Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Top 10 Individual Plays of the Ferentz Era
These are those moments that defy words. They defy even pictures. Thankfully, we have video.
These are moments when I—one of the most stoic people in the world—have jumped up and down and high-fived people I had never met before.
All things considered, it has been a great decade to be a Hawkeye fan. In fact, technically speaking, the Hawks have had more wins this decade than in any previous decade of the football program's existence.
Of course, there have been more games this decade than any previous decade, but that doesn't diminish the accomplishment (the Hawks of the '80s had the best decade winning percentage of all time with this decade coming in a close second).
As we look towards the new decade there will be a lot of changes. Nebraska will be on the annual schedule, and it would appear that the border rival game will become a Friday-after-Thanksgiving tradition.
There will be Big Ten championship games, at least a few of which we can hope Iowa finds itself involved in.
Moreover, Iowa's yearly game against Wisconsin will no longer be yearly, and the Iowa State game is also in danger of getting eliminated.
Either way, we can only hope the next decade will treat us to just as many highlights and memories.
2006 Syracuse: The Stand
OK, it wasn't one play.
In fact, it was nine plays. Nine defensive plays from inside the 5-yard line and seven plays from the 1.
Even more specifically, Iowa was up 20-13 in double overtime. Syracuse got the ball and had to score. The Orangemen moved the ball to the 5, at which point the Hawks took a pass interference call and the ball was moved to the 2.
Syracuse ran a dive and moved the ball to the 1. And there it stayed.
Aside from one more pass interference call that gave 'Cuse a new series, the Orange could not move the ball forward for seven straight plays.
At the time, we wondered if this struggle against lowly Syracuse was an omen that the No. 15 ranked Hawks were, in fact, overrated, or if we would look back at this game as the crucible that made this team strong.
As it turned out, the 2006 Hawkeyes were arguably the most disappointing Iowa team under Kirk Ferentz, but that doesn't take away from the defensive stand on that night.
2009 Penn State: Clayborn Blocked Punt
This was a somewhat typical Iowa-Penn State/Kirk Ferentz-Joe Paterno game. Heavy on defense, fairly conservative, low-scoring, battle of field position. And it also had a somewhat typical outcome, as Kirk Ferentz is 8-2 against Joe Pa.
That being as it were, this was a play that was particularly memorable and exciting more for the action than the outcome.
Yes, it was the winning score in a game that Iowa was losing 5-10 heading into the fourth quarter. Yes, PSU was 3-0 and ranked No. 5 in the country. Yes, Iowa was unranked, and this was on national television.
Still, in the grand scheme, it wasn't a last second play, it wasn't a bowl game and it wasn't for the Big Ten championship.
It was a matter of Adrian Clayborn throwing his blocker out of the way and making a picture-perfect punt block.
2001 Alamo Bowl: Kaeding Field Goal with 46 Seconds Left
In a game that featured a total of seven field goals—four by Iowa and three by Texas Tech—this one was the biggest.
Texas Tech kicker Robert Treece tied the score at 16-16 with 2:05 to go.
Iowa proceeded to drive down to the Red Raider 30. With 44 seconds to go, Hawkeye kicker Nate Kaeding had an opportunity to take the lead with a 47-yard field goal.
He put it right through the uprights, and Iowa managed to hold Texas Tech off in a last ditch Hail Mary.
This was Iowa's first bowl appearance since 1997 and its first win since 1996. It was also a sign that maybe Iowa had got the right man with coach Kirk Ferentz.
2009 Indiana: The Pinball Interception
Iowa was 9-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country. Their opponent was 4-4 Indiana.
The Hawks were playing at home to a sold out Kinnick Stadium audience that expected them to roll over Indiana as well as their next opponent, Northwestern, en route to a huge showdown with Ohio State.
Yet, at the half, Indiana was up 21-7. By the middle of the third quarter, quarterback Ricky Stanzi had been intercepted three times (he would throw two more picks), and the special teams had missed one field goal and fumbled away one punt.
The defense was doing what it could, but it needed some help. Or did it?
With 7:45 remaining in the third, Indiana was up 21-7 and was on the Iowa two yard line. If they scored, it was likely they would put Iowa away and the Hawks' undefeated season would be over.
Then IU quarterback Ben Chappell dropped back to pass.
He began his throwing motion, but blitzing linebacker A.J. Edds swatted the ball as Chappell's arm went forward. From there, the ball bounced off Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard, off an Indiana offensive lineman, off Chappell, back off Edds, into the hands of opportunistic Hawkeye strong safety Tyler Sash.
After that, it was off to the races.
Iowa eventually scored four unanswered fourth quarter touchdowns that left Indiana in the dust and even covered the spread.
2010 Insight Bowl: Micah Hyde Interception Return
It was a year of near misses and could-have-beens. Iowa came into the season ranked in the top 15, with a returning quarterback and what looked to be the best defensive line in the country. Hawkeye fans felt confident that this was the year they would get back to the Rose Bowl, if not the national championship.
And then Iowa piled up losses in what, at the beginning of the season, would have seemed the unlikeliest of ways.
In five different games, Iowa had the lead at some point in the fourth quarter. The offense got the ball with the opportunity to ice the game, and they went three-and-out.
They punted the ball, and the opposing defense marched down the field against Iowa's should-have-been-impenetrable defense and won the game.
At 7-5, the Hawks limped into the Insight Bowl and by the fourth quarter, it looked like "deja vu all over again."
