Wine Online: Savor the Season

Jan. 15, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Some things to chew on during a football off-season in which the Hawkeyes are basking in the aftermath of a dominating Orange Bowl performance:

Iowa had an impressive 7-2 record against teams that played in bowl games. Wins were against Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota, Iowa State, Penn State, Michigan State and Georgia Tech. Losses were to Ohio State and Northwestern.

The Hawkeyes finished No. 7 in the national polls and were 3-1 against teams in the Top 25. They beat No. 9 Penn State, No. 13 Georgia Tech and No. 16 Wisconsin — all by double digit margins — and lost to No. 5 Ohio State in overtime.

Kirk Ferentz has now coached Iowa to four Top 10 finishes, one short of Forest Evashevski’s school-record five. Hayden Fry’s Hawkeye teams made the Top 10 twice (eight of his other teams ended in the Top 25). The legendary 1939 Ironmen coached by Eddie Anderson is the only other Iowa team to finish in the Top 10.

The Hawkeyes finished 11-2, making Ferentz the only coach in Iowa history to have four teams win 10 or more games. Fry’s teams won 10 games three times. It should be noted that regular seasons now run three games longer than they did in the Evashevski era and one longer than in the Fry era.

Georgia Tech’s offense was ranked among the nation’s best coming into the Orange Bowl, averaging 443 yards per game, but Iowa’s defense held it to a season-low 155 yards. Most important, Norm Parker’s unit limited the Yellow Jackets to only one touchdown. They got another on an interception return and scored a season-low 14 points.

Other gems recorded by Iowa’s defense: Tech averaged 23.2 first downs per game but had only nine in the Orange Bowl. It averaged 75.8 plays per game and had 50 snaps vs. the Hawkeyes. It’s time of possession against Iowa was nearly seven minutes less than its season average. After averaging 23.2 yards per pass completion, it averaged six yards against the Hawkeyes.

Spring practice and pre-season drills will no doubt bring some surprises. In the meantime, we have a memorable 2009 season and resounding Orange Bowl victory to savor.

Ricky Stanzi, who had the fourth-best quarterback efficiency rating in the Big Ten, headlines an impressive array of skill position players returning to the offense. He will have his two leading receivers — Darrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt — to throw to. Iowa had two of the top 10 rushers in the Big Ten in Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher. The running back position will go three deep with the addition of Jewel Hampton, who sat out last season with an injury. All three will be sophomores.

Iowa coaches will have to do some serious restructuring of the offensive line, which loses tackles Brian Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, guard Dace Richardson, center Rafael Eubanks and tight end Tony Moeaki.

Iowa’s defense, which ranked among the nation’s best, returns five players who started every game, and two more who started all but one. Every-game starters include the front four of Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns, plus strong safety Tyler Sash. Linebacker Jeremiha Hunter and free safety Brett Greenwood missed a start due to injuries.

Kickers Ryan Donohue and Daniel Murray are also back, and with so many top players returning from an Iowa team that ranked No. 7, expectations for 2010 will surely be high. But the opening game is a long way off. Spring practice and pre-season drills will no doubt bring some surprises. In the meantime, we have a memorable 2009 season and resounding Orange Bowl victory to savor.