Football season is so close you can smell the barbecue and charcoal already. Hawkeye fans everywhere cannot wait to see what this season has in store with all-American Desmond King and potential robo-QB C.J. Beathard. The general mood is such an upgrade over where we were last year, when many of us, myself included, thought the fighting Reggie Spearman’s of Illinois State may just walk into Kinnick and begin the end of Kirk Ferentz’s reign. How foolish of us.
Regardless, I am here now to quell your optimism for this year by reminding you of some of the heartbreak we have experienced over the years. Why would I release such a punishment? Well, two reasons. First, it’s a hell of a lot easier to talk about the losses when you are winning than when you are losing. Second, remember that winning is awesome and maybe a little bit of soul-crushing will make us appreciate just how awesome last year was and awesome this year could be.
This week, ESPN released an article with some quips from coaches about the worst losses of their career. They range from stunners in bowl games to getting blown out to losing to lesser teams. So I thought I would try to do the same and let the debate rage. So what are Kirk’s worst losses as head coach at Iowa? I really had no madness to my method. Basically, I discounted the first three years as we were still rebuilding the program. I then went through my own memory of what losses have remained vivid in my brain since then. If they were heart-wrenching enough at the time, then they must be somewhere up there. I have a mix of heartbreaks, what-could-have-been’s, and embarrassing losses to lower division teams (and Iowa State of course).
So let’s count them down in reverse order:
5. 2015 Michigan State
I debated whether to even include this one. I was at this game in person and although it was incredibly disappointing, I walked out of the stadium with my head held high that the team did absolutely everything they could to win and left it all out on the field. However, the what-if game rears its ugly head. 13-0 B1G Champions with a date in the College Football Playoff (let’s pretend we actually would have had a shot against Alabama). So, so close to all that glory and vindication. At the very least, we were given this gem of announcing by the one and only Gus Johnson...AHHH HE CAUGHT IT
4. 2007 Western Michigan
What the hell happened here? Senior day against a MAC school with the potential to clinch bowl-eligibility for the 7th consecutive year. I’m still not ok with the treatment Adam Shada received before the game. Be that as it may, the Hawkeyes allowed nearly 500 yards of offense to the 5-7 Broncos with guys like Kenny Iwebema, Charles Godfrey, and Mike Humpal (all draft picks) on defense. This game left the Hawkeye faithful wondering a collective “W…T…F…?”
3. 2009 Northwestern
Another ultimate what-could-have been. The Hawkeyes were riding high at 9-0 going into a mid-November home game with Northwestern. I was sitting in section 130 looking straight down the goal line in the second quarter where star QB Ricky Stanzi was sacked and rolled his ankle. The Hawkeyes had been cruising up to that point racking up 10 points and almost 200 yards of offense. With Stanzi out, James Vandenberg did what he could, but it just wasn’t enough. You could feel all the air sucked out of the stadium on that one play. And considering how close the Ohio State game was the next week, we are just left with what-ifs.
2. 2010 Wisconsin
After trading blows most of the day, Iowa had finally gotten a Tigerhawk-tattooed leg up on Bret Bielema and the Badgers. The #15 Hawkeyes were leading the #13 Badgers 30-24 with 8 minutes left in the game. But on 4th down from deep in their own territory, Wisconsin ran a fake punt and got the first down, which led to an ensuing touchdown. I included this game, not because of who we lost to or even how it was lost. I included it because I see this game and that play as the start of the downward spiral Iowa was in for the 3 seasons leading up to last year. Even though Iowa wiped the floor with Michigan State the next week, the fact that Iowa had, yet again, fallen for a fake punt at the hands of Bielema took some steam out of the program. And the cycle of mediocrity and frustration was not alleviated until last season.
1. 2002 Iowa State
I was 12 years old and sitting in the south endzone for this game. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The Hawkeyes fielded arguably their strongest Ferentz team ever against Seneca Wallace and the Cyclones. Things started out peachy enough with the Hawks leading 24-7 at half. But then some unbelievable play by Wallace and receiver Lane Danielsen, and turnover after turnover by Iowa allowed Iowa State to roar back and stun the Hawkeyes 36-31. Who knows what could have happened that year? Maybe Iowa gets ahead of Ohio State in the BCS? Maybe national championship game against the ‘U’? Grrr, I’m still mad just writing about it….I can’t even….AHHHHH!!!! And that kind of reaction is why it is top of my list. Watch if you like to live dangerously.
2005 Florida: Worst officiating ever…?
2006 Indiana: Biggest upset by Indiana since the 1980’s. Also began the downward spiral of 2006, 2007, and beginning of 2008 before Shonn Greene destroyed everything and everyone in his path.
2009 Ohio State: In the words of Herm Edwards…”YOU PLAY. TO WIN. THE GAME.” He did not say “You play for overtime.”
2011 Iowa State: 44-41 triple OT where it wasn’t too unreasonable to believe that Steele Jantz might win the Heisman. And then he played the rest of the season.
2012 Central Michigan: You could see this one coming once CMU scored late in the 4th and set up for the onside kick. You just knew what was going to happen.
2014 Minnesota: Sometimes, you just get your ass kicked by a rival.
2015 Stanford: Sometimes, you just get your ass kicked in front of the whole college football nation.
What do you think? What did I miss in this list of misery?