Iowa would have some crucial turnovers, and they did. But I didn't expect them to force five of their own.

In the end, I could have spent 100 hours breaking down this game, and I would have never, ever come up with what actually happened.

It was Iowa's first win without scoring a touchdown since 1985, when #1 Iowa beat #2 Michigan, 12-10 in a game none of us will forget.

And late in the game, with Iowa deep in Penn State territory (inside their 10), and on 4th and 2, Iowa was actually going to take a delay of game penalty to move the ball back to give Kyle Schlicher more distance to get the field goal attempt aloft. Drew Tate ran up to the line of scrimmage in an obvious attempt to draw Penn State offsides.

It's one of the oldest plays in the book. It's like huddling at the pitching mound in baseball, slipping the ball into the glove of the first basemen, and tagging the runner out if he is dumb enough to lead off of first base; something that only works in little league, and only then works if the pitcher never toes the rubber.

But it worked, as PSU jumped offside on the hard count, and center Mike Elgin alertly snapped the ball.

And that was the game, as Penn State did not have any more timeouts remaining.

The television cameras then cut to Kirk Ferentz on the sideline, who was hugging his two younger sons. All of them were openly weeping. You could feel their pain, and I am sure many of you had a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes; I know that I did. Then minutes later, after Kirk broke down in the post game interview, the TV cameras cut to an embrace between Brian Ferentz and Ben Cronin, and Brian was very emotional. And after that, the team joined hands and ran off the field, with the Iowa faithful cheering in the background.

In his post game interview, Kirk said that there were two people up in heaven really enjoying this win. He was referring to the two men who have meant the most to him in his life; his father and the late Joe Moore, Kirk's high school coach and coaching staff member at Pitt when Kirk was a grad student there, before coming to Iowa.

Moore passed away last year.

Yet, Kirk was able to joke on the Learfield postgame broadcast. After thanking the Iowa fans for their prayers, emails and cards, he said that had Iowa lost this game, he would have been hit with two bolts of lightning.

The national pundits won't be able to tell the story of this game to do it justice. They won't spend the time to spell out the undercurrents, to illustrate to the nation as to just how much character was on display today.

But you in the Hawkeye Nation know full well.

Savor this game. Savor the effort that you just saw. You might never see something like it in the future.

Then again, overcoming long odds and adversity is becoming THE hallmark of Kirk Ferentz coached teams.

One final note, lost in the emotional theme of this game, which is the dominating storyline:

Kirk Ferentz becomes one of three coaches to have ever beaten a Joe Paterno-coached Penn State team five straight times. The other two are Michigan head man Lloyd Carr and a man known as 'The Bear; Paul Bryant.

I know that Lloyd or Bryant did not face the hurdles that Kirk Ferentz's last two teams have had to face in order to keep that streak alvie.

Today, aren't you just a little more proud to be a Hawkeye?

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