Iowa Hawkeyes Football and Wish's Wishes: Insight Bowl 2010
My obvious wish is for the Hawkeyes to show up in a big way for the Insight Bowl against Missouri on December 28, mercilessly defeating them as they did Michigan State this season.
Hawkeye fans need a break from disappointment and news of players leaving. They need a light at the end of the tunnel. They need a victory for a late Christmas present. More importantly, so does the team. Not just the seniors, so they can leave on better terms, but the younger players as well, who will take up the torch and march on.
There’s next season to pick up the pieces and rebuild, but this team, these seniors, have one more important game to play. Perhaps it’s more important now than it was a few weeks ago.
And so for this last game, the Insight Bowl, I have three wishes for the Iowa Hawkeyes as they prepare to travel to Tempe, Arizona.
Wish No. 1: The Iowa Defense at the 2010 Michigan State Game Shows Up
There is no question the Iowa defense needs to step it up and play like they really want to win the bowl game. They did an excellent job last time in the Orange Bowl, learning a whole new defensive gameplan against a team that perfected the triple option, basically shutting it down. This year’s defense needs to find that same spark of enthusiasm and dedication.
Iowa's defense needs to forget that this isn’t the bowl game it wanted to be in. This is where the D ended up, and its teammates, coaches and faithful fans deserve to see them play their very best, and not look like they gave up as in the last several games of the season.
Hopefully Norm Parker can lend more of his wisdom to the gameplan, but if not, the other defensive coaches need to figure out a viable plan and motivate the players to execute it.
To the defensive leaders of the team, come out wherever you are, lead by example and motivate your team, especially the younger guys filling in for injured players. Channel whatever spirit you had during that Michigan State game and remind us fans what a traditional Iowa defense looks and plays like.
If nothing else, pretend Pat Angerer is yelling in your ear, not accepting anything but your very best left on that field. Bring back the 60 seconds of Hell!
Wish No. 2: Ricky Stanzi Puts It All Together for His Last Stand As a Hawkeye
Time for Ricky Stanzi to be the “Manzi” again for his last-ever game as an Iowa Hawkeye. We know he’s capable. He’s managed to improve statistically over last year, though it has come at the price of losing his fearless winning mojo he had back in 2009.
Ricky had the right idea to correct his 2009 mistakes. He spent insane amounts of time learning how to study film and work on throwing less risky passes. He took analysis and advice from his coaches and other quarterbacks on how to improve his efficiency. He learned the proper philosophy of “sometimes it’s OK to punt” and rely on a good defense to pull the offense out of a slump.
Unfortunately special teams and defense sometimes dropped the ball and didn’t help him when they needed to, like they did in 2009.
It didn’t help that he didn’t handle clock management as well as 2009 either. In 2010, he reversed being the “fourth quarter guy” and often got early scores and leads, but then fell apart in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, his adjustments from 2009-2010 did him both good and harm, and the harm cost his previously outstanding win record to falter.
Yet Stanzi has developed and improved, and the character he displays, at least to those who’ve interacted with him personally, is exceptional. He is a good quarterback and has had a very successful career at Iowa overall.
Fans wish him the best and want to see him perform as confident and professionally as he did in the Orange Bowl last year (minus the pick-six, please!), and bring home a win to end the “disappointing season” on a higher note than was left in November.
Wish No. 3: Next Man In: Embrace the Opportunity
Every year there are new players on the roster that produce more than expected, and this year is no exception. With a depleted linebacker bench, true freshman James Morris stepped in to play in five games, winning Freshman All-American honors.
While the running back corp of controversy faced its share of drama this year, true freshman Marcus Coker was started when Adam Robinson couldn’t, and he did not disappoint for a newbie, with a five yards per carry average and touchdown in 81 carries this year.
Fans are excited about these and other new players, and vacated positions for the bowl game means opportunities for these players to shine. If nothing else, it gives them another away game experience in a new venue that will add to their playing resume and build their confidence for next year.
Most importantly, the new players and those carrying on next year need to remember what happens to Iowa teams when preseason hype and expectations soar, and try to glean some lessons learned from it. It’s my wish that someday the Hawkeyes will figure out how to improve following an unexpected great season like 2009, but given history, that may be a pretty big wish.