Iowa City, Iowa - Boy, this season must really be building character for the Hawkeyes. The way Iowa pulls out wins week after week has to make men out of boys.
"I think you have character and then it shows," Iowa Quarterback Rick Stanzi said. "That's what this team kind of has. I mean, you could say that it's building character but I think that this team has great character and you're able to see it when we go through tough times and win a close one."
Hmmm. So that tired cliché that adversity builds character might not be completely true?
"It starts with Coach (Kirk) Ferentz," Iowa Wide Receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said. "Guys see his demeanor, they see his approach, and it sparks us. We have the character and we've been put into plenty of situations this year where we've had to overcome some things and it's built on our character as a team."
Ah, now I get it, you have character and a season like this one builds on that character.
"Yes. We put ourselves in a position that if we respond to these setbacks, it creates character," Johnson-Koulianos said. "When we're learning to play the full 60 (minutes) shows character."
It makes sense, even if it might be guilty of being overly philosophical. Teams without character probably couldn't:
- Block two field goals in the final seven seconds to hold off Northern Iowa, 17-16, in the season opener.
- Come back from an early touchdown bomb in front of more than 100,000 fans at Penn State, scoring 18 unanswered points for a 21-10 win at Happy Valley.
- Hold off Arkansas State and Michigan at home by a total of five points.
- Rebound from a seven-point, halftime deficit at Wisconsin to score the game's final 17 points.
- Score the winning touchdown in the final minute and half at Michigan State.
- Watch Indiana build a 21-7 halftime advantage and stop the Hoosiers from building on that with a mind-boggling, 86-yard interception return.
So, maybe that's a key in putting together a championship team. There has to be a high level of character present to overcome the adversity and road blocks that further build character.
Further more, Iowa will need the character it's achieved this season. At 9-0 and a No. 4 BCS ranking, it will be tested during the final three games.
"The more we win, the harder each week is going to be because people want to knock us off," Johnson-Koulianos said. "People are trying to make their season by beating a ranked, undefeated Iowa team. And in conference play, it's going to be a battle no matter who you're playing.
"We beat a third-ranked Penn State last year. That was huge. It's something we'll never forget. It was huge for our program. Teams are going to try to come out and do the same to us."
Iowa sat at 5-4 last season before upsetting Penn State in November and winning its final four games. You can bet that the character building started back then.
It also takes character to close out the naysayers who feel the Hawkeyes are more luck than talent this season.
"There's this national perception of Iowa that we don't have superior talent," Johnson-Koulianos said. "It's a farming place. There's nothing to do there. We're just Iowa. We're just trying. We're just lucking our way to each win.
"They have no idea what we're doing, our team's demeanor and focus. It's countless hours by the coaches. We understand what this is all about. We understand what it takes to be a great team. It's taken a lot this year. We're overcoming injuries, guys being sick, everything. We've invested too much to let a game slip away or just be an average team."
Despite what some people on the outside might think.