Monday’s for me usually begin around 4:00 am with an inspector yell-emailing me about product that doesn’t meet specs and how I’m wasting his time. As if I’m the only one in the world with issues with supply chains and product that is dying the minute you take it out of the ground. But hey, we all have our bullshit during the week. And honestly, starting my week off apologizing is good for my soul. It’s like I’m already atoning for my work sins for the next five days. You can only really go up from there.
Shortly after I email my confessional back over and putz around on Twitter, I wash the sleep from my eyes, brush the chompers, poor two to three K-Cups worth of coffee into my Yeti, throw on my 10-year old Iowa sweatshirt and a backwards hat and trudge upstairs. It’s a sleepy, thankless process that normally makes me want to run away and hide and never come back.
But not today. Oh no. Not today.
You see, it’s not just any old Monday. No sir. No ma’am. Today is a victory Monday. A Top-3 Monday. A Monday in which I’ve never felt before.
You see, I saw something dare-I-say biblical happen on the sideline of a college football field just outside of Baltimore and I can’t stop thinking about it. The buzz and energy I have from that moment cannot be stopped. It cannot be crushed. It cannot be exorcised. It will remain impenetrable deep into the winter and maybe for the rest of my life.
You all thought my resolve was unshakeable before... but boy oh boy, that was nothing more than some fence riding BS. Now? After witnessing a small piece of football heaven and the grace and beauty that keeps replaying in my head? I’ve seen Valhalla and like Drake said, “Nothing was the Same”.
“Who’s that guy in the hoodie on the sidelines talking with those players?”, my wife asked me after Riley Moss’ interception in the first quarter.
“Geno Stone, he plays for the Ravens now but was a Hawkeye. Dude’s pretty legit,” I responded.
“What’s his sweatshirt say?”
“Can’t believe you doubted me, it looks like.”
“Well that’s a hell of a statement.”
During that little conversation between my wife and I, Iowa was lining up for their first field goal of the game after Riley Moss put his stamp on the contest, picking off Taulia Tagovailoa for the first time all season. Phil Parker’s defense, broken up into three separate benches that spread from the 50-yard line to just past the 40, sat calmly in their position groups. Some players were talking amongst each other, but like most things Iowa, it was business as usual.
Nothing to see here. We’re just doing what we do. No theatrics or tricks. Just good ol’ fashioned football.
You all know what happened next - in less than four minutes of game time, Tagovailoa smashed the gas peddle down hard and tore up Iowa’s secondary and linebackers like he was playing 7-on-7 in his backyard. For as good as the Hawkeyes looked defensively the two series before, this was different. There were holes all over the field. The usual “bend but don’t break” defense that all of us have come to love since Norm Parker was at the helm, didn’t just bend but it snapped into a million little pieces on this drive. Tagovailoa, Dontay Demus Jr. and Mike Locksley’s offense finally showed the yellow-clad Iowa fans what all of the hype was about going into that game. We finally understood why their was a small bit of Heisman hype floating around College Park as well.
Maryland looked fast. And legit.
Iowa looked, well, shell shocked.
Eight plays. 69 yards (nice). And a touchdown. 7-3, Maryland.
The Blackout was going ballistic.
The Iowa buzz that I felt walking into Maryland Stadium just 30-minutes before that was sucked out of the building almost entirely. Despite owning nearly an entire half of the stadium, things got eerily quiet as a healthy majority of us realized that we were in for fight. A fight that would mean that Spencer Petras and the offense would have to respond to.
As the Iowa defense jogged back to their assigned spots on the bench, something weird happened. Or maybe it was just weird because I was so close and able to pay attention. Phil Parker, Seth Wallace, LeVar Woods and after a few minutes, Kirk Ferentz himself SWARMED the bench that housed the secondary. The only defensive minded person on Iowa’s staff that didn’t venture over during that touchdown answering drive was Kelvin Bell who was in his own bag in hopes of pushing the defensive line to do get home in their own right.
Riley Moss, who I came to realize is the heartbeat of this entire team, was standing and passionately talking with Phil Parker. Seth Wallace was talking to Hankins and Roberts. Geno Stone was behind Phil, soaking it all in and offering his own opinions up when the moment asked for it.
What once was a calm, professional sideline was now buzzing with energy. Everything revolved around the secondary for nearly four total minutes of football time. Coaches lifting coaches. Coaches lifting players. Players lifting players. Players lifting coaches. Former players lifting everyone.
And we even got a couple of those patented KF-claps that we all have come to love.
Not a single player buried their head or negatively changed their body language. If anything, it got more intimidating. Suddently, Riley and Belton and Hankins were popping off like each of them took four scoops of C4 preworkout. They knew what had just taken place. For the first time this season, the vaunted Iowa secondary got hit in the mouth. And instead of keeling over and washing the blood off their face, they planted their feet into the ground and like Randy Marsh declared that the bell wasn’t even close to ringing.
While Maryland may have landed a blow that brought Iowa to an early knee, it was merely the first round of many. And everyone from the coaching staff to the starters to the freshman soaking it all in knew from that moment on, Maryland was in for a long, long night.
I’ve written about my love affair with Phil Parker on this very website many, many times. But having lived in Illinois and Florida and Pennsylvania and now New Jersey, I haven’t seen the maturation of him as a coach LIVE in quite some time. It wasn’t just Phil Parker igniting the defense on Friday night after that first Maryland touchdown drive. It was a plethora of Phil Parker clones up and down the sideline igniting that defense. Everyone was in lock step from Riley Moss to Isaiah Bruce to Geno Stone. From Kirk Ferentz to Seth Wallace back to Phil Parker. One unit. One goal.
It was a master class in coaching which inevitably turned into a master class of playmaking on the field. And while the Maryland faithful still held onto their hope after Iowa’s touchdown answering drive, Phil Parker and Riley Moss and the rest of that defense made sure that they turned that hope into absolute devastation.
It was almost as if Iowa wanted to question the entire country (who had the Hawks as merely 3-point favorites over the Terps), “I can’t believe you doubted us”.