I started as an undergrad at Iowa in fall 2000, which also happened to be the same time the Iowa football program was beginning to emerge from the muck. Still, I don't have too many vivid memories from the 2000 and 2001 football games. I remember Antwaan Randle-El being an unholy nuisance at quarterback for Indiana -- even returning punts. I remember booing Kyle McCann against Michigan in 2001* and the fans being so loud during that game that the stadium literally shook. And I remember this game. I remember it being cold (one of the coldest games I can ever remember attending during the eight years I lived in Iowa City) and I'm pretty sure it snowed (or had snowed recently). And I remember it being the day that it became OK to feel hopeful about Iowa football again.
* I'm not proud of that moment, but 19-year olds do stupid things.
Really, the hope had started to blossom a week earlier, when Iowa knocked off Penn State in Happy Valley; little did we know that would be the beginning of a run of total ownage over the Nittany Lions. But the Northwestern win was greater still. The Penn State team Iowa beat wasn't very good -- they were 4-5 when they played Iowa and wound up 5-7 for the season. Northwestern, on the other hand, was quite good. They were 18th in the country, coming off a wild win over Michigan the week before, and on the verge of winning the league and heading to the Rose Bowl. All that stood in their way? A 2-8 Iowa team and a 5-4 (ultimately 5-6) Illinois team. They demolished Illinois in the final week of the season, but they never got to the Rose Bowl... because they lost this game to a gutty, upset-minded Iowa team. (Sadly, they returned the favor by crushing Iowa's own Rose Bowl dreams -- and Ricky Stanzi's ankle -- in 2009.)
A few thoughts about this game:
- Zak Kustok was the prototype for all the jNW quarterbacks to come over the last decade: a little undersized, shifty, and maddeningly accurate as a passer. So yeah, it was fun to see him get pounded by the Iowa defense in this game.
- Speaking of the defense... there was some real talent on that defense. Aaron Kampman and Colin Cole wreaking havoc on the defensive line, Fred Barr punishing fools from the linebacker position, and -- oh yeah -- Bob Sanders doing Bob Sanders things. His blitz around the 4:00 mark is a thing of beauty. (Iowa blitzed Bob fairly often back in the day, with great success; maybe someone should show that film to the current coaches.)
- Nate Keading might be the most excitable kicker I've ever seen. His reactions after every made field goal are outstanding. It was around this point in the season that he went from being an inconsistent kicker to a true weapon. Although lucky bounces (like the carom he got on his first kick) are nice, too.
- If this highlight was the only thing you saw about the Iowa offense, you'd think it was nothing but Kyle McCann throwing to Kahlil Hill. Which is not entirely true -- Kevin Kasper caught a lot of McCann passes that year and Ladell Betts quietly ground out quite a few yards on the ground, too. But Hill was a devilishly entertaining sight to behold on the football field (love the little shimmy he gives the jNW defender on his touchdown reception) and McCann was a better quarterback than he's gotten credit for among many Iowa fans. (He also took quite a bit of punishment in this game.) Oh, and at 5:30... is that Iowa running a two-minute offense and trying to score right before halftime? Goodness. Speaking of strange sights to behold, yes, that really is Robert Gallery at the 8:10 mark. Clearly that was before he went on his special Pancheros diet and got fully Doyle-ized into the bulldozer he would become in 2002 and 2003.
- The level of support from Iowa fans is pretty remarkable. This was a team that had won just 3 of its last 20 games, playing a top-20 team (you wouldn't have been out of line expecting Iowa to get rolled here), in fairly miserable weather. And yet there were still a lot of Iowa fans in attendance that day, cheering their ever-loving brains out. It definitely wasn't a sellout, but that kind of support for a team that bad is quite a testament to the loyalty and dedication of Iowa fans.
- This may have been the first, last, and only time that a win over Northwestern necessitated a rushing of the field.
- Finally, I had completely forgotten that Kevin Kasper had peroxide-blonde hair (yeesh) and that Ferentz had jet-black hair just 11 years ago: