Nov. 16, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa - One week after the University of Iowa defeated Penn State on a "Hail Murray," Purdue failed to beat the Hawkeyes on a "Hail Mary." After wondering if our favorite football team could win a close game, it won two in eight days.
On a cold, windy and generally dreary day, a 22-17 victory over Purdue did not come easy, and it was not always pretty. The special teams were not special, with two missed extra points, short punts, and a long kickoff return by Purdue. Two Iowa fumbles were turned into 10 points by the Boilermakers. And the failure to make a fourth-and-1 in the closing minutes led to a nail-biting finish.
But all ended well on a day when tribute was paid to 16 Iowa seniors, and for the first time in three years the Hawkeyes departed Kinnick Stadium with a victory in their final game there.
Shonn Greene had a magnificent performance with 211 yards rushing and two touchdowns, one on a 75-yard sprint down the sideline. Two key plays that were largely overlooked in the postgame reporting were Daniel Murray's 45-yard field goal and Jewell Hampton's 52-yard kickoff return.
Without Murray's long boot in poor weather conditions, Purdue could have won the game with a field goal at the end. And Hampton's return was critical in putting the visitors in poor field position to start their final, frantic drive.
By winning four of its last five games, Iowa has positioned itself for a January visit to Tampa, Fla., where the Outback Bowl is played. It's a familiar venue for head coach Kirk Ferentz, most of his staff and some of his players. The 2003 and 2005 Iowa teams both played there, splitting a pair of games with the Florida Gators.
To get to Tampa, the Hawkeyes need to close their season by winning at Minnesota this Saturday. Both teams have 7-4 records, but have been going in different directions lately. The Gophers have lost their last three games.
A new stadium is being built on the Minnesota campus, so this will be Iowa's final game in the Metrodome, where it has won 7 of 13. To put us in a positive frame of mind for the big game there Saturday night, it might help to recall some of those victories. Here are my favorites:
1982 -- Hayden Fry, in his fourth season as Iowa`s coach, had never seen Floyd of Rosedale because the Hawkeyes had not beaten the Gophers in five years. After Iowa pulled out a 21-16 victory, Hayden held his press conference dressed in bib overalls, a plaid shirt and a straw hat, and with a big grin on his face. "Minnesota fans like to poke fun at Iowa farmers, and I wanted to show them I'm proud to represent a farm state," drawled the coach.
1986 -- In the days before tie games were decided by overtime, the score was 27-27 when Iowa's Rob Houghtlin lined up to try a field goal in the final seconds. His boot from 51 yards sailed wide right and the game appeared to be over, ending in a tie. But Minnesota was flagged for having too many players on the field, and Houghtlin got a second chance from 37 yards. He made it (his third of the game), and Iowa went home with a 30-27 victory.
1994 -- In a contest that sometimes looked like jai alai on AstroTurf, Iowa pulled out a 49-42 victory filled with spectacular plays, 13 touchdowns and 1,000 yards total offense. Matt Sherman threw for two touchdowns and scored another on a Hayden Fry "exotic." Tim Dwight took a handoff, sprinted to his right, pulled up and threw across the field to Sherman, who was all alone at the goal line. Sherman and Dwight were freshmen.
2002 -- Brad Banks solidified his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy by scoring two touchdowns and throwing for two more in a 45-21 Iowa rout. Fred Russell ran for 194 yards and Jermelle Lewis added another 101 as Iowa clinched a share of the Big Ten championship. Some among the 30,000 Iowa fans in attendance tore down the goal posts and went home with the pieces. Metrodome officials were not happy.
2004 -- Kyle Schlicher kicked a school record five field goals -- the longest from 49 yards -- without a miss in Iowa's 29-27 victory. Minnesota's Rhys Lloyd had a chance to be a hero in the final seconds, but his boot from 51 yards hooked left. Drew Tate threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns for Iowa, which won despite the Gophers' Marion Barber and Lawrence Maroney rushing for 174 and 156 yards, respectively. The Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin the following week to earn a share of the Big Ten title and set up the memorable victory over LSU in the Capital One Bowl.
Recalling those five Iowa games in the Metrodome makes me smile. Here's hoping the Hawkeyes add another when they play there for the final time Saturday night.