I've been lucky to have seen some great football over the years. There was the MSU-Iowa comeback game in 2000, the Purdue-Iowa slugfest in 2002, and even the 1991 OSU game right after the Van Allen shootings. But the game that will always, always stay in my mind as the best Iowa game I've ever seen was Northwestern-Iowa in 2000.
It was a cold, gray, depressing day. The clouds that were supposed to burn off never did, so a morning temperature of 30 never turned into the 50 we were promised for the 2:30 gametime. The announced attendance was somewhere around 54,000; at Iowa, that's unfathomably low. Nonetheless, it ended up being the loudest crowd I've ever heard at Kinnick.
Iowa was set to face a #12 Northwestern team that had been running their ninja football offense to perfection, scoring 95 points in their last two games alone. The Wildcats were coming off a certifiably insane 54-51 victory over Michigan that probably belongs in the pantheon of the 10 best Big Ten games ever (Ever!!!), and they just needed wins over Iowa and Illinois (both pretty lousy teams) to clinch a Rose Bowl bid. Iowa, on the other hand, was 2-8, but coming off a 26-23 overtime win at Penn State. The Vegas line on the game favored Northwestern by roughly 600,000 points, and most Iowa fans would have called the line fair.
But it was Senior Day at Iowa, and when Anthony Herron's folks are in the house, you are doomed. And whether it was the parents in attendance, the emotional boost of playing in Kinnick for the last time, the crowd cheering their asses off to keep from freezing them off, or just Bob being Bob, Iowa would not be denied that afternoon.
The first half was largely a blur. I hadn't exactly slept the night before, and the only thing keeping me standing was an Iowa lead and the Competitive Advantage: Halls Cough Drops with "Advanced Vapor Action." I think I handed out about 3/4 of the bag to nearby fans and consumed the rest to keep my throat from ripping to shreds. When Broadway Kyle hit Kahlil Hill for a touchdown with 13 seconds left before halftime, the place exploded. The Northwestern offensive machine was sputtering, and we hadn't even seen Iowa lead a Big Ten opponent by double digits since September. In 1998.
The second half was an orgiastic celebration of Norm Parker defense at its finest. Iowa bent, but would not break. Zak Kustok was the primary target of Iowa's pressure; he was sacked six times (six!) and registered just 19 yards on 18 carries. Damien Anderson had the quietest 132-yard day in college football history, and it took a late Wildcat touchdown to get the score back to a respectable 27-17 margin. It was such a domination on Iowa's part that it didn't even resemble an upset; the only "break" that really went Iowa's way was a snap over Kustok's head that effectively ended a 4th quarter Northwestern drive with the score at 20-10.
As the final gun sounded [they stopped using guns in like the 1950's. First you don't post anything all day and then this stuff. Get your shit together. --ed], you bet your ass we rushed the field. What we'd seen was the first sign in years that the Hawkeyes would be back, and soon. Giant press boxes, Supermegajumbotrons, whatever. The only thing that's going to keep packing Legendary Kinnick Stadium is inspired football. It was there on that concrete gray day in 2000, it was there after halftime last week, and--Lord willing--it'll be here on a much more regular basis for years to come.