Miller: Hawks, Seniors Don't Quit

With their backs against the wall and with the season on the brink of going over an edge, the Iowa football team responded with a gutty second half answer to Michigan State on Saturday. Iowa trailed 17-3 at the half after an ugly first stanza of offense. But the second half, Iowa hitched its saddle to the back of workhorse Albert Young, and he delivered...

I watched the Iowa-Michigan State game today with a former Iowa football player who was a member of the team when Iowa turned a corner in 2000 at Penn State.

During the third quarter of today's game, I turned to him and said, ‘this is perhaps shaping up as a game that could be a springboard for this program into the future, just like the 2000 double overtime win at Penn State was for the first major run of the Ferentz era.'

We thought about that for a second, and went back to watching the game,.

Who knows if this game will indeed be a harbinger of better days to come, but the result was eerily similar to that game in November of 2000. Iowa beat the Nittany Lions that day in double overtime. The defense came up with a huge stop to end that football game, and Iowa went on to beat a ranked Northwestern team the next week, showing signs of turning a corner as a program.

Of course, we all know that Iowa went 40-13 over the course of the next four seasons after that win. We don't know how the next four years will play out, much less the rest of the season.

But this year is about taking steps now, steps towards getting back on track, steps towards getting back to being a team that can contend for Big Ten titles.

Iowa's offense struggled as much in the first half today as it ever has under Kirk Ferentz. That left the defense on the field far too long for the second straight game.

But something happened in the second half for Iowa, something that a lot of people have been hoping to see for the last three or four weeks; Iowa found its groove on the ground, namely on the legs and back of Albert Young and a great performance by the offensive line.

To say that Young ran as hard as he ever had would be an understatement. It was the kind of effort that has to make each and every Iowa fan extremely proud of this senior that has given so much to the program. A player that has not gotten into trouble, a player that lost two seasons to significant injuries. A player that could be the poster child for Iowa football; someone that every other team member can emulate.

After the game, Young was emotional when talking with Gary Dolphin and Ed Podolak. He wasn't holding back his tears, because he could not.

He talked about how proud he was of his teammates, the 12 seniors and the fact that no one had given up on the inside of the program. His voice cracked and he struggled to complete the interview.

When you are as invested as these players and coaches are, and you keep plugging away, and taste success, it's as sweet as winning a Big Ten title.

Because there is more adversity in life than there is title moments.

And these Iowa players refuse to quit, even when some people have quit on them.

It wasn't easy, and it wasn't always pretty on Saturday.

But in the end, the scoreboard said that the Iowa Hawkeyes were winners on Saturday.

I believe they won more than just a game; they played hard-nosed, Iowa football on Saturday. They gave it all they had, and more than they perhaps thought they could give,.

And it was good enough to walk off the field with a smile on their face.

Who knows if this will be the start of something good, or great. Next week's game will be more challenging, as Northwestern's offensive attack has given Iowa fits in recent years.

But on this day, I won't worry about that. I'll soak up the smiles, I'll soak up Albert Young's tears and I will stand and applaud an amazing effort by a group of players that will not quit.

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