Take it from Frank Gilliam, a member of Iowa's all-century team and a man who has a long history of evaluating football talent.
The 2002 Hawkeyes are a very good team.
Gilliam, 68, senior consultant of player personnel for the Minnesota Vikings, was Iowa's honorary captain for Saturday's game against Michigan State.
He spoke to the Hawkeyes at Friday's practice, then watched them dismantle Michigan State, 44-16, yesterday before a crowd of 69,021 at Kinnick Stadium.
The victory, which came after Iowa scored 44 unanswered points, elevated coach Kirk Ferentz's team into the No. 15 spot in today's Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the coaches' poll. The Hawkeyes were No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the coaches' poll last week.
There was good news—and historic news--for Iowa State, too. The Cyclones, the only team to own a victory over Iowa, jumped into the No. 9 spot in the AP poll after being No. 11. They're No. 13 in the coaches' poll after being No. 14 last week.
It marks the first time any Iowa State football team has ever been ranked in the top 10. The Cyclones' highest previous ranking was No. 11.
"Iowa is very well coached and they had a good scheme particularly on defense—against Michigan State,'' Gilliam said. They played hard, but Michigan State kind of helped them out with their miscues.''
Gilliam was a standout end on both offense and defense at Iowa on Forest Evashevski's teams in 1953, 1954 and 1956. He helped the 1956 Hawkeyes beat Oregon State, 35-19, in the Rose Bowl.
He was one of the Hawkeyes' "Steubenville Trio.'' Gilliam, Calvin Jones and Eddie Vincent of Steubenville, Ohio, became key members of Evashevski's early teams.
Gilliam was on Ray Nagel's coaching staff at Iowa from 1966-1970, and among the players he recruited to play for the Hawkeyes was Dennis Green, who went on to become head coach of the Vikings.
"I felt very honored to be Iowa's honorary captain,'' Gilliam said. "I talked to the players Friday about my feelings regarding the University of Iowa.
"I told them what I thought about the football program and what I thought about their play. I told them I had confidence in them and I wished them luck.''
Gilliam accompanied Iowa's captains to the center of the field for the pregame coin toss, then watched the game from the press box.
He's seen enough of the Hawkeyes to get a handle on Ferentz, whose team has a 6-1 record and is tied with Ohio State for first place in the Big Ten at 3-0.
"Kirk knows the game, he's a motivator and he's a good person,'' Gilliam said.
Representatives of the Rose, Capital One, Sun and Motor City Bowls attended the Michigan State game.
Although there's been some scattered Rose Bowl talk concerning Iowa in recent weeks, the Hawkeyes now should be considered definite possibilities to make the trip to Pasadena.
Still remaining on the Hawkeyes' schedule are Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota, and it would be wise to not count them out against any of those opponents.
Iowa got by against Michigan State without its "A'' game on offense. The Hawkeyes had a total offense of only 284 yards to Michigan State's 249.
But Ferentz's team continues to show that, when one part of its game isn't at its best, another part kicks in.
"Our offense wasn't spectacular, but we did enough to get the victory,'' said running back Fred Russell, the Big Ten's leading rusher who was limited to 75 yards in 18 carries."We have a lot of weapons. Teams might stop me, but we have other ways of winning.''
Iowa's much-maligned pass defense, which ranked last in the Big Ten and 116th nationally, next to last among major colleges--played a superb game.
The Hawkeyes had four sacks and intercepted three passes. In addition, they forced two fumbles. In addition, they held Charles Rogers, a Michigan State pass receiver who likely will be earning future big bucks in the National Football League, without a touchdown reception for the first time in 15 games. He owns the Big Ten record.
Asked if Iowa's game plan was to stop Rogers, Ferentz said, "Yes and no. They have some weapons. It's tough just to take one guy out of a game, and he's a guy who's tough to take out. "I joked Friday at the "I'' Club that maybe it was to our advantage that Rogers is great in tight coverage. So maybe we had a great advantage going into the game.''
Michigan State coach Bobby Williams said he was pleased that the Spartans played hard. Bobby and his players could have fooled me.
I thought Michigan State quit. I wouldn't accuse Bobby of it, but I'm guessing the players quit very early.
Like the second quarter.
"Iowa has a very, very good football team,'' Williams said. "No question they're one of the best teams in the conference.''
Ferentz called it "a great effort by our football team. I think we learned how to play the whole game—something that's been a problem for us this season.
"In fact, it may have seemed that Michigan State had us right where they wanted us at halftime (when Iowa led, 27-7). But we somehow figured out how to play the second half.''
That comment was in reference to Iowa's inability to put away Iowa State and Penn State after having big halftime leads. The Hawkeyes ended up losing to Iowa State, but beat Penn State in overtime.
"I think our guys are showing that they're learning every week,'' Ferentz said. "If we can continue to do that, we're not a bad football team.''
Brad Banks threw touchdown passes of 62 and 25 yards to C. J. Jones, and Jones thought the fact that Rogers came into the game with such strong credentials helped Iowa's motivation.
"We tried to show people that we deserved some respect, too,'' Jones said.
A reporter joked with Jones, telling him that because he had a better game than Rogers he might now be on the list of Heisman Trophy contenders. Jones laughed when he heard the comment.
"I'm not worried about the Heisman,'' he said. "I'm just worried about the win.'' Asked if Iowa "is this good or if it's a case of the BigTen being down,'' Jones said, "Iowa is this good. We've been waiting for our turn, and it's here.''
Here & There
Iowa's next game is Saturday at Indiana, which showed how dangerous it can be by upsetting Wisconsin, 32-29. "I think Indiana is probably going to be a little confused,'' Russell said. "They won't know if they need to stop the run or stop the pass when they play us. We got our passing game going a little bit against Michigan State.''….Frank Gilliam's son, Frank Jr., played football at Drake and earned a bachelor's degree from the school. He later got a master's and doctorate from Iowa, and recently was an assistant vice-chancellor at UCLA.
Vol. 2, No. 75
Oct. 13, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is email@example.com ]