Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Flash Back at What Could Have Been

Donna LaubeContributor IINovember 23, 2010

2009 Hawkeyes at Penn State
2009 Hawkeyes at Penn StateGregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s a sunny September day in 2009, the first game of the season against an FCS team, Northern Iowa.

The fans are excited for the season to start, unsure how well it will be, with superhero Shonn Greene drafted to the NFL before all his eligibility was officially up. 2008 had been a decent season (9-4 overall) with a great spoil win against No. 4 Penn State and a great national showing at the Outback Bowl. 

2009 will hopefully be at least another bowl eligible season, but we’ll have to see….

…It’s the end of the fourth quarter and all UNI has to do is make this field goal to win the game and deny Iowa it’s first home win of the season. And the kick.. is… good.. crap! UNI has beaten us! How embarrassing! We’ll take a tumble in the rankings now. No chance at the Big Ten Title, more than likely.

It’s a crisp day in October. Somehow, the Hawkeyes have won all their games since the UNI fiasco, thank goodness they cleaned up those special teams mistakes!

Now we’re in a smash-mouth contest with Michigan State. This one is going down to the wire…WHAT?…where did the hook-and-ladder come from? Who does that?!

Now we only have less than two minutes to drive down the field and score a TD to win. A field goal won’t do it—Stanzi is having a rough time converting. They try running it—fail.  They try a pass, but DJK can't hold onto it. 

This is it: The last down and the last two seconds of the game. Stanzi goes to the pocket, he spots McNutt on the slant, but he overthrows it and McNutt can’t grab it! 

Dammit Stanzi! Why are you so inconsistent! How can you blow it like that? Now we’re 6-2. At least we can still be bowl eligible.

Here we are at the Shoe: Stanzi doesn’t get to play since he was knocked out at Northwestern—those damn Wildcats, why can’t we ever beat them? At least we made a comeback against Indiana after those five INTs “Pick-Six-Rick” threw.

Vandenberg makes a valiant effort, but we lose in overtime rather than try a field goal. Maybe it’s our best game played this season, despite the loss.

End of 2009 regular season, the Hawkeyes sit at 8-4. Maybe not a bad record overall, but that UNI loss will live in infamy—just think what could have been if we’d somehow blocked that last field goal? Or the Michigan State game—what if Stanzi had put it in the numbers instead of overthrowing? We could be at 10-2 with a BCS bowl game like Fiesta or the Orange Bowl. 

Ah well…maybe next year.

My point in this alternate reality exercise? 2009 could have easily been like 2010. Were fans this disappointed in 2008 at 8-4 before the bowl game? Kirk Ferentz tells us every year how unpredictable college football really is. 

There’s a fine line between winning and losing, championship seasons or mediocre, every year. 

Hayden Fry knew this too—that’s where the Iowa system was born: Accept that you won’t get many if any 4-5 star recruits; do the most with what you have by a simple system that can translate to the NFL, but is easy for new guys that step in to learn; let them learn fewer plays and gain experience and get really, really good at them, rather than try to be flashy; try to gain attention not by an outlier season, but by consistently making bowl appearances and cranking out players to the NFL. 

That’s the goal of college football: Prepare players for the next level.

Winning championships is entertaining and brings lots of money to the college, but what are Iowa coaches measured by? Since they keep coaches for decades despite not winning national championships, that must not be priority No. 1.  

It would be nice, but people still buy tickets and the football program still brings in 50-plus-million dollars a year. Kirk Ferentz is still one of the most respected coaches in college football. 

Maybe that means more than occasional bragging rights.

I watched Pat Angerer starting for the Colts again last week—the guy who wasn’t a rated recruit; the guy who was going to quit football his sophomore year out of frustration due to injuries, but couldn’t face Ferentz and resign; the guy everyone was surprised went in the second round of the draft. 

He’s doing well, playing his first year.

Why? He loves the game, he worked his tail off and was well prepared, well coached. As an Iowa fan, I take great pride in his success. 

And Dallas Clark’s, Bob Sanders’, Shonn Greene’s, Chad Greenway’s and so on. 

Isn’t that what college football is supposed to be about?