At this year's Big Ten Press Day in Chicago, the Iowa and Northwestern players struck up a friendship and hung out a little bit. They had nothing but positive words to say about each other at the event.
Apparently, a few months and a heated football game broke that bond.
It started with Northwestern Quarterback Bret Basanez calling out the Hawkeye players for being dirty and the coaches for teaching those tactics. Much of his frustration could be directly attached to Iowa Linebacker Chad Greenway, who was tagged for a personal foul on a late hit on the Wildcat signal caller in the closing minutes.
"I know him actually pretty well," Greenway said of Basanez. "I was a little surprised that he would make those comments in the media. I met him at the Big Ten thing, and I actually knew him before that.
"He's a good guy, and I would never ever say a bad word about him. Those were surprising because nothing has ever been said like that about this program. I take offense to that because I never, ever play dirty. That was kind of hurtful, especially coming from a guy that I've known and met before and had seemed like a good guy. He knows deep down that my intentions weren't to ever hurt him. I was just out there playing football."
On several occasions during Saturday's game, Basanez and Greenway could be seen talking after plays, a few of which Greenway got to the QB and knocked him down after the ball was out. They didn't appear to be hard hits or illegal, but Basanez was talking to the officials after their completion.
"It was just joking around," Greenway said of the exchanges with Basanez. "He knew he was flopping, and so did I. That was kind of the joke. Not much more can be said about that. He was out there playing and he led his team to a victory, which give him credit for that. He played great at the end. If that's the way he felt, that's the way he felt. I can't say anything more about that."
Despite Northwestern pulling out a 28-27 victory in the game's final minutes, Wildcats Coach Randy Walker said he was sending a tape the Big Ten office highlighting what he thought were dirty tactics used by Iowa.
On the personal foul call, Basanez went into a slide as Greenway was approaching for a tackle. The linebacker connected his head with the QB's shoulder pad.
"When guys are sliding like Basanez was doing, it makes it difficult for the refs to make a decision," Greenway said. "As a player, you shouldn't put a ref in that situation to make a decision like that. If I would have stopped and went in with my body, it would have been a much smarter decision on my part.
"Looking back, that's what I would have rather done at this point. But you can't take things back. And when you're out there in the flow of the game and bullets are flying, I mean the series before he threw a ball over my head after I came up. What are you going to do? Are you going to come up if you get a chance and stop him with the ball? In that situation, it was difficult not to.
"I didn't realize anything until I got up. You could kind of sense the crowd knew it was coming. Then, the flags started coming. I didn't know when I was doing it that it was bad. Maybe if I wouldn't have led with my helmet as much, it's what if, what if. You can't say that anymore. You've just got to move on."
Greenway adamantly denied ever trying to illegally hurt somebody. He didn't apologize for looking to crush the quarterback within the rules, however.
"That's the goal," he said. "You don't want to be a cheap player or anything like that. I would say that my hit last week was in the flow of the game. Anytime you get a quarterback scrambling outside, or even in the pocket, and you have a chance to lay a lick on him, that's what it's all about is getting to the quarterback.
"You guys all played the game Kill the Carrier when you were little. Why do you kill him? He's got the ball. That's what you do. You're not going to go out of your way to hurt somebody or to be cheap. You just go after the guy with the ball."
It's easy to view a personal foul as a dirty play by name alone. But it's not as cut and dry as that.
"Abdul (Hodge) and I always talk about that rule in the NFL where (you can't grab the back of the neck of the shoulder pads)," Greenway said. "Well, when you're tackling somebody like (Wisconsin's Brian) Calhoun, for example, as shifty as he is on film, you can't say well I can put my hand here but I can't put it here.
"Well, crap, now he's gone for a touchdown and what can you do? The speed of the game is going so fast, it's kind of hard to direct what you're doing. You just try to go out there and stop them as soon as possible."
ONSIDE KICKED: Greenway stood at the front of the Iowa onsides kick team last Saturday. He never saw anything like the boot Northwestern's Joel Howells delivered to set up the Wildcats' winning score.
"He kicked it right at me," Greenway said. "I was thinking that I was going to field it. It just took that last little hop. And it always does.
