Painful Reminders

As Iowa sits at 5-4 on the 2005 season, one that was full of great expectations from the fan base as well as local and national pundits, I am reminded of history. The disappointment that fans felt after the 1997 season was only washed away during the previous three years of the Kirk Ferentz era, but some of that bile is now being regurgitated in the midst of more disappointment.

Fans are human. Sure, some of them might go to the extreme, like the lunatic fringe that start up websites calling for someone's job, which is more than ludicrous.

But disappointment is a part of life and we all handle it differently. For some, the pain comes and goes rather quickly. However, it can linger on longer than one would like.

Iowa football has once again become a great source of pride for the fans of the black and gold, and with the amazing run of success comes amazing expectations.

A New York newspaper picked Iowa to win the national title this year, and CBSSportsline.com picked Iowa to play USC for the national title. Iowa was nearly a consensus Top 10 team in the preseason polls this season.

Whether or not all of that was fair is debatable. I picked Iowa to finish 9-2 and go back to the Outback Bowl when clearer thinking would have cast more doubt due to the entirely new defensive line. However, the faith I had in the offense and its ability to outscore opponents was misplaced. Then again, what would having Ed Hinkel healthy these past two games have meant to an offense that has dropped more than its fair share of passes in those contests? What if's….I can't stand them.

This is not the first time that expectations have gone unmet.

1988

Iowa was coming off a three year run where they were 29-8; 10-2 in 1985, 9-3 in 1986 and 10-3 in 1987. Sport Magazine ranked Iowa #1 in the nation prior to the 1988 season and expectations were similar to those that faced this year's team.

The Hawks had reeled off six-straight bowl appearances and had a senior gunslinger returning at quarterback, the best tight end in the country and a super talented sophomore running back.

But Iowa was decimated by injuries that year, yet they still shot themselves in the foot on too many occasions. They lost by three at Hawaii in the season opener that included a missed field goal. They lost by three at Colorado and had a crucial fumble in that contest that set up the game for the Buffalos. They had three ties that season and missed three field goals in each of those games, plus the two aforementioned three point losses.

They qualified for a bowl at 6-3-3, but lost to North Carolina State in the Peach Bowl.

The quarterback for that team was Chuck Hartlieb, and here is what he said to HawkeyeNation.com on Monday, November 7th about that season:

"It taught me a lesson about just how important positive momentum and positive attitude is. In 1988, as much as in our hearts we wanted to crank it up and stay positive and focus on the big picture, it was hard when little things happened. We had a goofy loss at Hawaii, fumbled at Colorado, otherwise those are two easy wins there. Then three ties where in each of the ties, we missed three field goals. You talk about nightmares; this is not anything compared to 1988 to miss three field goals in each of those ties." Hartlieb said.

"All and all, right at this point, we had a similar type of schedule and really, it's a great lesson if it can get to the kids. They have a chance to resurrect and the seniors have a chance to finish on a note that they are proud of for the rest of their lives. We actually had an additional tie at Ohio State, had a so-so win against Minnesota and laid an egg in the Peach Bowl. If we could have just taken those three games and played at the level we were capable of, we would have looked back on 1988 and we would have had a much better team than 6-4-3."

1997

Iowa was coming off a 9-3 1996 season that culminated with a thumping of Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl. The Hawkeyes had two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in Tavian Banks and Tim Dwight.

Banks topped the 1,000 yard mark that season on his 125th carry, which was the fastest anyone had ever made it to that mark in NCAA history.

The Hawks started out 4-0 and were ranked in the Top 10, but back to back games at Ohio State and Michigan loomed.

They dropped the game in Columbus 23-7 and were ranked 15th as they headed to the Big House. Tim Dwight's magical punt return at the end of the half helped Iowa take a 21-7 lead at the break. But the Hawks would score just three second half points and would lose late to the Wolverines, 28-24.

After that game, the Hawks would drub Indiana and Purdue but then lost back to back contests on the road at Wisconsin and Northwestern. Iowa lost badly in the Sun Bowl against Arizona State to finish 7-5. In their six Division 1-A wins, the record of Iowa's opponents was just 17-51, a stat aided heavily by Purdue's 9-3 record. Iowa was 0-4 on the road in the Big Ten.

For many Iowa fans under the age of 40 at the time, the 1997 season was the most disappointing of their lives.

2005

How will this season be remembered? Will it sit back on the shelf with the disappointing years of 1988 & 1997?

That is yet to be determined. Iowa could very well lose its last two games and miss out on a bowl game for the first time since the 2000 season. That would be harmful to the program, as they would miss out on those bowl practices that are so important to the development of the younger players.

Iowa still has a chance of winning its last two games to get to 7-4 on the regular season. Should they do that, they will play a beatable opponent in a bowl game. If Iowa can ‘win out' the rest of this year, an 8-4 record, while not what the players and coaches hoped for in August, would still be very respectable given the strength of its schedule and the overall balance in the Big Ten this year.

The final chapter for this season has yet to be written, and it starts with a daunting road trip to Madison for Barry Alvarez's final home game as Wisconsin's head coach. The Badgers have a lot to play for, which includes a shot at a New Year's Day bowl bid.

Such was the case the last time Iowa and Wisconsin hooked up in Wisconsin, but the Hawks were also playing for a New Year's Day trip. This time around, Iowa is playing for pride and for continuity within the program.

No, the season has not gone how many would have liked it to go. Fans of Tennessee, Oklahoma and Nebraska are all feeling the same way, and those programs have won national titles within the past decade.

It all starts on Saturday with regards to how this team will be remembered.


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