Dec. 1, 2009
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Official Sports Report, a daily e-newsletter exclusively for fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes. To learn more about OSR, click HERE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There is still one very big football game left to be played, but when University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz reflects on the 2009 regular season, a few individual plays and a few individual stories move toward the forefront.
“The first one that comes to mind is Adrian’s play at Penn State,” Ferentz said, in reference to defensive end Adrian Clayborn blocking a fourth-quarter punt and returning it 53 yards for a touchdown, giving Iowa an 11-10 lead against the Nittany Lions.
Two of Ferentz’s other favorites came on the same third-quarter series at Wisconsin.
“Amari’s interception at Wisconsin kind of ignited us a little bit and Tony’s catch right after,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes trailed 10-3 at halftime against the Badgers, but Spievey and Moeaki helped knot the score en route to a 20-10 victory. On second-and-11 from midfield, Spievey intercepted a pass by Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien. Nine plays later, Moeaki hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Ricky Stanzi.
In a season of impressive defensive stands, Ferentz tipped his hat to goal-line varieties at Michigan State on Oct. 24 and against Minnesota on Nov. 21.
With the scored tied 3-3 in East Lansing, the Spartans used a 37-yard run by Edwin Baker that was cut short by Tyler Sash and Jeremiha Hunter at the Iowa 1. On first down, the Hawkeyes were whistled for offside, inching the ball closer to the end zone. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw incomplete on first down. Baker gained no ground on second and third-down rushing attempts and the Spartans settled for a 23-yard field goal in a game the Hawkeyes won, 15-13, on the final play.
“We had a lot of great stories that way and then some individual plays and efforts that were just fantastic.”
Although leading 12-0 early in the fourth quarter, the Gophers appeared poised to get on the scoreboard in the crucial regular-season finale. Minnesota recovered a fumble at Iowa’s 29 with 13:39 remaining and a pass interference penalty on the Hawkeyes gave the Gophers first-and-goal from the 2. Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray was stopped for no gain on first down. Running back Duane Bennett was stopped for no gain on second down. Quarterback Adam Weber threw incomplete on third down. On fourth down, Clayborn and Christian Ballard sacked Weber for a 5-yard loss.
“The other thing that jumps out at you are all the individual stories — Joe Conklin stepping in there. A year ago, nobody would have imagined Joe actually playing in a game at safety. You think Hunter’s not going to play (against Minnesota), so at least (Jeff) Tarpinian’s going to be in there, but he can’t go. Troy Johnson jumps in and ends up being the Big Ten Player of the Week.”
Conklin relieved free safety Brett Greenwood during the victory at Michigan State and then started for the Hawkeyes against Northwestern, compiling five tackles and a touchdown-saving interception. Against the Gophers, Johnson finished second on the team with 11 tackles, but his contribution didn’t stop there. He also had a pass break-up, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“We had a lot of great stories that way and then some individual plays and efforts that were just fantastic,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes finished the season 10-2 overall and placed second in the Big Ten Conference at 6-2. Their bowl destination will become official Dec. 6, but until then, there will be time for fans to reflect back on the memorable first 12 games.
“As much as anything, just the resiliency and the grit these guys demonstrated week in and week out really stands out,” Ferentz said. “They carried an attitude that was so enjoyable to work with.”