"They try to set it up about five yards in front of the guy. I just felt like I was going to jump up and catch it, get drilled and whatever, hopefully hang on to it. The thing just took a crazy hop. He put it in a great spot. It was great execution on their part."
The TV analysts on ESPN criticized Iowa for not blocking the Northwestern players. However, if you look on film, the Hawkeye return men each felt he had a shot at it.
"If it's kicked to one guy and you see he's going to field it, then everybody else goes and blocks," Greenway said. "He kind of put it in a spot where I couldn't block. You want to set up blocks, but where he put it, with that bounce, it's almost a perfect spot. The ball bounced their way. What can you say? That's why the ball isn't round. The thing had a mind of its own."
Greenway said that Iowa practices recovering onsides kicks throughout the season with Hawkeye place kicker Kyle Schlicher. Most times, there isn't a problem getting the ball.
"We've had the same hands team the whole year," Greenway said. "Schlicher does a good job of kicking it around and making us field it, but never like that."
CALHOUN A HANDFULL: It's not a secret that Brian Calhoun is the man to stop in the Wisconsin attack. The running back ranks fourth in the nation at 125.6 yards per game. He also averages a hefty 27.4 carries a contest.
"I think we're all aware of how great a talent he is," Greenway said. "He has the ability to run inside, outside. If he gets an opening, he can hit the jets and go. Him and (Minnesota's Laurence) Maroney actually remind me a lot of each other. Calhoun is maybe just more of a shiftier guy. Maroney is more of a straight ahead guy.
"Maroney is good to get in your mind as to what we're going to be tackling this week. His ability to catch the ball is overlooked a lot of times. We have to be ready for him coming out of the backfield and making some catches."
Calhoun also ranks among the national leaders with receiving yards out of the backfield with 487. He is just one of the challenges Iowa faces in visiting the 19th-ranked Wisconsin, not the least of which will be Barry Alvarez coaching his final home game. .
"You couldn't find a bigger hill to climb than this one," Greenway said. "It's Senior Night. It's Barry's last game. Camp Randall is tough the way it is. It's going to be difficult and we're going to have to be on our best at every aspect of our game."
Greenway said Iowa needs to be angry about letting leads slip away in their last two contests against Michigan and Northwestern.
"A big chip (on their shoulders)," he said about the Hawkeye approach. "It's going to take more than a little one to get it done up there. We're going to need a boulder on our shoulders, not only for the atmosphere but for getting over what has happened to us the last two games.
"Having the games essentially in our hands in the fourth quarter and losing them is something that we just don't do around here or haven't in the past. That's the biggest hurdle, having that chip to go up there and finish the game.
INSURANCE POLICY: Greenway took one out on himself before the season just in case he was injured. He likely would have been a first-round selection in last year's NFL Draft, but decided to return to Iowa for his senior year.
"I got it over with as soon as possible and just don't think about it," Greenway said. "It's one of those things where you don't want to be thinking like that because you don't want to wish injury upon yourself and you don't want to be thinking ahead. I didn't want to be thinking ahead. That's almost why I went to the point of almost not doing it because I didn't want to be thinking like that."
EXTRA POINTS: Iowa has defeated the Badgers in their last three meetings. Wisconsin last won, 34-28, in '01 at Camp Randall…Mark Jones, Chris Spielman and Erin Andrews will call the game for ESPN…This will be the second season for the Heartland Trophy…Iowa's total offense (419.56) ranks 33rd nationally, while the Badgers (435.4) are 102nd in total defense…Redshirt freshman Jared Oberland is the only Iowa player from the state of Wisconsin. The Badgers don't have any players from the Hawkeye State…Iowa has played just one ranked opponent this year, a 31-6 loss at Ohio State…The Hawkeyes will play on artificial turf for the only time this regular season…Iowa Strength Coach Chris Doyle was an assistant strength coach at Wisconsin from '96-98…Alvarez is 5-8 against Iowa and 3-3 against Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz…Iowa QB Drew Tate has failed to throw a TD pass in three games this season. The Hawkeyes have lost all three (Iowa State, Ohio State and Northwestern), which all were on the road.