I was born in 1969, so my first memories of Hawkeye football include the likes of J.C. Love-Jordan, Dennis Moseley, John Harty and Phil Suess. One of the images that has stuck with me from that era was the highlight video of the 1980 season, which used the song "Don't Give Up On Us Baby" by David Soul (aka "Hutch"). Seriously. And it WORKED. I'm not kidding … mostly slow motion stuff like Keith Chappelle making circus catches.
It is now 24 years later, and perhaps there isn't a better theme for this Hawkeye team than "Don't Give Up On Us Baby." (Although I'm not sure that a David Soul song quite matches the adrenaline of today's fantastic finish.)
(Scratch that… I'm sure that it doesn't.)
Many wonderful moments have taken place in Hawkeye football in the 24 seasons since then. Countless snippets of time that are burned into the brain of this Iowa fan, including…
- Gordy Bohannon's quarterback draws against Purdue.
- Phil Blatcher running wild against Michigan State.
- Dave Moritz zig-zagging down the field for a score against Shaun Gayle and the Buckeyes.
- Chuck Long holding the ball above his head on the winning TD vs. Michigan State.
- Larry Station's tackle on third down against Morris of Michigan prior to The Drive.
- Rob Houghtlin drilling the winner in the 12-10 victory over Michigan.
- Chuck Hartlieb to Marv Cook to beat Ohio State in Columbus.
- Paul Kujawa scoring TDs at Ann Arbor.
- Tim Dwight. Every time he touched the ball, it seemed.
- Brad Banks to Dallas Clark on fourth and goal against Purdue.
- The 2002 offensive line heading to the sidelines for the final time at Kinnick Stadium.
- The defensive stand against Wisconsin in 2003.
And on and on it goes. I could keep the list going for the remainder of the weekend without much difficulty.
But on Saturday, a new chapter was written in Hawkeye history. Another in the long, long line of "success stories" during the Kirk Ferentz Era in Iowa City. The moment that Warren Holloway caught the pass, kept his feet and crossed the goal line will be etched in the memories of EVERY Hawkeye fan for decades … and for most Hawk fans, forever.
For me, I was sitting in our living room, building little toy ramps out of over-sized Lego blocks with my four-year old daughter and one-year old son, a project that we started when Iowa led 24-12. My wife had just entered the room after LSU took the lead, 25-24. Moments later, I was muttering to myself, "Take a timeout … take a timeout … take a TIMEOUT … TAKE A TIMEOUT!" when both Ed Cunningham and Gary Thorne mentioned that Iowa SHOULD have taken a timeout.
"Gee, do you THINK so?" I asked to no one in particular. I'm sure my wife thought I was being an idiot.
Then, it happened.
I looked up from the toy cars and Lego ramps to see the final snap. My reaction was probably the same as thousands of other Hawk fans watching on TVs throughout the country as I realized the clock was going to run out …
"Oh geez ... this is it ...(mouth hanging open as Tate heaves it downfield) ... HEY! ... HE'S GONNA SCORE! ... HE'S GONNA SCORE! ... (now jumping up and down with my arms in the air and doing laps in our living room around my children and our car ramps) ... HE SCORED! ... HE SCORED! ... HE SCORED! ... I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! ... HE SCORED!" (more and more of the same for about 45 seconds or five minutes … I have no idea of the time that elapsed)
My daughter was a little scared. My son thought it was cool. My wife just laughed at me … or with me.
(I have only "scared" my daughter like that one time before. And that was when Reggie Evans blocked Kirk Haston's shot at the end of the 2001 Big Ten Tournament.)
As Drew Tate and his Hawkeye teammates sprinted to the end zone to pile on top of Holloway, the Iowa fans in living rooms, pool halls and sports bars throughout the nation were jumping, running, shouting and dancing like little kids, as well. We were ALL somehow on that pile in the black-and-gold end zone in Orlando.
And we are ALL full of pride when it comes to this football program.
Some reasons are obvious – such as 31 victories in three seasons – while others may not be quite so obvious. For example …
The personal losses suffered by the Parker and Ferentz families in the past year, which touched everyone associated with the program.
Coach Norm Parker fighting health issues all season, right down to the Capitol One Bowl, but still managing to lead another tremendous defensive effort all year long.
Coach Ken O'Keefe working with his fourth different starting quarterback in four seasons – each having an entirely different set of skills – and finding a way to fit Iowa's offense around the available talent. Add to that the losses due to injuries at running back and O'Keefe is certainly one of the most under-rated heroes of this season.
Brian Ferentz working his way back from nearly losing his leg to actually returning to the lineup and immediately bringing leadership – and noticeable improvement – to the offensive line in mid-season.
For every "star recruit" like Matt Roth, there seems to be several guys like Sean Considine, who came from seemingly nowhere, gave it everything they had and became tremendous players for the Hawkeyes.
Special teams play continues to be a big-time strength for the Hawkeyes. What other program can block not one, but TWO punts, against a quality team like LSU and its fan base isn't really surprised?
Warren Holloway – a fifth-year senior – scoring the FIRST touchdown of his Hawkeye career on the LAST play of his final season. Has there been a more heroic end to a Hawkeye career? Is there any better example of someone quietly paying his dues, working hard … and in the end, making something great happen because of it? Does Holloway's career just about perfectly describe the Kirk Ferentz Era at Iowa?
For me, there will be a few images of the 2004-05 Hawkeye football season that will definitely stick with me for years to come:
1) The emotional reaction of Coach Ferentz on the sideline at the conclusion of the victory at Penn State.
2) The emotional interview of Coach Ferentz with Holly Rowe after the victory over Wisconsin.
3) Tate to Holloway, followed by the emotional bedlam … in Orlando, in my living room and everywhere else that Hawkeye fans were gathered.
This is a team – and a program – led by a fantastic coaching staff that does a tremendous job of keeping its emotions in check during the course of games, it seems to me. It is also a team that is filled with people who hold each other in very high regard, who genuinely care about each other and who will sacrifice individual ideas for the good of the TEAM at all times.
As a result of that "family" type of bond and the outstanding leadership we've seen from coaches and players alike, we have enjoyed a fantastic, emotional and historic ride this season.
Trev Alberts said on ESPN tonight, "Kirk Ferentz is the best college football coach in the country … and it isn't even close." No truer words have been spoken during this football season.
I believe that Iowa fans are well aware of how lucky we are to have Coach Ferentz running this program. I believe that the Iowa players know how lucky they are to play for him. And I believe that we are all extremely fired up about what the next few seasons may bring.
While David Soul may have had a nice song about not giving up – which certainly fits the attitude of this team – it appears to me that Styx may have nailed the feeling of Hawk fans as we enter the new year…
"These are the best of times."