Wine Online: Rarified Air
Oct. 11, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Here we are in mid-October and only two major college football teams are a perfect 6-0. One is Alabama. The other is (drum roll, please) Iowa.
Before you holler this can't be true, let me point out there are seven other unbeaten teams that have played only five games: Florida, Texas, Boise State, Cincinnati, TCU, Kansas and South Florida.
The Hawkeyes have gotten to 6-0 by beating Northern Iowa by one point, Michigan by two points and Arkansas State by three points. Their signature win was at Penn State and they defeated a good Arizona team by 10. The only victory that was in the bank after three quarters was at Iowa State.
Mental toughness and determination best describe this Iowa team, which has come from behind in five of its six victories. The path to perfection has often been a grind. It has not always been pretty.
Take the Michigan game for example. Before a full minute was played, the Wolverines owned a 7-0 lead after intercepting Ricky Stanzi's pass and running it back for a touchdown. Resilient is another word that describes these Hawkeyes, and Stanzi responded by directing a nine play drive that ended with his 34-yard TD pass to Tony Moeaki.
Iowa used big plays to win, and one of the biggest was Stanzi's 47-yard pass to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos that set up a Brandon Wegher TD. Another was Stanzi's 42-yard TD pass to Moeaki shortly after Iowa had failed to score from the Michigan one-yard line.
Moeaki, coming off an ankle injury, had six pass receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Daniel Murray booted three field goals, two from 40 and 41 yards. Adam Robinson rushed for 70 yards on only seven carries on a night when Iowa's running game struggled. Colin Sandeman returned four punts for 40 yards.
Defensively Iowa got big games from Pat Angerer and Jeremiha Hunter, who each had 12 tackles. Hunter also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Broderick Binns batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage.
The 30-28 victory puts Iowa in a position to start the season with seven straight wins, a feat accomplished by only three other teams in school history. Hayden Fry's 1985 Big Ten champions won seven before losing a game. The 1921 and 1922 teams under Howard Jones both had undefeated 7-0 seasons and won Big Ten titles.
Perfection is hard to sustain. Just ask Wisconsin, Iowa's opponent at Madison this Saturday. The Badgers were 5-0 before a loss at Ohio State that was pretty much self-inflicted.
Wisconsin had it all over the Buckeyes in total offense (368-184) and controlled the ball for more than 42 minutes. But it lost because of pass interception returns of 89 and 32 yards, and a kickoff return of 96 yards -- all for Ohio State touchdowns. The final score of 31-13 is deceiving.
This is the first of two straight road games for Iowa. The next is at Michigan State. If the Hawkeyes are still unbeaten after those two difficult tests, they might be on their way to a very special season.