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. And now we move into the rest of the teams Iowa played in the Aughts, in a multi-part look at Iowa's non-conference foes (including bowl games). Last up up in our look back at the non-conference foes: the bowl opponents
Iowa vs. Bowl Opponents in the 00s: 5-3
2001: Alamo -- Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16
2004: Outback -- Iowa 37, Florida 17
2005: Capital One -- Iowa 30, LSU 25
2009: Outback -- Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
2010: Orange -- Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 14
2003: Orange -- USC 38, Iowa 17
2006: Outback -- Florida 31, Iowa 24
2006: Alamo -- Texas 26, Iowa 24
BEST WIN: (tie) Iowa 30, LSU 25 (Capital One, 2005) and Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 14 (Orange, 2010)
If you wanted to be pedantic, you could say that the Orange Bowl win doesn't count because it happened in 2010... but that's also fairly idiotic. Despite occurring five days into the new year, it was for all reasonable purposes, the climax of the 2009 season. I've eschewed ties in this series as much as possible, but it's impossible to choose between these two games because they both represent different -- but equally important -- elements of the fan experience. As a game, the 2010 Orange Bowl was not particularly memorable. It had its moments -- Stanzi's beautiful touchdown passes to McNutt and Sandeman, the batshit insane fake field goal call, Wegher's clinching touchdown run -- but if it had happened a week earlier in the Outback Bowl, is it the sort of game you'd remember ten years from now? Doubtful. What makes it memorable is the stage -- the Orange Bowl. It was, of course, Iowa's first win ever in a BCS bowl and the first win in a comparable bowl since the 1959 Rose Bowl. Which makes it kind of a big deal. Its true importance can't even be measured yet, though, as it's unclear what it signifies. Will it turn out to be the capstone to one special season? The high point of the Ferentz Era? Or does it establish Iowa as a major contender and serve as the springboard to even bigger wins in the future? Until we see how the next few years play out, we simply have no idea.
But the 2005 Capital One Bowl was unquestionably a game that will be remembered ten years from now and while the circumstances surrounding the game weren't irrelevant (the Capital One Bowl isn't chopped liver and it did feature a pair of top-15 teams), the action within the game itself is what's made it legendary. It featured everything you could ask for out of a football game: big plays on offense, defense, and special teams; incredibly bone-crunching defense (Iowa knocked LSU's starting quarterback, Marcus Randall, out of the game... which almost proved costly -- for Iowa); and dramatic, improbable comebacks in the final minutes... from both teams.
There was precious little in the first three quarters that would have led you to believe that an Instant Classic was in the making; the Iowa defense was hammering the LSU offense at nearly every turn and only the inconsistency of the Iowa offense (and, to be fair, a rather talented LSU defense; count the number of future NFL players on display in that game the next time you watch it -- you'll need all your fingers and toes) kept it from being a complete laugher. Then LSU turned to the unlikeliest of heroes, future NFL bust JaMarcus Russell, and rattled off thirteen unanswered points on a Iowa defense that ran out of gas. I remember being in utter disbelief when Russell threw the touchdown that put LSU up with barely a minute to play; a game that Iowa had largely dominated for three quarters against the previous year's BCS National Champion was on the verge of slipping away. Had the magic of the 2004 season evaporated when the calendar flipped to 2005? SPOILER ALERT: Nope. Three plays and one badly mismanaged clock later, well... let Dolph take it away. There were some amazing, dramatic, and incredible endings to Iowa games in the Aughts... but none of them topped The Catch. How could it? A 56-yard bomb to a little-used senior receiver with no career touchdown catches and no time remaining on the clock? The only way that finish could be more Hollywood is if it happened in slow motion with a bad pop song in the background. (full game highlights)
Mind you, the 2010 Orange Bowl wasn't a lousy game, or even a completely drama-free game. Iowa's inability to completely bury Georgia Tech in the first half and Paul Johnson's brilliant innovation to run the offense away from Adrian Clayborn made the game closer than it should have been in the fourth quarter, until Wegher's touchdown run conclusively locked up the win. But in terms of drama, big plays, and incredible swings of momentum, this game had nothing on the Capital One Bowl. Although if you're a connoisseur of defense, the show put on by Adrian Clayborn was the equivalent of an oenologist crafting the perfect vintage of merlot. He consistently blew up Georgia Tech's supposedly unstoppable triple-option attack and effectively shut down an entire side of the field. And this game did have the greatest post-game interview of all-time. (full game highlights)
WORST LOSS: Florida 31, Iowa 24 (Outback, 2006)
If you want to say the 2003 Orange Bowl loss to USC, I understand. It was certainly a faceplant on a much bigger stage and a loss that ultimately probably meant more to the program. Certainly in terms of public perception and the credibility bestowed by the punditocracy a win would have been a major boon for Iowa. Would it have changed the results in 2003? That seems like a stretch, unless it was going to magically prevent Mo Brown from getting hurt or find another year of eligibility for Brad Banks. But the pain of that loss was also dulled by the fact that 2002 was still a wildly successful season -- 11 wins? An 8-0 campaign in the Big Ten? The incredible memories that were made along the way? The Orange Bowl loss sucked a lot, but it couldn't obscure the greatness of that season. Not to mention the knowledge we gained in the years to come that it wasn't a loss to just anyone -- it was a loss to an emerging dynasty.
