Today is #tbt, or Throwback Thursday if you're not on the Tweetbook or the Facegrams and suchlike, so it seems like a fine time to take a look back at Iowa football's past. This year is also the 10th anniversary of Iowa's 2004 season, a thrillingly insane funhouse ride of a season that might just be my favorite Iowa season in living memory (which excludes 1985 -- I was three -- and all the great seasons from the '20s, '30s, and '50s), although 2002 and 2009 give it stiff competition. But it was such a completely and utterly mental season, with the rise of Drew Tate, the coming out party for AIRBHG (although we didn't have a name for the phenomenon at the time), Clinton Solomon and Ed Hinkel becoming one of my favorite 1-2 punches at WR, and a defense full of ass-kickers like Matt Roth, Jonathan Babineaux, Chad Greenway, and Abdul Hodge. That Hawkeye team would give you a heart attack -- several, in fact -- but they were so much fun to watch.
And it just so happens that Thursdays this fall are the actual 10-year anniversaries of the games themselves from the 2004 season, so for the next eight Thursdays (plus a special bonus Thursday for the Capital One Bowl) we're going to be throwing back to that wonderful 2004 season and Iowa's crazy ride to a Big Ten Championship. That said, we're also going to cheat a little this week -- this week was actually Iowa's bye week in 2004, but since I didn't get this series started in time last week to cover the Iowa-Michigan State game that kicked off Iowa's run to the top of the league, we're going to go back and cover that one.
0:00 -- This game was two weeks after Iowa went down to Arizona and got absolutely beaten into the ground by an angry-as-hell Arizona State team; it's still the most hellacious beating an Iowa team has taken in the last decade (although the Penn State and Michigan #beatemdowns in 2012 gave it a run for its money). To say that it was an inauspicious start for a future Big Ten Champion would be quite an understatement.
0:00 -- This game was also a week after Iowa dusted itself off from the ASU debacle and went into Ann Arbor to face a touted Michigan team. That game was another Iowa loss and was memorable mainly for Braylon Edwards making Jovon Johnson (and the rest of the Iowa defense) look really, really silly (OK, and also for Hinkel's crazy diving catch), but also because it gave us a taste of how Iowa would respond to adversity. They lost the game, but they didn't get waxed -- it was actually a one-score game until the closing seconds of the third quarter. The game is also very memorable for That Drew Tate Moment -- the one where his helmet gets ripped off and he's still looking downfield for a pass to complete (why is there no video of this moment?). Any questions you had about Drew Tate as a competitor were pretty decisively answered right there.
0:10 -- Based on your tolerance for Hoobastank, you may want to turn down the volume on this one.
0:45 -- Oh hey there, Drew Tate pinpoint pass downfield. This was Tate's fifth game as a starter at Iowa, but his first game back at Kinnick Stadium after the back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Michigan. We didn't yet know how much the '04 offense was going to rely on Tate, but this game was a breakout performance and a great example of what he was capable of: 25/36, 340 yards, 1 TD/1 INT.
1:30 -- Tom Busch and one of the hardest-looking 3-yard TD runs ever. Iowa had a lot of good fullbacks in the '00s and there were certainly some that were better than Busch, but he might have been my favorite one. He was just so much fun to watch.
1:47 -- Tate throwing a beautiful ball downfield on the run. Tate was so, so good at that and it was a much-needed dimension for the Iowa offense, given the increasingly non-existent Iowa run game that year and the inconsistent offensive line.
1:54 -- Rinse, repeat.
2:22 -- This play is quintessential Drew Tate -- he rolls out after the snap and uses his mobility to stay on the move, but the whole time he's still looking downfield for an open receiver, not looking to take off and run or check down. Lo and behold, Hinkel comes unguarded in the back of the end zone and Tate lasers a perfect pass to him for a touchdown.
3:05 -- And this is the last highlight of Jermelle Lewis we'll be seeing in this series. Sigh. DAMN YOU, AIRBHG. Lewis might very well have been the most purely talented RB Iowa's had during Ferentz's tenure; his combination of speed and power was incredibly difficult to stop when he was healthy. Unfortunately, he was almost never healthy after 2002. Such a shame.
4:08 -- Oh, hello there, Jonathan Babineaux. When people reflect on the excellent defensive linemen that have come through Iowa City during Ferentz's tenure, Babs doesn't always get as much praise as the likes of Roth, King, Clayborn, etc. Babineaux struggled with injuries at Iowa and didn't play the flashiest position, either, but lordy... on his day, he was an absolute terror opposing offenses. He was strong enough to hold up against the pounding from the interior of the offensive line, but also quick enough to streak by interior linemen and blow up a play in the backfield. We'll be seeing a lot more Babineaux plays in this series.
4:21 -- Chad Greenway, meet pass coverage. Pass coverage, meet Chad Greenway. I think you're going to get along smashingly. Linebackers like Greenway have always been the (not-so) secret sauce to Iowa's defense -- powerful enough to shut down the run, but quick enough (and with such finely-tuned football instincts) to provide excellent pass coverage in the middle of the field. If memory serves, 2004 was also the year that The Sporting News infamously featured a comment from an anonymous Big Ten coach describing Greenway as "overrated." Oops.
4:40 -- Is that a Jovon Johnson TFL? It's hard to say for sure. Jovon is most renowned for his ball-hawking skills (17 career interceptions will do that for you), but he wasn't afraid to get up and tackle a dude, either.
END -- In some ways, this wasn't a banner day for the Iowa defense. Michigan State gained 449 yards on the day and averaged 5 yards per play. They were especially successful on the ground, racking up 204 yards on 36 carries (5.7 ypc). On the other hand, all those yards only turned into 16 points and 10 of those points came deep in the fourth quarter, after Iowa had already established a 31-6 lead. Bend, but don't break.