Miller: Did That Really Happen?

HawkeyeNation.com's Jon Miller is finally able to put down some of his thoughts onto this virtual space, and he takes you through the end of the game through his vantage point on the field, in addition to giving you his opinion as to where this game and 'The Play' rank in Iowa football history.

I had not heard Gary Dolphin's call of the ‘Hail Holloway' until 10:00pm on Sunday night.

When I heard it, it pretty much clicked with what we all felt: "TOUCHDOWN IOWA! TOUCHDOWN IOWA! OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!"

I thought of the late Jack Buck's call of Kirk Gibson's amazing home run in the 1988 World Series when he went yard in walk off fashion against Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland A's.

Dolph hit it perfectly.

As I write this some 30 hours after witnessing the most amazing sporting event of my lifetime, I am still at a loss for words.

So pardon this long ramble, but I just have to get some of this stuff out.

SENIOR MOMENT

How fitting was it that Warren Holloway was on the receiving end of Drew Tate's pass to end the game? A fifth year senior who had never scored a college touchdown, a fifth year senior who never complained or transferred when other players might have done so, a fifth year senior who had been beset with nagging injuries during his career…

Holloway does not run the sexy routes in Iowa's offense. He does not run the deep fades, he does not run the deep posts, he rarely ran the jailbreak screens; he runs the grunt routes. The sit down routes for first downs, the short crossing routes amongst the linebackers…

All season long, Holloway made catches that were meaningful, but that just did not produce any points.

And on the last play of his Hawkeye career, he makes THE play that will live on forever in Iowa football history.

That play will go on the mantle, along with Hartlieb to Cook at the Shoe, Long's naked boot against Michigan State and Houghtlin's kick against Michigan...more on that in a bit.

But how about the senior sendoff across the board?

Sean Considine scoring a touchdown off the blocked punt, Jonathon Babineaux's 4.5 tackles for loss that included three sacks, Matt Roth fighting through a badly bruised wrist for the entire game, David Bradley's 49.2 yards per punt average on six kicks, Pete McMahon handling LSU All American Marcus Spears, who had but one tackle all day long…

These seniors went 3-1 in bowl games, they won 38 games, more than any other class in Iowa football history, they will more than likely leave Iowa with three straight top 10 finishes, they played in three straight January 1 bowl games and most of them were at Iowa when the Hawkeyes went 3-9 in 2000.

Thanks for the memories, men.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Here are questions that will be debated from this day forward: Was this the greatest game in Iowa football history? Was ‘The Play' the greatest play in Iowa football history?

Saying things like ‘greatest in Iowa football history' is always a slippery slope, because none of us has seen every game in Iowa football history.

I can really only speak to games played since the 1981 season, as I am 33 years old and that was the first year that I can remember the games.

The previous 19 years before the 1981 season did not see Iowa have a winning season, so you at least have to go back to Evashevski's teams in the 1950's.

To me, I think it was the greatest Iowa football game I have ever seen, and I think that the last play of the game was the most amazing and important play of my lifetime.

Yes, when Rob Houghtlin kicked the field goal that won the game for #1 Iowa against #2 Michigan on ABC in 1985, that was pretty important. Iowa went on to win the Big Ten Championship that year, they won 10 games, they finished the season ranked in the top 10, but they lost in the Rose Bowl.

The 2005 Capital One Bowl win, though not the ‘Grandaddy of them All', is still pretty significant. It is considered the best bowl outside of the BCS, it has the highest payout outside of the BCS, it's on national TV, it is the lead in game to the Rose Bowl, which means it typically has fantastic TV ratings, and it's a great bet that nearly ever AP voter and most college football writers and analysts around the nation saw the end of the contest.

That last fact makes the miracle win against LSU perhaps one of the most significant wins in the history of the Iowa program, because what is taking place at Iowa is no longer a secret; the word is most definitely out.

If the writers and talking heads did not see the game live, they have seen ‘The Play' numerous times by now.

This is the type of win, the type of play, that everyone who is a fan of college football will have already seen, or will see at some point in time in the next month or year.

It might be the best ending to a bowl game in history, and it will certainly serve as a springboard for Iowa to be ranked in every preseason Top 10 poll next year, and it will cause the national media to write stories that are so glowing, you might expect to see Jim Zabel's name on the byline.

This was the big one.

So for all of those reasons, I think this was the one of the two or three best and biggest games in Iowa history, and ‘The Play' is the biggest, ever.

THE FANS

Every LSU fan that I spoke with after the game was gracious, as well as saying that they felt, without a doubt, that the Iowa fans outnumbered them at least 60/40. The estimates that I have seen in some of the papers of 30,000 are low, in my opinion. There were just over 70,000 fans at the game. I think at least 35,000 of them had black accompanying their gold.

I can't tell you how loud you were on that last play, because the whole thing is sort of like a fuzzy slow-motion Zapruder film in my head. But you were unreal.

FLUTIE TO PHELAN

Everyone has seen that play; Doug Flutie's ‘Hail Mary' to Gerald Phelan in 1984. Though Flutie had a stronger arm than Drew Tate at the same age, and Tate's pass was just over 40 yards in the air where Flutie's was closer to 65, Tate's version has likely immortalized him in college football's annals. Kordell Stewart's ‘Miracle at Michigan' is another such play.

