No Time to Give Up, Hawkeye Fans

You'd think after getting knocked out the Big Ten race last week, Iowa Seniors Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge would be destroyed. Well, they're certainly disappointed, but they know how to keep things in perspective better than some of us "more mature" Hawkeye fans do. Senior Writer Rob Howe helps them get their message across in this premium column.

Sometimes crotchety old men (and young men) forget what we're watching on Saturday. Often, we just see helmets and shoulder pads moving up and down the field and expect the ones in Black and Gold to be perfect or darn close to it.

It ruins the weekend if Iowa loses. It's BCS or bust. It's bragging rights on the message boards of other schools. It's shutting up Jim Rome. It's having a comeback for annoying Illinois basketball fans.

Well, sometimes the land of crotchety needs a dose of reality with its Just for Men.

"It's been difficult because we're not winning to the point where we thought that we had a chance to, but that's football and that's life," said Iowa all-everything linebacker Chad Greenway, who has been in somewhat of a firestorm since Saturday crushing 28-27 loss at Northwestern.

"This probably isn't going to be the hardest thing I go through in life. You can't really look at it like it's the end of the world. This is a sport played essentially by kids. You start playing this as a fifth grader because it's fun. That's how you have to look at it. You can't be too serious about it. You can never take this game too seriously because it's not life or death."

Greenway was whistled for a personal foul penalty late in the loss, a play he personally regrets due to its costly nature to his team. He doesn't, however, see any reason why members of Northwestern would call the Hawkeyes dirty players.

"It weighed on me more just because of the fact that I felt like I let my teammates down with the personal foul, even though there were more opportunities out there where we could have won the game," the South Dakota native said. "But that was obviously a big straw that broke the camel's back there at the end.

"I was on the front line of the onside kick as well. He kicked it right at me, and then all of a sudden the thing went about 30 feet in the air. There were some plays that maybe I felt like I left out there. I know I gave my best effort. That was really the key to me getting over it. I was out there playing as hard as I could. That's really all you can ask from yourself."

And really, that's all the fans can ask. Occasionally, the breaks go to the other team. Sometimes, the opponent makes more plays.

"I wouldn't say it's a different personality (on this team compared to recent Iowa teams)," Hawkeye Linebacker Abdul Hodge said. "When you're playing the game of football, the other teams have good players, too. The other team has good coaches. They work out during the season and the off season and they lift weights just as well as we do. When you play the game of football, especially in the Big Ten, things are going to go your way and sometimes they're aren't going to go your way."

That's why Iowa will win this week in Madison whether it's ahead on the scoreboard or behind at the final horn. You're reading what it's about to be a senior leader. It's about lessons learned and keeping things in perspective.

"You look over our season and you take away the Ohio State game, that's the game that got out of hand, but all the games that we won we pretty much controlled and the ones that we lost we had an opportunity to win," Hodge said. "There's no reason to hang our heads. Teams lose and teams win. This year we've lost four and we just have to go out and get these last two."

Just in case you thought these guys were blowing smoke up your backside, you need to know that it hurts them not to be challenging for a Big Ten title more than it hurts Joe Iowa Fan. We get to come back next year. For Greenway, Hodge and the rest of the seniors, they're only guaranteed two more games.

"It's hard to deal with, especially with the success we've had in the passed years," Hodge said. "But that's how life goes. Sometimes things don't always go your way. It's how you respond to adversity that reveals the true character of a person."

The Hawkeyes had to live up to a lot this season. Three consecutive Top 10 finishes brought massive preseason hype. That has to weigh on you and inspire your opponents. Still, Iowa could be 7-2, 5-1 with a few more positive plays against Michigan and Northwestern.

It's fair to wonder why this year's team couldn't reach the heights of a year ago when the talent on the two teams is comparable. This year's team has a young D-line while last year's team was missing a running game.

"There are a lot of things that factor into it," Hodge said. "It's not one or two things. We didn't get the job done. That's why we are where we are."

No way last year's team does what it did playing this year's schedule. That's not an excuse, that's reality.

Luckily, players like Hodge and Greenway understand why they are where they are and what remains ahead.

"For us to go up to Wisconsin and lay down would be just a complete shame not only from what we've done the last three years here, but to our seniors," Greenway said. "This is our last chance. This is our last go-around to go out there and prove that we're good leaders, a good class to come through here, which I think we are.

"Still, we can go up to Wisconsin and give our best effort and still lose. That's the thing that people aren't really aware of. In the Big Ten this year, the margin for winning or losing is so small that you may go up there and play really great and lose, like we did last week at Northwestern."

Northwestern also defeated the Badgers, 51-48, in Evanston. Penn State lost at Michigan, a place where Minnesota won. Penn State beat Minnesota, 44-14. It's likely been one of the most balanced Big Ten seasons ever.

"That should be everyone's goal at the beginning of the year is to compete for a Big Ten Championship," Hodge said. "The reality is that only one or two teams probably can. You're going to have some in the middle and some in the bottom."

Currently, the combined record of league teams that Iowa plays at home this year stands at 8-16. The teams it plays on the road are 13-10, which also includes 1-5 Purdue, a team the Hawks beat.

You can bet that Iowa would have rather faced Ohio State and Wisconsin at home and played Indiana and Illinois on the road. Penn State hosted No. 6 OSU, No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 18 Minnesota this season. The Lions beat all three teams, and their only conference loss was at Michigan.

These are the things that the team understands. They don't use them as excuses, but they know they can play with anybody in the league. The fans might be depressed, but the players are confident.

"We're a team that's filled with guys that have high character and a coaching staff that's willing to work hard," Hodge said. "I don't think we have a losing attitude. I think even though we've lost the last two (games), we have competed out there. It's not like we went out on the field and completely gave up."

And as fans, we shouldn't either.

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