Sept. 15, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Yes, you can put lipstick on a pig and get positive results.
The Hawkeyes proved that Saturday by applying some fourth-quarter cosmetics to a football game that was unattractive and often ugly for three periods. Iowa and Iowa State had played a strange and sometimes sloppy contest on a field left slippery by a two-day rain.
The Hawkeyes pretty much had their way in the first half, with a big advantage in total yards and possession time. Twice they were inside the Cyclones' 10-yard line.
But when the half ended Iowa only had one field goal and a 3-0 lead.
In the third quarter the Cyclones received the kickoff, then took the ball and kept it, and kept it, and kept it. In fact, they kept it 77 percent of the period.
They became the first opponent this season to penetrate Iowa's 20-yard line but their efforts resulted in a pass interception and a missed field goal. Finally, with only seconds left in the quarter, the visitors tied the score at 3-3 with a 43-yard field goal.
At that point Iowa had run only six plays and gained five yards in the period. One possession ended with a punt, the next with an interception.
The lefty quarterback responded by immediately engineering a 65-yard scoring drive. He completed three passes, then handed the ball to Shonn Greene for the last 25 yards to give Iowa its first touchdown of the game.
A short time later, Andy Brodell fielded a Cyclone punt and snaked his way 81 yards to the end zone. That pretty much decided the outcome, although Iowa's defense was tested at the goal line in the waning moments. The Hawkeyes were up to the challenge, keeping their record of not allowing a touchdown this season intact.
Iowa's game next Saturday at Pittsburgh will be televised live by ESPN2 with coverage to begin at 11 a.m. Iowa time.
Yes, this was an unusual game. Iowa totalled 179 yards in the first half and had only a field goal to show for it. In the second half, they gained only 65 yards from scrimmage but scored two touchdowns.
The Cyclones outgained the home team but were zero for three in the red zone. They missed three of four field goals, one from 21 yards.
Although there were numerous miscues, this was a hard-fought rivalry game played in less than ideal conditions. It provided a gut check the Hawkeyes needed after easy wins against two overmatched opponents. When Iowa needed to make the plays to win this game, it did.
Iowa's defense had another solid effort with more newcomers playing key roles. Strong safety Tyler Sash, a redshirt freshman, topped the tackle chart with 12. He also had a sack, plus an interception that killed an Iowa State scoring drive.
Brodell's electrifying punt return for a score served as a reminder that special teams can also provide touchdowns. Ferentz's teams were very good at that when they were ranked among the Top Ten three years in a row.
Iowa now goes to Pittsburgh to face its first road test of the season. The Panthers were ranked in the pre-season Top 25, but lost their opener to Bowling Green before beating Buffalo. It's possible they are not as good as advertised, but they've had an extra week to prepare for Iowa.
And here's an interesting angle -- Pittsburgh is the hometown of Kirk Ferentz. By winning this game, the Hawkeyes can give their coach a homecoming gift, sweep their non-conference schedule, and get their season off to a 4-0 start.
Editor's Note: Wine Online is written by George Wine, long-time sports information director at the University of Iowa and a member of the UI Athletics Hall of Fame. Wine currently lives in nearby Coralville and when he's not writing books - he's authored two including "Black and Gold Memories" - he's following the Hawkeyes.