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Great Moments in Iowa-Michigan History, #2: Iowa 34, Michigan 9 (2002)

Iowa-Michigan week is upon us, and in celebration we're hopping in the way-back machine to check out some of Iowa's most glorious moments in their long history with the Wolverines.

(TFJ to TheHawkeyeHistorian for assembling this awesome video.)

Hey hey hey... one more trip to Ann Arbor in our fantabulous way-back machine.  For a place that's been the source of plenty of Iowa-related misery over the years, the few triumphs there have been pretty remarkable.  And statistically speaking, none of those triumphs have been more amazing than this one.  But first, a little context.  Heading into the Michigan game in 2002, it was clear that for the first time in a long time Iowa was on pace for a good season -- and possibly a really good season.  They were already 7-1, bowl-eligible and undefeated in conference play.  But no one yet knew how good they were; after all, this same team had imploded miserably against Iowa State, narrowly averted the same fate against Penn State, needed a borderline-preposterous string of big plays to beat Purdue, smoked Michigan State, and posted a fairly unimpressive win over Indiana the week prior to the Michigan game. Going to the Big House to take on yet another top ten-ranked Michigan team (8th, to be exact) was going to be Iowa's biggest test yet.

So what happened?  Venerunt, viderunt, vicerunt -- they came, they saw, they conquered.  34-9: Iowa's biggest margin of victory ever in Ann Arbor (narrowly edging a 23-point win in 1958), and their second-biggest margin of victory ever against Michigan (just behind a 26-0 smashing in 1984).  It was Michigan's worst home defeat since 1967.  Still, for as grisly as the final score was, the game itself wasn't a walkover from the opening kick.  Iowa jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, then watched their offense disappear for a quarter.  Michigan took advantage of a blocked punt to punch in a 1-yard touchdown, then added a field goal to make it 10-9 early in the third quarter.  Uh oh.  But there was no need to worry: Bob Sanders did his hitman thing on some sad-sack Michigan punt returner, Iowa recovered the ensuing fumble, and the Iowa offense woke from their slumber and rattled off 24 unanswered points.  Jermelle Lewis gained 105 yards in the second half alone, Brad Banks had a solid game (18/29, 222 yards, 2 TD, plus 53 yards rushing), and C.J. Jones wasn't too shabby (8 catches, 81 yards, 2 TD).

Certainly, the offense was good (399 total yards and 34 points against a quality Michigan team in Ann Arbor is pretty damn impressive), but the real story of the game may have been the defense.  The 2002 team is largely celebrated for its offense -- for good reason, since they were far and away the most explosive and prolific offense of the Ferentz Era and, more than that, a legitimately potent offense by any standard and the defense had some glaring weaknesses (namely some pretty shaky pass coverage).  But they had some good players -- Colin Cole, Jonathan Babineaux, Fred Barr, Bob Sanders, Derek Pagel -- and were capable of some downright dominant performances in their own right and the Michigan game was certainly one of those


On Michigan’s fourth play, defensive tackle Colin Cole sacked Wolverines quarterback John Navarre, knocking Navarre out of the game. He missed only one play, but Navarre wasn’t the same.

"You could tell," Cole said. "He wasn’t setting his feet, he was always looking around, thinking about who’s coming next. He wasn’t the same."

The Hawkeyes racked up five sacks and had countless hits on Navarre. But that tells only half of what was a three-hour submission hold on Michigan’s offense.

The Wolverines rushed for 22 yards on 20 carries. That’s 1.1 yards a carry. They had 171 yards offense, including a miniscule 71 in the second half. With 59 offensive plays, that’s 2.9 yards a play. They held the ball for 21:33, nearly 17 minutes less than Iowa. That’s not enough time.


Those are defensive stats that would make even the stalwart 2004, 2009, or 2010 defensive squads doff their caps.

We went into the Michigan game wondering how good Iowa could be in 2002; we left it with a clear answer: they could be really fucking good.  At 8-1, 5-0 in the Big Ten, and on the heels of the most dominant win in Ann Arbor in almost fifty years, it was pretty clear this was no ordinary Iowa team.  All of a sudden, the Rose Bowl didn't seem like such a pipe dream.  The Michigan game also instigated one of the most dominant stretches for Iowa football in league play in years (before or since); after their 34-9 smackdown of Michigan, they rolled up a 20-3 win over Wisconsin, a 62-10 obliteration of just Northwestern that may have been the most perfect game I've ever seen Iowa play, and a 45-21 dismantling of Minnesota that was so complete we ransacked their home on the way out.  Coupled with the double-digit wins over Sparty and Indiana prior to the Michigan game and Iowa's final six wins came by an average of 27 points per game.  

Alas, the incredible journey that was the 2002 season didn't end with a trek to the Rose Bowl; yet again Iowa was thwarted by those fucksticks in Columbus, despite not even playing them in 2002.  What a bunch of goddamn assholes.  But they went 13-0, snatched a spot in the national championship game, and shared the Big Ten crown with Iowa, with the end result being that the Orange Bowl was able to run an end-around on the Rose Bowl and snatch Iowa.  So Iowa made the first of many January 1 trips to Florida in the Aughts and while the game started well, we've, uh, kind of blocked out the rest of what happened.  But the 2002 season was still pretty damn spectacular -- and the Big House beatdown was one of its undeniable high points.

NEXT: Tony Moeaki just scored again.  (Kidding.)