Kirk's Works: Counting down the Top 25 games of the Ferentz era - Number 19

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They used to call Matt Roth 'Crocodile Dundee' in high school, he... was not pleased (Brian Ray/Gazette)

The Date: January 1, 2004

The opponent: #17 Florida

The score: Iowa 37, Florida 17

What the hell just happened? Let’s start with an easy pop quiz. Who is this gentleman?

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If you haven’t answered yet then you can go back to Corn Nation. This of course is Nate Kaeding. 2002 Lou Groza award winner, 2003 Lou Groza aw— oh wait, he was snubbed out of the second award. 67-83 on field goals and Iowa’s career leader in PATs (166) and points (373). Basically, Iowa’s greatest placekicker.

Oh, and he was a stud running back that was part of Iowa’s vaunted three running back attack in 2003.

Wait, that’s not right. In fact, it’s horribly wrong. What idiot would think that Nate Kaeding was a running back?

Zooksmash_medium

This idiot

Yes, the Zooker thought Kaeding played running back. At the media day before the 2004 Outback Bowl, Zook was asked about Kaeding, who had just earned All-American honors from most major organizations, and according to Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register this was his response:

Well, I mean he’s a little like our situation in that all three of our running backs are a little different in the way that they run, the way they attack, their power and that kind of thing. When you look at what they’ve done running the football, you have to feel that they’ve done something right.

And you’re not going to believe this, but Florida looked pretty unprepared and uninterested in the Outback Bowl which the Hawkeyes won comfortably.

Iowa’s first play from scrimmage was a 25-yard Fred Russell run, but it was Florida who scored first on a 70-yard pass play.

That didn’t stop the Hawkeyes, who tied things up on a Nathan Chandler touchdown to Mo Brown and then took the lead when Chandler scored on the world’s longest bootleg. Kaeding, running back supreme, added two field goals and Iowa led 20-7 at the half.

The Hawkeyes put the finishing touches on the game already in the third quarter when Matt Melloy blocked a Florida punt that Iowa fell on for a touchdown. The rest of the game was literally Matt Roth and the Iowa defensive line chasing Chris Leak.

Heroes: Fred Russell finished off his career (probably a year too soon, but with AIRBHG who knows) with 150 yards on just 21 carries (7.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown, while Chandler wrapped up his one season at the helm by being efficient (170 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions) and tall. Kaeding kicked three field goals and Matt Roth was Matt Roth.

Important? Not only did this victory give Iowa back-to-back 10-win seasons (a feat the Hawkeyes would repeat again in 2004), but it was also the Hawkeye’s first bowl win in January since they won their last Rose Bowl in 1959. The win also was preceded by a different bowl practice philosophy after Iowa fell to USC in the game where C.J. Jones scored on the opening kickoff and nothing else happened. Finally, the win kept Zook’s seat hot which ended in the Zookster getting the boot and landing in Illinois — a gift that kept on giving for a long time.

A/V:

2004 Outback Bowl - #12 Iowa vs #17 Florida Highlights (via TheHawkeyeHistorian)

Personal memories: Is there a better feeling than rolling out of bed on New Years morning and watching your team dominate their bowl game? Yes, but it’s still pretty, pretty good.
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