Wine Online: Painful, For Sure

Oct. 23, 2005

Early in the fourth quarter of Iowa’s football game with Michigan, the fellow sitting next to me said the Hawkeyes needed something to give them a spark.

He was right. Although Iowa held a 14-10 lead at the time, it hadn’t scored since early in the second period. In fact, because of uncharacteristic penalties and dropped passes, plus some controversial calls by the officials, the Hawkeyes had not threatened the red zone.

The capacity crowd of 70,000 was getting edgy and less vocal. Dressed in black, it appeared to be attending a wake rather than a football game. The momentum was clearly shifting in Michigan’s direction.

Then Iowa’s defense provided a spark. Abdul Hodge forced a Wolverine fumble that was recovered by Bryan Mattison. Iowa’s offense trotted onto the field with possession at the Michigan 27-yard line.

This was the opportunity we were waiting for. This is what the Hawkeyes have been really good at in recent seasons – jumping on an opponent’s mistake and converting it to a quick score. This is why they won seven games by seven points or less the last two seasons. This is why their winning streak at Kinnick Stadium was at 22 and counting.

No doubt the Hawkeyes were ready to take this game by the throat and put it in the victory column. Score a quick touchdown, even a field goal, and the game is probably over. All those fans dressed in black can lighten up at their tailgate parties.

But instead of moving in for the kill, a strange thing happened. On first down Iowa was penalized 10 yards for holding, on third down Drew Tate was sacked.

Facing a stiff wind from the north, the Hawkeyes decided to punt rather than try a long field goal, and it was Michigan, not Iowa, that grabbed the advantage. The Wolverines went 88 yards in five plays, the last 52 on a screen pass, to go up 17-14.

For the first time Iowa was behind, and in obvious trouble. A gutsy drive at the end of regulation provided a field goal that tied the game at 17, but in the end the Hawkeyes were the losers in Kinnick Stadium’s first overtime game, 23-20.

This one really hurt. A victory would have kept the Hawkeyes tied for first in the Big Ten, made them bowl eligible, and most likely vaulted them into the Top 25.

The loss ended two long and impressive streaks. Iowa had won 35 straight games when leading after three quarters, as well as 22 games in a row at Kinnick.

Hayden Fry used to say, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s rump every day.” The Hawkeyes didn’t need any sun block for their rear ends on this particular October afternoon.

What makes this defeat painful is that Iowa played hard and aggressive football. It could have — probably should have — won the game.

The Hawkeyes had textbook touchdown drives of 85 and 80 yards on their first and third possessions. Both ended with Tate throwing TD passes to Herb Grigsby. Tate completed 12 of 13 passes for 136 yards on those drives.

Albert Young, with 153 yards on 30 carries, had the best day of any running back in the Big Ten on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes had more first downs and far more total yardage than Michigan.

They also had more penalties. They came into the contest as the least penalized team in the nation – less than three a game – but got flagged for 11 infractions in this one. Penalties may not have decided this game, but they were unquestionably a major factor in its outcome.

What makes this defeat painful is that Iowa played hard and aggressive football. It could have — probably should have — won the game.

And there are some things that can’t be explained, such as the pass that went through Clinton Solomon’s normally sticky fingers. The ball hit his facemask and bounced into the arms of a Michigan defensive back. It was Iowa’s only turnover of the day, but it resulted in a Michigan field goal.

And if Michigan needed any more luck, it won the coin toss to start overtime. The Wolverines naturally gave Iowa the ball first so they would know what was needed when they got possession.

The Hawkeyes now join six other Big Ten teams that have experienced gut-wrenching losses. Don’t expect Iowa to get sympathy cards from Michigan State, Penn State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin or Michigan. All have lost in overtime or in the final seconds of conference games.

Did you notice Northwestern is among that group? If not for a last-minute loss to Penn State, the Wildcats would be unbeaten in the conference. Northwestern’s football team scores more points than its basketball team.

By the way, Northwestern is next up on Iowa’s schedule. But the Hawkeyes have an open date before going to Evanston, so take a little more time to purge yourself of the painful loss to Michigan.

Editor’s Note: George Wine, the University of Iowa’s long-time sports information director who is now retired and living in Coralville, Iowa, is the author of George Wine Online. George has remained very close to the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI since his retirement and, in fact, has authored two books during that time. The first was a collaboration with the UI’s long-time head football coach, Hayden Fry, and named “A High Porch Picnic.” The second, “Black & Gold Memories, The Hawkeyes of the 20th Century,” included many of the essays George originally wrote for “The Voice of the Hawkeyes.” As he wrote in the book, “Collectively, they serve as a historical reference, and hopefully provide entertaining reading.” “Black & Gold Memories” is currently available at Barnes & Noble book stores across Iowa and on the world wide web.

George Wine