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The Aughts in Review: Even Wolverines Get The Blues

Continuing our look back at the decade that was in Iowa football, celebrating the highs and the lows -- and, hopefully, distracting us from the ongoing disaster that is Iowa basketball.  This series looks back at Iowa's results across the entire decade against every Big Ten foe, as well as Iowa State.  According to the alphabet, next up is the deposed king of Big Ten football, Michigan.



Iowa vs. Michigan in the 00s: 3-4

2002: Iowa 34, Michigan 9
2003: Iowa 30, Michigan 27
2009: Iowa 30, Michigan 28

2001: Michigan 32, Iowa 26
2004: Michigan 30, Iowa 17
2005: Michigan 23, Iowa 20 (OT)
2006: Michigan 20, Iowa 6


Proof that bitchmaking Michigan quarterbacks is not a new phenomenon for Iowa defenses.

BEST WIN: Iowa 34, Michigan 9 (2002)
There were other games that were more exciting or more dramatic (such as the '01 and '03 games), but no other Iowa-Michigan tussle in the Aughts wound up being as significant as this encounter. After the early season stumble against Iowa State, Iowa picked up some steam after beating Penn State in Happy Valley and surviving the wild game with Purdue, but entered the Michigan game off a meh-worthy performance in the win over Indiana.  But after blowing the doors off Michigan in the second half and handing them their worst loss in the Big House in decades, there was no disputing it: Iowa had arrived.  The game itself was close for a half (10-6 at the break) and it was 10-9 after Michigan kicked a field goal with 12:31 left in the quarter.  That's when Jermelle Lewis and CJ Jones took over and BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE.  Michigan was left tackling air, Iowa was racking up points in bunches, and the Big House was getting really quiet (or rather, given its less-than-sterling reputation for noise, even quieter).  34-9, hello, Iowa, welcome to the national consciousness (and a top-ten ranking)-- and Iowa fans everywhere knew that this season was going to be something special.

Remarkably, this was the most lopsided scoreline of the series between these teams in the 00s.  While Iowa's series with Ohio State has tended to be either ugly (2006) or really ugly (2000, 2005), the norm of late for Iowa's series with Michigan has been close, competitive games -- even when the teams are ostensibly mismatched in terms of ability (e.g., 2009, when a very good Iowa team let a middling Michigan team hang around for four quarters, or 2006, when an eventual 11-0 Michigan team couldn't put away a self-destructing Iowa team with an injured Drew Tate until late in the fourth quarter).  The atmosphere for Michigan games in the Aughts was always something special (I still maintain that the '03 game was the loudest game I've ever been at and that Kinnick was literally shaking at points; I also remember the student section booing Kyle McCann so vociferously in '01 that you could even hear it on the ABC broadcast -- sorry, Kyle) and the games usually delivered, too.



WORST LOSS: Michigan 23, Iowa 20 (OT) (2005)
Even now, over four years later, this game remains sickening.  Every loss in '05 was infuriating for some reason, either because they were embarrassing blowouts (ISU, OSU), disgusting chokejobs (this game, jNWU), or referee-influenced nightmares (the Outback Bowl, also this game).  This game holds a special place of pride in my Museum of Hate, though, because it ended Iowa's 22-game home winning streak.  Iowa hadn't lost in Kinnick since the horrific collapse to ISU in '02; they'd beaten every single BXI opponent at least once since then and turned Kinnick into one of the most fearsome home fields in college football.  Of course, there were bad omens already that year; aside from the catastrophic meltdowns against ISU and OSU, even Kinnick wasn't quite the sanctuary it had been in years past -- Iowa dicked around with UNI and needed a couple late scores to make the Indiana game look like a blowout.  And, most disturbingly, the Kinnick renovations had been completed, giving us a bigger, better Jumbotron, a gorgeous new facade, nicer concourses -- and a new, shittier student section.  Moving the bulk of the students from the northwest sideline to the south endzone may have made fiscal sense, but the atmosphere at Kinnick has never been quite the same.  It's still good and occasionally even still great (see: '06 OSU or '08 PSU), but some magic was lost in that transition.  Did that lost magic cost Iowa the game against Michigan?  No -- but why fuck with a good thing?  /rassum frassum damn kids on my lawn

The game itself was inordinately frustrating (though it did feature a rare star turn by Herb Grigsby, giving us all false hope for his efforts in the '06 campaign), as Iowa seemed set to dominate the Wolverines, only for penalties (many of the OH THAT'S FUCKING BULLSHIT variety; the most egregious was an offense pass interference call on Clinton Solomon -- when he had been dragged down by his facemask), bad drops (it was not a good day for Clinton Solomon; this game probably soured his legacy in the minds of Iowa fans more than any other), and infuriatingly conservative playcalling.  The latter was displayed most prominently at the end of the game when the offense, having driven virtually the length of the field, ran the ball three straight times from the Michigan 21 with over a minute to play.  Shockingly, that approach wasn't successful and they had to kick a FG to send the game into OT.  Drew Tate was visibly disgusted by the playcalling, and his outrage was shared by the 70,000 fans in attendance.  Iowa went on to lose the game - and the 22-game winning streak - in OT.  The Kinnick mystique has never fully recovered since.



Why so much shock?  Shouldn't they be a little more accustomed to losing by now?