The 2006 Outback Bowl meant far, far less to the program and the fanbase and even a win wouldn't have totally salvaged what had been a frustrating and disappointing season... but few games ever left me feeling more drunk on rageahol than this one. I was so full of rage and disgust when the onside kick recovery was disallowed and Florida ran out of the clock that when my brother called to talk about the game, I hung up on him -- formulating any words to express my thoughts and emotions was impossible and making a series of incoherent noises tends to make for poor conversations. (Of course, if I'd known that the next two years would bring so many more opportunities to have tantrums like a roid raging five-year old, I might have eased up after this loss.)
Let's be clear, though: while this game is often characterized as the game where shoddy Conference USA referees stole a win from Iowa, that's not exactly true. The reality is that while the officials made a series of questionable (and flat-out wrong) calls that proved costly, Iowa also played like shit for the better part of three quarters. The offense looked out of sync, the defense couldn't make enough stops, and the special teams was uncharacteristically weak (notably giving up a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown). Nearly every bowl game in the Aughts was preceded by inane and tiresome Ferentz-to-the-NFL rumors, but the '06 Capital One Bowl was the one time where it seemed to actually have an effect on the team's preparation for the game. Ferentz was hotly rumored to be heading to Jacksonville before the game (I believe there was even a report from Mr. Accuracy-in-Reporting himself, Chris Mortensen, right before kickoff that it was virtually a done deal that Ferentz was headed to the Jags; in case you're not sure, he was wrong), and the team that took the field simply didn't look that sharp. Tate & Co. turned it on late in the third quarter and got right back into the game, only to be victimized by the worst call of the day (the botched onside kick recovery call). Still, it's worth remembering that that call alone did not cost Iowa the game; even if the call had been correct, Iowa still needed to drive down the field and score a touchdown just to tie the game and send it into overtime. Iowa certainly had all the momentum in the world at that point, but a win was by no means a foregone conclusion. But the poor effort and sloppy execution on display in the first part of the game, coupled with, yes, some blindlingly bad officiating left me in a whiteout of rage. That it came after a season that featured a pair of embarrassing blowout losses and a pair of gut punch-worthy "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" losses only made the pain even more acute.
PLAYERS OF NOTE
How can you single out a single player or a pair of players when every bowl win featured a new hero (or heroes)? Nate Kaeding made the game-winning kick and Aaron Greving filled in admirably for an injured Ladell Betts in the 2001 Alamo Bowl. Nathan Chandler played one of the finest games of his career (13/25, 170 yds, 1 TD) and Fred Russell was equally brilliant (150 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries) in the 2004 Outback Bowl. Drew Tate proved he had plenty of magic left in his bag of tricks in the 2005 Capital One Bowl (not to mention Warren Holloway becoming the hero of heroes). Shonn Greene capped off his Iowa career with yet another dominant performance (121 yards and 3 TDs on 29 carries) in the 2009 Outback Bowl. And, as noted above, Adrian Clayborn was unbelievably good (9 tackles, 2 sacks) in the 2010 Orange Bowl (and Brandon Wegher wasn't too shabby, either -- 113 yards and 1 TD on 16 carries). Who can pick one or two guys out of that group? Why not just doff our caps to all of them for helping provide us with so many excellent bowl memories.
- The 2001 Alamo Bowl was proof positive that the college football gods have a viciously cruel and ironic sense of humor. How else to explain Ladell Betts, a beloved, hard-working senior who'd toiled away for some of the worst Iowa teams in the past thirty years, sustaining an injury in pre-game warm-ups? That's just dirty pool.
- The final 59 minutes may not have been so awesome, but the first minute of the 2003 Orange Bowl was pretty damn spectacular. CJ JONES! SEE! YOU! LATER!
- Winning the 2004 Outback Bowl could hardly make up for the pain of losing the Orange Bowl the previous year... but it did feel awfully good. It was the first of three bowl wins over teams from the bigger, faster, just plain awesomer ESS EEE SEE and, moreover, it was a completely dominant win. And it was the start of what would become a beautiful tradition in the Aughts: beating the piss out of Ron Zook-coached teams.
- The 2006 Alamo Bowl was Iowa's second painful bowl loss in the 2006 calendar year (all told, Iowa went 6-8 in 2006, including a four-game losing streak and eight losses in their last ten games that year; 2006 fucking sucked), although this one was far more self-inflicted than the Outback Bowl. After a great start in which Iowa jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the wheels began to wobble when an illegal formation penalty negated a touchdown that would have made it 21-0. The wheels came off on the next play (an interception in the end zone that promptly turned into a Texas scoring drive). And the wheels got thrown in a barrel and set on fire in the fourth quarter when Iowa attempted a wide receiver pass off of a reverse on the potential game-winning drive. Oh, Ken... why didn't HFMR tell you that you never go full retard?
- Honestly, the pre-game build-up (who doesn't fondly remember the Smelley Cock Watch?) may have been more exciting than the actual 2009 Outback Bowl. The gulf in talent and preparation between Iowa and South Carolina was apparent from the very first snap. Iowa was there to beat some heads in and end the season on a high note. South Carolina was there to eat some Bloomin' Onions and get a win over a slow, crappy Big Ten team. How'd that work out for you, Cocks? The defense forced Stephen Garcia into plenty of mistakes (and took advantage of some of his self-inflicted gaffes, too) and Shonn Greene left Iowa with a bang.
- Whatcha got?
Matt Roth: the most dickish player of the Aughts, and how we loved him for it.