Yesterday, in response to an article posted by ESPN, in which college coaches discussed some of the worst losses in the careers, our very own Dylan Dinkla wrote a piece detailing the worst losses for Iowa under Kirk Ferentz. He detailed the heartbreak and despair that resulted from some of these Iowa losses, and there was a lot of discussion in the comments about the worst games the Hawks have lost under Kirk. However, there were also some comments about what could be included as part of the Hawkeyes’ best victories.
Well, today we’re detailing those! It sounded fun enough and like a pretty easy list to put together at first, but I’ll be damned if I said that this list ended up being as easy to make as I thought it would. I started with three and ended up with a list of about 25. The different criteria is honestly what it made it so difficult - this list could be made off exciting finishes, absolute domination of opponents, unbelievable comebacks, and actual importance of victories. So for example, while two blocked field goals at the end of the 2009 Northern Iowa game would qualify as one of the most exciting ways the Hawks have claimed a victory under Ferentz, it’d be hard to argue that it’s a top five victory in the Ferentz era. Same goes for a 4-8 Iowa team beating an eventual Orange Bowl-bound team in 2012 (shut up I know they’re in the MAC) and the 55-0 decimation of Minnesota in their last game at the pitiful Metrodome.
Obviously, a lot of this is up for debate, as Ferentz has won 127 games at Iowa, including six bowl games, and everyone has their favorite memories that could have a major effect on their lists. I tried to leave bias aside, but it has a little bit of an influence on this list. Without further ado, let’s start with the honorable mentions and then get to the top five.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in chronological order):
2004 at Penn State: Iowa 6, PSU 4. This makes the list because it’s quintessential Iowa football. It’s the kind of smash mouth defense that the Hawkeyes want to be known for. It’s so memorable that ESPN did a oral history of the game on its 10-year anniversary.
2004 vs. Wisconsin: The Hawkeyes THRASHED Wisconsin at home in the final regular season game of 2004 to win a share of the conference championship. Winning the Big Ten Title at home was definitely one thing that those in attendance will remember for a long time.
2009 at Michigan State: The Hawkeyes went into Spartan Stadium with a 7-0 record and went out 8-0 after this play led them to a 15-13 victory. #7got6
2009 vs. Georgia Tech: This game makes the cut in honorable mention-land due to the fact that the Hawkeyes won an elusive BCS bowl game under Kirk Ferentz with dominating defense.
2011 vs. Pittsburgh: Okay, okay. This one is in here mostly because it holds a special place in my heart. Iowa started the game down 24-3 and was down 27-10 with ten minutes left in the 4th quarter. James Vandenberg brought them back with 3 TDs in the final quarter in what was a mostly forgettable season. This game was so much fun towards the end and it only reinforced my policy never to leave a game early for any reason.
And now, to the top five, in reverse order. These games don’t have much separating them but I tried my best to order them. Please don’t yell at me too much.
5. 2015 vs. Pittsburgh
It just felt like I needed to put something from the 2015 season on this list and none stuck out as much as the night matchup against a pretty good Pitt team. It was the first contest where the Hawks were really tested in the season and the only game in the non-conference where anyone held a candle to them. Desmond King had himself a day with two interceptions (one of which was in the end zone) and CJB had a few key runs on the final drive, which led to the Koehn 57-yarder. This was A BLAST to be at, especially with my dad, whose only other Iowa game prior was the 2012 CMU game (If you’re reading this I’m still sorry you had to see that one).
4. 2008 vs. Penn State
Another game on the list, another dramatic game ending with a field goal for the win. Iowa was 5-4 going into the game and desperate for a win, and Penn State was #2 in the country and ROLLING through their competition. The Hawkeyes would take this one and roll to four consecutive victories to end the 2008 season while simultaneously handing Penn State their only loss in the regular season and ending their hopes at the National Championship. This game would set the tone for the 2009 season for the Hawkeyes, too, who wouldn’t lose until Dylan’s #3 worst loss against Northwestern. But this is time for happy thoughts so I’ll end this section with this!
3. 2002 vs. Purdue
This game set the tone for the rest of the 2002 season and really legitimized that team as something special. Purdue did just about anything they wanted on offense that day, garnering over 500 yards of offense, but the special teams really bailed the Hawks out early. And then Banks to Clark happened, twice. Once for a 95-yard TD, and then I’m sure you’ve seen the now famous touchdown pass to cap off an 87-yard drive with two minutes remaining to secure victory.
2. 2005 Capital One Bowl vs. LSU
This one makes it to this list almost solely because of how the game ended. This is one of the most exciting finishes in college football, and probably the most exciting finish in Iowa football history, along with the other two game-winning field goals that made the list. But I think this one takes the cake. Ya boy Gary Dolphin going absolutely berserk, Drew Tate cementing himself in Hawkeye lore, “The Forgotten Man” Holloway catching his only career touchdown pass in his final game... What an ending. Take it away, Gary.
1. 2002 at Minnesota
This was hard to put at number one, but it just felt right to put here. It claimed the first Big Ten title for the Hawkeyes under Kirk and was the first time the team had an undefeated conference record in 80 years. The Hawkeyes stormed the Metrodome and gave the Gophers an absolute thrashing, winning by a final score of 45-21 (and it wasn’t even that close, honestly). Fred Russell ran for 194 yards and Jermelle Lewis ran for 101. This game is even more memorable because of what happened after the game, when after winning a Big Ten Championship, the Iowa fans in attendance decided to just tear down and steal the goalposts, no big deal or anything. A very, VERY rare occasion that the visiting team’s fans have torn down the goalposts at an opposing stadium (Fun fact: Cal’s fans tore down Stanford’s goalposts after the 100th Big Game, even though they lost the damn game, and I otherwise couldn’t find another instance of it). Go Hawks.
Disagree with me? Let me know. I’m sure everyone will. But I guess that’s why we have these debates, because every game means something different to each fan.