The 00s started with Michigan winning a share of the BXI title and going to a Florida bowl game (the Citrus Bowl); they ended with Michigan going 1-7 in conference and missing out on a bowl game for the second consecutive year.  But until the last two years it was a fairly typical Michigan decade: shares of three BXI titles, appearances in three Rose Bowls (all losses, but hey), scores of overrated NFL draft picks.  Two things give the decade a sour note for Michigan fans, though: the last two years and Ohio fucking State.  Under the guidance of El Sweatervesto, the Buckeyes have made their rivalry laughably one-sided -- they've won six in a row over the Wolverines, six BXI titles in the 00s (including at least a share of the last five in a row), and a national title in '02.  Anyway you want to slice it, it was a Buckeye decade in the BXI in the Aughts. 


Well, no wonder Michigan lost -- they were playing against Black Superman!

Michigan also gained the ignominious distinction of becoming the first ranked team to lose to a I-AA team when Appalachian State knocked them off in the season opener in '07.  Which they followed up by getting smoked by Oregon (also in the Big House).  Not the greatest start to a season that began with national title dreams after they had started the previous year 11-0 (though they did end the year handing the Tebowchild his one and only defeat in a bowl game, so it wasn't a total waste).  But losing was really the defining characteristic of Michigan in the Aughts.  As the glow from the '97 National Championship faded, the refrain that popped up was that Lloyd Carr couldn't "win the big one."  As Ohio State took over ownership of their rivalry (and the Big Ten), "can't beat Ohio State" was added to the list of complaints.  And when the Appy State and Oregon losses happened, it became clear that he couldn't even be relied on to win the games he "should" win. 


Now why would we ever think he was a smug sack of shit, again? 

So out with the boring old loser, in with the sexy new winner, right?  Err... not so much.  After an embarrassing coaching search (in which Les Miles called a press conference to turn them down on national TV) and divorcing Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia in the ugliest way possible, things managed to get even worse when the football season actually started.  The first year of the new Rodriguez Era landed with a thud, as the awkward transition from Carr's staid pro-style offense to Rodridguez's sexy spread option led to a 3-9 disaster, Michigan's first losing season in over 40 years.  But, the supporters crowed, Rodriguez-coached teams always improve dramatically in year two!  Err... maybe not.  In year two, they went 5-7, finished 1-7 in the BXI (even worse than their record in '08) and lost their last seven games against FBS competition (their lone win in that span was over I-AA bodybag Delaware State).  Two straight losing seasons -- the first time Michigan's accomplished that little feat since 1962-1963.  So, yes, Rich Rodriguez is making history at Michigan... as the biggest loser there in almost half a century.  But it's not all without merit: as the former king of the BXI burns and its arrogant fanbase finds out how the peasants have been living all along, fans of the rest of the BXI can enjoy the greatest example of conference schadenfreude in ages.

PLAYER OF THE RIVALRY: Jermelle Lewis (Iowa RB, 2001-2004) and C.J. Jones (Iowa WR, 2001-2002)


Jermelle and CJ: they be good.

Yes, I'm cheating again.  Tate put up solid numbers in his three starts against Michigan (72/107, 755 yards, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions), but his 0-3 career record against them is hard to overlook.  Ramon Ochoa deserves much love for his '03 performance, when injuries to Mo Brown and Ed Hinkel had made Razor Ramon and Calvin Davis our top two receivers.  Ochoa caught only two balls for 36 yards -- but one of them went for the game-winning touchdown and he also chipped in with 85 kick return yards and 48 punt return yards, which set up the Iowa offense for other scores.  But the nod ultimately goes to CJ Jones and Jermelle Lewis, who powered the way in Iowa's breakthrough win in the Big House in 2002.  With Fred Russell stymied (just 28 yards on 20 carries), Lewis blew up for 109 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 carries (plus two catches for 32 yards), shredding the Michigan defense with ease in the second half.  Jones was Brad Banks' favorite target that day, catching eight passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns, including perhaps the prettiest example of the jailbreak screen you'll ever see.


  • Ed Hinkel made a specialty out of diving catches during his time at Iowa (see: '02 Penn State, '04 Iowa State), but his sprawled out fingertip catch against Michigan on '04 was one of his finest.  Speaking of that game, the most memorable moment of that game is not Hinkel's incredible catch, but the image of Tate, his helmet ripped off by a Michigan player, standing tall in the pocket and scanning downfield for an open receiver, helmet be damned.  Sadly, the interwebs utterly fails me when it comes to finding a pic of that moment.
  • And while he played for the wrong team, no discussion of great catches in the Iowa-Michigan series would be complete without a nod to Marquise Walker's preposterous one-handed grab in Kinnick Stadium in 2001.  It was one of the finest catches I've ever seen and it left an entire stadium stunned -- and in awe.  A hat-tip also to Braylon Edwards literally catching a ball off of Jovon Johnson's head in 2004, too; Michigan's gigantic physical freak receivers gave our tiny corners no end of trouble in those days.
  • I really can't emphasize strongly enough how amazing the 2003 Iowa-Michigan game was.  Incredible atmosphere, back-and-forth action, big plays in all phases of the game, unlikely heroes, and high drama -- there wasn't much this game didn't have.  If I could only take a DVD of one game from the Aughts with me to a desert island, I would give very strong consideration to this game.  Simply amazing.  (And of course it's never been part of BTN's Greatest Games series.  Stupid fucking BTN.)
  • And let us not forget to give brief thanks for the most recent win over Michigan, even if it did come against the weakest Michigan team to play Iowa in over a half-century/  After all, the bitchmaking of Tate Forcier was a beautiful thing, was it not?
  • Whatcha got?