THE DATE: October 16, 2004
THE OPPONENT: Ohio State
THE SCORE: Iowa 33, Ohio State 7
WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED: Iowa just beat the hell out of Ohio State, that's what happened. Read that again: Iowa beat the hell out of Ohio State. Iowa doesn't beat Ohio State very often in football -- this win is Ferentz's lone win over the Buckeyes (in eight tries) and it's the lone Iowa win over OSU, period, since 1991. Not counting Big Ten newbies like Penn State and Nebraska, the only B1G team that Iowa has beaten less often than Ohio State (14 wins, all-time) is Michigan (13 wins, all-time) -- and that one stings a little less because wins over Big Blue have been more plentiful since Hayden arrived (nine since 1979). By comparison, Iowa only has four wins over Ohio State in that same span of time. So the wins tend to be a little more memorable.
And when Iowa just flat-out dominates Ohio State? Well, that's really memorable. You'd have to go all the way back to at least 1960 to find an Iowa win over the Buckeyes that was comparable in terms of dominance (they won that game, 35-12). But this win was pure dominance: Iowa scored the first 33 points of the game (OSU scored in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter to prevent the shutout), outgained Ohio State by 270 yards, and held OSU to 27 running yards on 29 attempts. This was certainly not a vintage Ohio State team -- this loss was their third-straight to open Big Ten play that year and they went on to finish 8-4, the worst of any Tressel Era team -- but that didn't take away any of the satisfaction of crushing them. A win like this had been a long time coming for Iowa against Ohio State.
HEROES: It came down to the usual two suspects in any 2004 win: the defense and Drew Tate. As noted above, the defense was stifling -- Ohio State gained 177 total yards and 73 of those came on their last drive of the game, when the result was a foregone conclusion. They couldn't run the ball at all (see: 27 yards on 29 carries) and their quarterback platoon (Justin Zwick and Troy Smith) was ineffective (14/26, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). The 2004 Iowa defense was one of Ferentz's best and wins like this really gave them an opportunity to strut their stuff.
But the other hero was Tate, who continued to prove that he could be a one man band for Iowa's offense that year. Iowa's leading rusher in this game was the immortal Sam Brownlee, who ran the ball 10 times for 33 yards. No problem: Tate went 26/39 for 331 yards and 3 TDs through the air -- and tacked on a rushing touchdown for good measure. He was absolutely brilliant here: extending plays with his magic feet, drilling passes downfield, and completely controlling the game. It was a joy to watch. It also produced one of the definitive Tate highlights for me:
IMPORTANT: In the context of the 2004 season, it was the point where I started to think there might be something special about that Iowa team. They didn't beat a particularly good Ohio State team, but that was almost irrelevant: the fact that they were able to manhandle Ohio State was mindblowing and it was impressive to see what they could do when Tate and the defense were both clicking.
Outside of the context of the 2004 season, this win felt important because of its rarity, it's dominance, and its catharsis. Obviously a win over a .500 Ohio State team couldn't erase the litany of painful losses OSU had inflicted on Iowa over the years, like the 1985 loss that cost Iowa a shot at a national championship or the stunning last-gasp 1990 loss. Nor could it make up for not getting to play Ohio State in 2002 and settle that great debate on the field. But after years of frustration at the hands of Ohio State, there's no question that getting to return some of that felt good. Really, really good. Frankly, this game probably feels a little more important than it ought to -- if wins over OSU weren't the equivalent of spotting a unicorn in the wild, we might not hold this one in such high esteem.
A/V: Courtesy our old friend, The Hawkeye Historian:
PERSONAL MEMORIES: I will never forget Tate careening down the field, arms windmilling through the air in pure joy. I will never forget the feeling of intense satisfaction that I had after the game; seeing Iowa beat Ohio State -- nay, demolish Ohio State -- was intensely gratifying. It was like seeing Charlie Brown finally kick
the football right in Lucy's big stupid head the game-winning field goal.
BONUS! You can watch the whole game here.