A week ago, we released our schedule for the 2020 football season. Or perhaps more accurately, we released the schedule of games from the Kirk Ferentz era we’ll be re-watching this fall in place of the Iowa football season that will not be played. While a potential spring or late fall season are still in discussions, we’re moving forward with a full slate of games guaranteed to bring back memories and leave Hawkeye fans with some semblance of happiness.
But this is just one possible schedule out of 20 years of games. Throughout the Ferentz era, there have been plenty of other great games from each week of the year that would have been great candidates. So each week, we’ll be picking the scraps off the cutting room floor and taking a look back at some other great games from that week of the season.
Week one hasn’t always been a thrilling one under coach Kirk Ferentz. While the Fry era was littered with matchups against Power 5 programs (in part because of a shortened season, part because the Big Ten wasn’t as high quality top to bottom and in part because Fry was Fry), Ferentz has largely played the scheduling game with an eye on bowl eligibility. With a full Big Ten slate, a matchup with Iowa State and then only 2-3 weeks to fill, Ferentz has ered on the side of conservatism when it comes to early season scheduling (shocker!!).
After taking his lumps from top-10 ranked Nebraska and Kansas State in 1999 and 2000, the Hawkeyes have largely faced off with FCS or lower level FBS opponents in week one. Did I say largely? I meant entirely. Iowa hasn’t played a power 5 opponent in week one since the loss to K-State in 2000. In the 19 seasons since then, Iowa has played 11 matchups with MAC opponents week one, seven against FCS opponents and one with a Mountain West opponent.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some great games. As noted in the schedule release, we’ll be re-living the miracle from 2009 where Iowa needed a pair of blocked field goals at the end of regulation to escape disaster. Here are a couple other great week 1 games that didn’t make our cut.
Miami (OH), 2003
The infamous Big Ben game is certainly a strong contender to be on the re-watch schedule and candidly, after re-watching some of the highlights and the context that followed, I wouldn’t mind making the switch.
While the Redhawks came into the game unranked, Ben Roethlisberger was considered a Heisman Trophy contender pre-season. He lived up to the hype throughout 2003 as Miami finished the year 13-1 and ranked 10th nationally. But on that August Saturday, the Hawkeyes feasted on Roethlisbergers (see what I did there?).
Iowa picked off Big Ben 4 times while not giving up a touchdown all day. The Redhawks got on the board first with a field goal in the first quarter, but that would be their only points of the day. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, found pay-dirt three different times.
Iowa QB Nathan Chandler finished with just 129 passing yards, but added a pair of touchdowns on 12 of 19 passing, earning him a substantially higher passer rating than the vaunted Roethlisberger. On the ground, Fred Russell averaged more than 7.5 yards per carry, racking up 167 yards and a TD on 22 carries.
The Iowa defense was stifling, led by Jovon Johnson who picked off Roethlisberger twice. Sean Considine and Chris Smith each added another interception to make it a gaudy four turnovers for the Heisman hopeful.
Final: Iowa 21, Miami (OH) 3
The Hawkeyes would go on to finish the season 10-3 and ranked #8 as they marked the second of their three-year run inside the top-10. Perhaps most importantly, they instilled a sense of Hawkeye Pride in the state of Iowa.
Northern Illinois, 2012
While there were plenty of other beatdowns over the years from week one (as you would expect given more than a third of the games were against FCS opponents), there have also been some nail-biters (see: UNI, 2009). One such game that left Iowa fans clutching the seat of their pants was the 2012 trip to Soldier Field to take on Northern Illinois.
It was a ground and pound type of game from the get-go and frankly, it was pretty sloppy (as evidenced by the four fumbles). It was also a win in a year that ultimately needed those desperately as the offense struggled to get its footing.
Things got off to a bit of a slow start, but Iowa seemed to be in OK shape as Mike Meyer (queue the music) put the Hawkeyes on top 3-0 about midway through the first quarter. Then the Huskies countered with a touchdown in the second quarter. Iowa had two more opportunities for field goals but only cashed in on one and the warning signs started to rear their ugly heads for Hawkeye fans. They got louder as Iowa went into the half down 10-6.
After another Meyer field goal in the third, things took a major turn south as Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch broke off a 75 yard TD run to put Northern Illinois up 17-9.
Crisis was averted as Meyer avenged his missed FG with a 50 yard bomb and running back Damon Bullock ripped off a 23-yarder with just over 2 minutes left to give Iowa the lead. the touchdown run capped off a tremendous game for Bullock, who finished with 150 yards on 30(!!) carries to go along with the score. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch had a miserable day passing with just 54 yards on 6 of 16 passing, but added an absurd 119 yards on the ground on 18 carries.
It was a thrilling comeback in a fun setting in Chicago, but was a sign of what was to come that season. Iowa went on to finish the year 4-8. The following year, the Huskies would pull off the upset in Kinnick as Lynch went off for 275 yards passing and three TDs, as well as 56 yards on the ground.
Northern Illinois was set to be Iowa’s week four matchup in this year’s original schedule. After adding a pair of transfers from the Huskies, it would have surely made for another entertaining matchup.
Those are just a couple of the week one showdowns that didn’t make the cut for our re-watch schedule. What memorable matchups would have been under consideration for you?