Unlike the other situations, Missouri had a slim lead entering the last 15 minutes. With six minutes to go, they methodically drove down the field, and if they scored a touchdown, it was a fairly safe bet that Iowa was done.
Then Blaine Gabbert, the 10th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, took the snap, inexplicably got happy feet and stepped out of the pocket.
The rest is the key play in the sixth bowl win of the Kirk Ferentz era.
2002 Purdue: Banks to Clark
This was a back-and-forth game. With 2:16 remaining, Purdue found themselves with a 28-24 lead.
Iowa had the ball on their own 13. They quickly moved down the field, but found the going difficult once they got inside the 10.
Quarterback Brad Banks and running back Freddy Russell couldn't move the ball on the first two plays. On the third-down play, Banks was almost intercepted trying to find Clark.
With 1:12 to go, Iowa ran a play that had all the receivers flood one side of the field, with Clark isolated on the other.
The Boilers rushed six, leaving Clark covered by a linebacker. Banks barely got the throw off, but he lofted it to Clark who was open by two full steps.
Though there was still a full minute left in the game, and Purdue moved the ball to the Iowa 25 and almost scored, this catch ultimately sealed the win.
It was also the last time any team challenged the 2002 Hawks as they won their remaining six regular season games by a combined score of 229-67.
2008 Penn State: Daniel Murray Field Goal
No. 3 Penn State was 9-0. If they beat Iowa, they would have games left against lowly Indiana and a Michigan State team that hadn't won in Happy Valley since LBJ was president.
At that point, they would assure themselves of a spot in the national championship.
Meanwhile, Iowa was 5-4, with all of their losses coming by a combined 12 points. As this followed the extremely disappointing and embarrassing 2006 and 2007 seasons, fans were questioning their head coach for the first time since 2000.
All of that changed on Nov. 8, 2008.
Iowa had taken the Nittany Lions to the wall. Penn State was clinging to a 23-21 lead, but Iowa had driven the ball to the PSU 14-yard line with five seconds remaining.
At that point, Kirk Ferentz called in his starting...no wait, his backup kicker to take the kick.
Sophomore Daniel Murray hadn't taken a field goal since two straight misses in the third and fourth weeks of the season. Meanwhile, true freshman Trent Mossbrucker had gone 10-for-11 over that time.
Maybe it was something Ferentz had seen in practice. Maybe it was Mossbrucker's one miss the week before against Illinois. Maybe he just liked Murray's experience.
Either way, Murray stepped up to the line and began a string of wins that wouldn't end for 13 straight games.
2009 Michigan State: Stanzi to McNutt
It was one of the most eventful endings to one of the most uneventful games.
A 4-3 Michigan State took a 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter against 7-0 Iowa. Then Iowa kicked two field goals to go up 9-6 with 2:56 left.
After a good kick return, the Spartans got the ball back at their own 40. On the first two plays of the drive, MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked twice, leaving Michigan State with a 3rd-and-18.
MSU then pulled an amazing hook-and-lateral that would have been the highlight of the week had the Hawks not finished the game with heroics of their own.
The Michigan State drive ended with a touchdown, putting them up 13-9 with 1:13 to go.
Iowa got the ball back at its own 30, where junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi engineered a drive that almost doubled his passing yardage on the night and brought the Hawks down to the Michigan State seven yard line.
The first three attempts to score from the seven fell flat. The Hawkeyes faced a do-or-die fourth-down conversion with two seconds left on the clock.
Iowa called a time out and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe called a fade. However, junior receiver Marvin McNutt told O'Keefe that MSU's cornerback was giving up inside release. In effect, O'Keefe changed the play to a quick slant.
Stanzi walked calmly to the line, sent his tight end in motion, recognized the coverage, snapped the ball and sent the Hawkeye state into a state of euphoria.
2003 Orange Bowl: Opening Kickoff
Iowa had climbed the mountain. As the announcers of the Orange Bowl note, this was four years after Hayden Fry had stepped down.
During the coaching search, many Iowa fans wanted Bob Stoops to get the job. It didn't work out that way and during the first two years of Ferentz's tenure, his Hawks only won four games, causing fans to wonder if Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby had missed the mark.
Then the 2001 Hawks went 7-5. This was followed by the 2002 Hawks, who went undefeated in conference play and won a co-Big Ten championship with Ohio State.
And here they were, in their first BCS bowl, on the grand stage, facing the USC Trojans.
The first 12 seconds of this game might have been the greatest individual 12 seconds of any Hawkeye game of the last 10 years.
The remaining 59 minutes and 48 seconds might have been the worst.
2005 Capital One Bowl: The Catch
Iowa has always had clock management problems under Kirk Ferentz. In this case, it worked in their favor.
If Iowa had called a time out here, it is highly unlikely that Nick Saban's LSU Tigers would have been so disorganized.
Nevertheless, Iowa was down by one with 46 seconds left. They had the ball at their own 29 with two timeouts. They worked the ball down to almost mid-field, but they took a false start penalty.
After the penalty was assessed, the officials started the clock again, but the coaches and quarterback Drew Tate were unaware that time was ticking.
In effect, in radio announcer Gary Dolphin's words, "Nine seconds to play and Drew Tate doesn't know that. The game's going to end on this play."
And what an ending it was.
I don't have children, but if I did, I suspect the ending to this game would be one of those moments where I say, "Next to the birth of my children..."