Wine: Remember the Alamo

Nov. 28, 2006

Kirk Ferentz remembers the Alamo and the domed stadium that stands nearby, and they are pleasant memories. It was in that stadium in 2001 that he won his first bowl game as Iowa’s head football coach.

The upset victory over Texas Tech also gave Ferentz his first winning season at Iowa, and launched his Hawkeyes on a four-year run of January Bowl games in Florida that will end this season when he and his team return to the Alamo Bowl.

Those annual visits to the Sunshine State tended to spoil us all, but San Antonio is not a bad place to visit during the holidays. A scenic river runs through this pleasant city, the weather is generally decent, and the restaurants and hotels offer reasonable prices.

Many Iowa fans remember the Alamo and the three games their favorite football team played in the nearby stadium. After losing the inaugural Alamo Bowl 13 years ago, the Hawkeyes won on their next two visits. Here are some background and highlights on the previous contests:

1993 – California 37, Iowa 3 . . . The Golden Bears were mad because they hadn’t been invited to a January bowl and took it out on the Hawkeyes, who were happy to be playing anywhere in the post-season after finishing 8th in the Big Ten.

The Iowa Hawkeyes will travel to San Antonio in late December to participate in the 2006 Alamo Bowl. The game is Iowa’s sixth straight post-season bowl game.

Iowa’s regular season had been a strange one. After winning its first two games, it lost five straight, then won its last four, indicating it might be on a roll going to San Antonio. But that wasn’t the case as the speedy and angry Bears held Iowa to an embarrassing 90 yards total offense.

The Hawkeyes couldn’t slow down Cal’s swift attack, and those problems were exacerbated when an Iowa pass was picked off and returned 61 yards for a touchdown. Hayden Fry, who was making his first appearance in his native Texas as Iowa’s coach, got a good performance from Nick Gallery, who averaged 43 yards on eight punts.

1996 – Iowa 27, Texas Tech 0 . . . The pre-game ballyhoo centered around Byron Hanspard, who had won the Doak Walker Award by rushing for more than 2,000 yards for the Red Raiders. Hanspard added to the buzz when he announced he would return to Tech for his senior season because God told him to, explaining the Lord’s message had come while he was taking a shower.

But Iowa’s defense, behind tackle Jared DeVries and linebackers Vernon Rollins and Matt Hughes, slammed the door on Hanspard, holding him to 64 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Tech’s defense had problems stopping Sedrick Shaw, who ran for 113 yards and a touchdown and was named offensive player of the game. DeVries was named the game’s top defender. The Hawkeyes also got touchdowns from quarterback Matt Sherman and tailback Rodney Filer and two field goals from Zach Bromert.

This is Iowa’s only shutout in 21 bowl games, and it was Hayden Fry’s last victory in 14 post-season games at Iowa. His team lost in the Sun Bowl the following season and he retired in 1998.

2001 – Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16 . . . This started Kirk Ferentz’s run of six straight bowl games. Iowa became bowl-eligible by winning its last two Big Ten games, scoring a total of 101 points in beating Northwestern and Minnesota.

In one of the most exciting games of the 2001 post-season, Tech tied the score at 16-all with two minutes remaining. Iowa’s Kyle McCann then orchestrated a 57-yard drive that put Nate Kaeding in position to kick a game-winning field goal. Bob Sanders saved the victory by intercepting a Tech pass in the end zone on the last play of the game.

Tailback Aaron Greving, pressed into action for the injured Ladell Betts, ran for 115 yards and Iowa’s only touchdown, and was named the offensive player of the game. Derrick Pickens, whose pass interception set up an Iowa field goal, was named the game’s top defender. Sanders had 11 tackles, along with his pass theft on the last play. Kaeding booted a total of four field goals, the last two from 46 and 47 yards.

In his third season at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz had coached the Hawkeyes to a 7-5 record, fourth place in the Big Ten and a bowl victory. Asked after the game if his program had turned the corner he answered, “Yes.” And he was right — his teams won 31 games and two Big Ten championships in the next three seasons.