THE DATE: October 27, 2007
THE OPPONENT: Michigan State
THE SCORE: Iowa 34, Michigan State 27 (2OT)
WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED? Can you win a game without completing a pass? Survey says... yes! Technically, Iowa didn't win this game without completing a pass -- Jake Christensen completed five passes (out of 15 attempts) for 53 yards. One of them was even really important -- JC6's 23-yard TD pass to Paul Chaney provided the Hawkeye scoring play in the first overtime. (FUN FACT: That was also Chaney's only career touchdown reception.) But it's fair to say that the passing attack was not good that day. (For Iowa, anyway; Brian Hoyer went 25/42 for 308 yards for Sparty.)
So how the hell did Iowa win this game? Two reasons: Albert Young found his "BEAST MODE" gear and the defense turned suddenly stingy in the second half. In the first half, MSU had no drive go for fewer than six plays, three drives ended in points (2 TDs, 1 FG), one ended in a missed field goal, and one ended in a punt (from the Iowa 38; welcome to the B1G!). In the second half, MSU punted on six drives, fumbled on another, and only put together one drive of substance -- the drive that ended with a game-tying FG at the end of regulation. I'm not sure what Kirk or Norm said at halftime, but whatever the the hell it was, it worked gangbusters for the defense. And about that Young fella...
HEROES: It's fair to say Albert put the Iowa offense on his back in this game and carried them to glory -- 34 (!) carries, 179 yards, and 2 TDs. Christensen completed one pass in the second half, so I think it's fair to say that Young was the reason Iowa had anything resembling a prayer of winning this game. He was unstoppable in the second half -- 22 carries, 132 yards, 2 TDs. This game also proved to be AY's last big hurrah in an Iowa uniform -- he didn't crack 100 yards against any of Iowa's final three opponents that year.
Also worth singling out for their efforts in this game: the aforementioned Chaney (for his OT TD catch), Jevon Pugh (whose game-winning TD run in OT2 was the unquestioned highlight of his very brief Iowa career), and Drew Gardener (a reserve defensive back who was thrust into action and made the game-winning tackle on the final play of the game).
IMPORTANT? Um... that's probably debatable. In the context of this season, this win represented a nice bounce-back from the dispiriting 31-6 loss at Purdue a week earlier and you could argue that it spurred Iowa to wins over the next two weeks (against just Northwestern and Minnesota), but 2007 was an eminently forgettable and depressing season, so it certainly doesn't have a ton of importance in a broader sense. In hindsight, perhaps the most important part of this game was the key role that a pair of reserve defensive linemen -- redshirt freshman Adrian Clayborn and true freshman Christian Ballard -- played during the fourth quarter and overtime. This was their first real showcase for Iowa fans and they proved to be vitally important players over the next three seasons.
PERSONAL MEMORIES: I have mixed emotions about a few games from 2007. On the whole, it was a bitterly disappointing and thoroughly forgettable season. Jake Christensen led probably the worst Iowa offense I can recall and it was a sad way for several Iowa players I really liked -- Albert Young, Charles Godfrey, Mike Humpal, Mike Klinkenborg, and Bryan Mattison, to name a few -- to end their Iowa careers.
And yet... some of the wins that year were really damn fun. Raining on Illinois' parade and making the Zooker and Juice Williams look foolish in a vintage effort from Iowa's defense was hugely satisfying. Avenging the '06 loss to Minnesota and regaining Floyd felt great (even if the win was truly pathetic). Beating just Northwestern (in Evanston!) was both tremendously cathartic and genuinely hope-inducing -- it seemed like the offense (and Jake in particular) had turned the proverbial corner in that game. (In reality, they hadn't -- jNW's defense was just that bad.) And the MSU game stood out as the most exciting and enjoyable game of the lot. One, it was a double-overtime win (not a frequent occurrence). Two, it was a thrilling comeback in a game where Iowa looked absolutely dead and that just about NO ONE saw coming. Trust me, at halftime Iowa was running a streak of six of the worst quarters of football they'd ever played under Ferentz (they were outscored 48-6 in those quarters and looked utterly hapless) -- no one expected a turnaround like we saw in the second half. Three, I remember being sick as a dog during this game and doped to the gills on cough medicine -- and, magically, by the end of the game, I didn't feel so sick anymore. Albert Young is a faith healer!