The Iowa Hawkeyes didn't just need to win Saturday's game against Arizona to prove they're legitimate contendors for a Big Ten title, they needed to win the game to prove to the nation that they don't like being dismissed and forgotten.
After a nail-biter against Northern Iowa that nobody saw coming knocked the Hawkeyes out of the top 25, and the nation's attention, Iowa responded by visiting Iowa State and delivering a severe dismantling of its other in-state rivals.
"But," said the critics of the nation (namely the fans of Iowa's Big Ten foes) "That was Iowa State. The win proved nothing."
These comments pissed off Hawkeye fans and most likely lit a fire under Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and his team, whether he would admit it or not.
Iowa has once again responded by taking down another opponent, this time the former Hawkeye Mike Stoops's Arizona Wildcats, 27- 17.
Stoops's team came into the game 2-0 with wins against Central Michigan, who shocked Michigan State last week, and Northern Arizona. The Wildcats defense gave up an average of only 204 yards and just over 12 points in those games.
Iowa's defense, while showing they may be susceptible to the run, had allowed only one touchdown all season. Norm Parker's crew looked like a Big Ten-leading defense once again.
This game lined up to be a defensive smack-down.
College Gameday finally gave an Iowa Hawkeye game a little attention. Special guest Lance Armstrong believed in Iowa's chances and gave a good shout out to Ragbrai on live national television. The Coach, Lee Corso, agreed that the Hawks would prevail.
Kirk Herbstreit did not see eye-to-eye with his colleagues. "Herbie" said Arizona was "more talented" than Iowa and that would be the winning factor.
The Ohio State University alum was wrong.
Iowa won the game convincingly. Though the difference was cut to only 10 points by a touchdown pass from Arizona backup quarterback Nick Foles to Juron Criner, it was nothing more than a pity score.
The Iowa defense put on a clinic for the second straight game. Though not as flashy as the five-turnover ball-hawking display against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes stifled any offense Arizona could muster. The Wildcats were held to a mere 253 yards of total offense. The defense collected two sacks and snagged one interception.
That lone interception found its way into the hands of Tyler Sash, already his fourth of the year. Sash also recorded five tackles. Brett Greenwood and Karl Klugg helped with five tackles of their own. Klugg had a sack as well.
Linebackers Jeremiah Hunter and Pat Angerer did their part in Iowa's win. Hunter had seven stops and Angerer six.
Adrian Clayborn was Iowa's unofficial defensive MVP for the game. The big defensive end wreacked havoc on the Wildcats offensive line all afternoon with six tackles, one sack and a forced fumble that was recovered by Arizona.
On the offensive side, Iowa was led by it's freshman ground-attack duo Adam Robinson (redshirt) and Brandon Wegher. Robinson rushed the ball 18 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Wegher played the role of bruiser, accumulating 46 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi was Iowa's one questionable note of the game. Stanzi continued to suffer from first half jitters missing many a wide-open target and feebly lobbing a pass to Arizona's Trevin Wade for an interception and a touchdown the other way.
Stanzi recovered his composure in the second half, as seems to be the trend, totaling 20 completions on 32 attempts for 205 yards. Nine of Stanzi's incompletions came in the first half.
None of Arizona's offensive players could post more than mildly impressive numbers.
The Wildcats' star junior running back Nic Grigsby came into Saturday's contest second in the nation with 325 yards in just two games. Grigsby carried the ball 11 times for 75 yards against the Hawkeyes defense. The vast majority of those yards came on a 58-yard scamper.
Defensively, Arizona simply did not live up to its reputation. The Wildcats gave up over 300 yards of offense for the first time all season. Previously, Arizona had only given up 182 yards to NFL prospect Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan. Northern Arizona was able to squeeze out only 226 yards.
Iowa's 27 points was more than double Arizona's average points allowed.
On paper, the score of the game was misleading but make no mistake, Iowa answered the call and controlled the entire second half, sending the Wildcats home empty-handed.
One has to wonder, would Kirk Herbstreit like to reevaluate the talent of the Iowa Hawkeyes? I know some pollsters and Penn State fans might.