Here is a part of what I said in my pregame prediction:

Drew Tate finds a way, and he is immortalized in Hawkeye lore. Matt Roth and Jonathon Babineaux go out in All American-snubbed fashion, while Iowa scores a touchdown on special teams.

I also said that Kyle Schlicher would kick four field goals, so I didn't have it all right. But Tate certainly will never have to buy a beer in the state of Iowa, ever.

One has to wonder how he can possibly top his sophomore year at Iowa.

BOWL SUCCESS

There is just one team in Big Ten history that has a better bowl game winning percentage than Iowa's 11-8-1, and that is Penn State's 23-12-2. Michigan is 18-18 and Ohio State is 17-19. In fact, there is just one other team in the league with a winning record in bowl games, and that is Purdue at 7-6. Wisconsin is 8-8 and Michigan State is 7-10. Only Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State have played in more bowl games than Iowa in Big Ten history.

THE DRAMA

Let me take you through my experience in the last six minutes of the game.

The print media is allowed onto the field for the last six minutes, which is always my favorite part of a game. Getting down on the field to watch these amazing athletes up close and personal is something you have to see at least once in your life.

I arrived on the field when LSU was at the 50 yard line on what would be their final scoring drive, the drive that put them ahead 25-24.

I looked up and saw the Iowa crowd for the first time, as the press box faced the LSU crowd. I said a quick prayer of thanks to God for blessing me with the opportunity to do what I do for a living.

I was behind the goal post where LSU scored, not five feet away from the catch.

The LSU crowd was deafening. It was quite amazing.

I have to be honest; I didn't think Iowa had much of a chance. But, I figured I had better get to the other end, just in case Damian Sims or Walner Belleus took the kickoff to the house, or if Iowa got close enough for a game winning field goal.

Due to my wife having complications with her pregnancy in 2002, I was unable to be there when Brad Banks and Dallas Clark worked their heroics against Purdue.

Due to radio responsibilities, I was unable to attend any Iowa games this year, and Rob Howe and Jason Miller took care of game day duties for the website.

I thought, ‘get down there in case history is made.'

So I made my way down to the opposite endzone.

It's hard to see through the Iowa sideline, so I did not see Belleus' return. I was able to see the two completions after that, and I was able to see the officials flag Iowa for a false start. It was at that point that Jason and I began to ask one another why Iowa was not calling a time out. In fact, I was so consumed with that debate that I turned my head just in time to see Tate's pass at its apex, and then I saw someone catch the ball and run into the endzone.

I did not know who caught it, and I yelled ‘Holy S*&$'! Then I saw the Iowa players come off the sideline and I was thinking, ‘What are they doing, they are going to get flagged!' Then I looked at the scoreboard, and saw 0:00. And then I lost it.

Everyone on the field had that same look, from the players to the coaches to Bob Bowlsby. Bowlsby was jumping and running like a 20 year old; that was a neat site to see.

A member of the Iowa media and I made eye contact, and we were saying ‘Oh my god!', as did Drew Tate, from watching the replay. He came over and bear hugged me, lifting me off the ground. It was unreal.

One Iowa assistant coach in particular had his hands behind his head, with his mouth wide open, looking around as if that did not just happen; looking for the officials to call it off, looking for a penalty flag…not wanting to allow himself to be set up for disappointment. But the bad news never came.

Friends, the looks on the faces of the Iowa players were priceless. I was right down in the melee that ensued in the corner where the players made the dog pile on Holloway. I got knocked in the head by a helmet, though I did not get his name and number. But the endorphins blocked the pain.

I was next to Matt Roth when he grabbed the flag and made his way over to the northwest corner and began waving it, like Robert Gallery and George Lewis did one year ago to the day in Tampa.

Everyone had tears in their eyes, and I have to admit, and I do so making no apologies, I did as well. I could have let myself go to pieces, but I did not. I might when I watch the tape tonight.

I was right next to the victors podium when Kirk and Drew gave their talks.

I saw Warren Holloway heading to the tunnel under the South stands, and I told him that he should go to the center of that end zone and take one last curtain call from the fans who were chanting his name; he looked at me, did not say a word, but smiled and ran to the end zone, where the Hawkeye fans gave him an amazing tribute.

I looked up into the stands and saw that every Iowa fan was still in the stadium.

I said another quick prayer of thanks.

If one could bottle up the feelings that I had, the onslaught of emotion of being caught up in that rush, its street value would be astronomical.

What a high, and what a spectacle.

SPECIAL NOTE OF THANKS

Thank you to the hundreds of Hawkeye fans who traveled with HawkeyeNation.com to Orlando on our Third Annual Charter trip. The reviews you gave me of the trip certainly make us all feel good, and we appreciate your traveling with us. Though I can't predict a game like that each year, I can tell you that we will always work on improving our package, and with Premiere Sports as our travel partner, I think you know that the little things they add to the experience, such as the incredibly popular 'Beat LSU' buttons and the Cap One and Kinnick patches, is something you can always expect.

If you have any ideas as to how we can make our trips even better, email me at jonmiller@hawkeyenation.com


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