Today at a press conference held in Iowa City, Coach Kirk Ferentz along with Gary Barta, Iowa Athletic Director, attempted to stem the tide of wild rumors about an Iowa football program gone mad on drugs.
According to Ferentz, there was one and only one drug related dismissal––that of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa’s all-time leading receiver.
Because of his arrest and admission of guilt, DJK burned his NFL bridge crossing over Iowa City.
The departure of Jewel Hampton came through discussion and a mutual decision, having nothing to do with drugs.
The other suspension, that of running back Adam Robinson, also had nothing to do with drugs.
One suspects that it had to do with Robinson’s performance in the classroom––not on the playing field, although Coach Ferentz refused to give specifics, respecting the right of the student athlete to privacy concerning personal matters.
Hopefully, now the team can return to practice, focusing upon the Insight Bowl where the Hawkeyes must face a very good Missouri team in less than two weeks.
It is hopeful that the press conference served to close the door on the rumors, turning the tide of speculation back to the Insight Bowl Game in Tempe.
Iowa ended their 2009 football campaign on a high note, winning the Orange Bowl over Georgia Tech with their vaunted Yellow-Jacket triple option threat.
When the 2010 football season got underway, there were enough superlatives floating over the air waves regarding Iowa's prospects to turn the head of any 20-year-old playing or dreaming of playing football on this potential Big Ten Championship-caliber team.
Preseason Iowa was ranked No. 9 in the AP poll.
Hawkeye fans celebrated, secretly gloating at the prospect of backing another winning season for Iowa––perhaps, dare they think it, even better than 2009. Iowa fans certainly bought into the headlines.
The danger for Kirk Ferentz and staff was in keeping the players from buying into the whole notion of being a lock to win because what the coaches knew from years of experience is that the difference between winning and losing could be determined by inches or even one play.
Those kinds of wins in a competitive conference generally go to hungry teams––not to those teams who feel they have won the game by merely showing up––those who believe their headlines.
Iowa lost to No. 24 Arizona 34-27 on September 18
Iowa won its first two games of the season against Eastern Illinois and against Iowa State.
Both games were played at home within the shadows inside Kinnick Stadium.
All seemed right with the world.
But Iowa fans were nervous heading into Tucson. It turns out that they were right to be concerned.
Iowa stumbled in the third game against Arizona even after roaring back in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 27-27.
But a long pass play and and an eventual score by Arizona gave the Wildcats the lead.
Iowa with two minutes remaining could not move the ball. The Hawkeyes lost 34-27.
Iowa realized that their play on special teams killed them that night in Tucson.
Iowa lost to No. 13 Wisconsin 31-30 on October 23
Iowa won their next three games over Ball State, Penn State and Michigan, resuming their seeming dominance.
Apparently, the nightmare in the Arizona desert was far behind them. Iowa worked on strengthening their special teams units, especially the kicking game.
But then No. 13 ranked Wisconsin came calling in Iowa City.
Iowa finally had a lead and it seemed Iowa would upend the Badgers until Coach Bielema called for a fake punt in the fourth quarter that sucked in the Iowa defense.
With a late score, Wisconsin escaped Iowa City with a one-point win.
The loss was a staggering blow to the Iowa psyche.
Iowa lost to Northwestern 21-17 on November 13
The loss at Northwestern 21-17 hurt Iowa deeply, finally extinguishing all hope for a share of the Big Ten Championship.
Dan Persa, Northwestern’s outstanding quarterback refused to die.
He came back and engineered a touchdown in the waning moments of the game to give the Wildcats a lead.
Iowa led 17-7 going into the fourth quarter but Northwestern stormed back, scoring 14 points, the last during the final two minutes of the game.
Iowa’s quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw only his fourth interception of the year in the third quarter but it was enough to give the Wildcats new impetus––which they seized.
This loss seemed to suck the spirit out of this Iowa squad who was so close to winning so many times.
Iowa lost to No. 9 Ohio State 20-17 on November 20
Still Iowa fought hard against Ohio State the following week inside Kinnick Stadium, where fans hoped to see a glimmer of Hawkeye magic again.
The Hawkeyes led in this contest 17-13 as the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter.
Finally, it was Ohio State’s ball, fourth and ten and the Buckeyes desperately needed to gain 10 yards.
They did, as their quarterback Terrelle Pryor ran, making the first down.
Then Ohio State scored to take the lead. Iowa, scrambling again at the end of the game to make a miracle, found no magic left.
The season of dreams died on the field that afternoon.
Iowa lost to Minnesota 27-24 on November 27
The fact that Iowa lost to Minnesota in the final game of the season makes perfect sense when you think about it.
What was there left for Iowa to play for? It became impossible for the Iowa squad to muster enough will to play this newly inspired Minnesota team.
The Hawkeyes remained a step slow and a pound weaker on the day as Minnesota went on to win.
Once again, Iowa simply could not close the gate when the score was tight.
In their five losses on the season, the losing margin was 3.6 points––a little more than a field goal, but less than a touchdown.
In many of these games, Iowa was winning, ahead in the fourth quarter but could not stop the other team from orchestrating that one final march down the field to score.
It happened in the Arizona game when the score was tied 27-27 with 3:57 remaining on the clock.
At home against Wisconsin, Iowa led 30-24 with 1:06 left on the clock when the Badgers scored and stole the game.
With 1:22 on the clock, the Wildcats of Northwestern came back to score with Iowa leading 17-14 at the time.
Ohio State found the Hawkeyes repeating this pattern, allowing the Buckeyes to score against them with 1:47 left as Iowa led 17-13.
Iowa even led against Minnesota 24-20 until 4:31 left on the clock in the fourth quarter when Adam Weber led the Gophers down the field to score.
It was the inability to close and win the close ones that doomed the Hawkeyes in 2010.
It had nothing to do with drugs, scandals or any other off-field activities.
Some years, the ball just does not bounce your way and you lose, especially without blue-chippers lining your bench, allowing for waves and waves of potential All-Americans waiting their turn to play.
Not at Iowa. Iowa must build players from the ground up.
It takes time and effort and great commitment. Next year the expectations will be low again.
Time to relax and grow a new team.