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Lessons Learned 11/02/2009

Posted by sportretort in Sports, Uncategorized.
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The University of Iowa’s football team is off to its best start in school history.  Never before has a Hawkeye team gone 9-0 to start the season.   The Hawkeyes started 7-0

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Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi

 in 1900 and finished the season at 7-0-1.  The 1921 and 1922 teams both finished the season at 7-0, and the 1985 team started 7-0 before suffering a loss against Ohio State. Those were the best starts in Hawkeye history before this season.   The current Hawkeye winning streak of 13 games is the second longest active streak in the nation, trailing only Florida’s string of 17.  It is the longest such Hawkeye streak since Iowa won 20 straight games from 1920 to 1923.  Iowa is currently ranked 4th in the BCS standings, its highest ranking ever.  If Iowa can win its remaining 3 games, a BCS berth is guaranteed.  There will even be a chance that Iowa could be in the top 2 and gain the BCS National Championship game should they finish the season 12-0.  Even if Iowa should drop one of the last 3 games, they will still probably wind up in the Rose Bowl. (If Iowa loses to Ohio State, and the Buckeyes win out, OSU would represent the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl.)   There are some pretty heady things in Iowa’s future.

There are 2 slogans that define the Kirk Ferentz coached Iowa Hawkeyes.  “Next man in,” and “Break the rock.”  This

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Iowa RB Brandon Wegher answered the call in his first start with 118 rushing yards and 3 TDs

Iowa team embodies both of those slogans.  Iowa lost the best rusher in the nation last season, as Shonn Greene won the Doak Walker award and then entered the NFL Draft, being selected by the Jets in the third round.  Greene’s backup, Jewel Hampton entered training camp as the top man in the back field.  Jeff Brinson was number two.  Before the season even started,  Hampton went down with a knee injury, and Brinson with an ankle.  Next man in Jeff Robinson, a unhearelded recruit from Des Moines had now risen from not listed to first on the depth chart, and entered the 8th game of the season as the 4th leading rusher in the Big Ten.  He suffered a n ankle sprain against Michigan State, and his back up, true freshman Brandon Wegher, became number one for the Indiana.  All he did was gain 118 rushing yards and 3 touch downs.  Next man in.  There have been injuries in the offensive line and defensive backfield, but true to the team approach, next man in has kept Iowa on track to a 9-0 start.    The other slogan can be found on a rock in the Iowa weight room.

Break the rock signifies the need for effort.  The rock, it seems, can not be broken with one or two blows.  It takes many, many, many blows to chip away at the rock.  The significance of that lesson has not been lost on this Iowa team.  In

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Marvin McNutt turns the corner on his way to a 92 yard TD catch and run

 fact, this team is 5-0 when trailing after 3 quarters.  This team has trailed in 8 of the nine games it has played so far this season.  True to their slogan, Iowa has continued to give effort in every game.  This team does not know how to quit.  They blocked 2 field goal attempts against UNI on back to back plays to win the game.  They fell behind 10-0 at then 5th ranked Penn State,  but came back to win.  They won on back to back weekends on the road at  Wisconsin and at Michigan State, scoring on the last play of the game to defeat the Spartins.  According to the computers, Iowa has played the 6th toughest schedule to date, yet remain undefeated.  In fact, the break the rock mentality has led Iowa to outscore its opponents 149 to 54 in the 2nd half of their games this season, including an incredible 101 -38  advantage in the 4th quarter.  Perhaps there is no better example of this never quit attitude than Saturday’s game against Indiana.  Iowa entered the 4th quarter trailing the Hoosiers 24-14.  Quarterback Ricky Stanzi had thrown 5 interceptions, including 4 in the 3rd quarter.  Iowa had committed 6 turnovers in all, and was being booed zestfully by their own fans.  Then came the 4th quarter.  Indiana pinned Iowa deep on the first play of the 4th, downing a punt at the Iowa 8 yard line.  Stanzi hit wide out Marvin McNutt on a crossing pattern at the 25 on the first play following the punt, and McNutt beat his defender to the sideline and cut up the field for a 92 yard touchdown.  After Indiana went 3 and out on their next possession, Stanzi hit Darrel Johnson-Koulianos  for a 66 yard touchdown.  After having thrown 4 interceptions in the 3rd quarter, Stanzi, in 2 offensive plays, had thrown 2 passes for a combined 158 yards and two touchdowns.  In just over 2 minutes of the 4th quarter, Iowa had turned a 24-14 deficit into a 28- 24 lead. 

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, the next man in after Stanzi’s poor 3rd quarter was Ricky Stanzi.  Against the odds, and with many Iowa ‘fans’ booing, the Hawks held together and kept hitting the rock.  It seems that some of the Iowa faithful need to learn the lessons.  Before the season started, Hawkeye Nation was lamenting the difficult schedule.  Surely there would be no way Iowa could win at Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.  No one  predicted that the Hawkeyes would be 8-0 going into the Indiana game.  Iowa left the field to tremendous cheers from the fans in Kinnick Stadium following their 42–24 victory, but all those fans who cheered the victory and booed during the 3rd quarter should be ashamed.  Have you not been watching this season?  Have you not seen this team give every thing it has until the final gun?  Perhaps it is time for the some Iowa fans, the same ones who were calling for Ferentz to be fired half way through last season, the same ones booing on Saturday, to be the next one in. 

I do not know if this team will win the last 3 games.   No one does.  But I do know that they have earned the right not to be booed in their own stadium.  Wake up, Hawkeye fans, and appreciate what you have!

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